The Intelligence At Work
Sometimes, we birders have to witness things that break our hearts. Nestlings getting killed by birds competing for the space. Seeing the odd bird dead on the side of the road while walking our dogs. Seeing squirrels who’ve been hit in the road. The list goes on. What keeps us going is we know that these things are all part of the beauty we see and enjoy every day. We know the Universe has different plans than we can ever hope to know for the creatures we love and watch every day. We understand that there is give and take that we just won’t ever understand.
That is not to say that it still doesn’t make us sad!
A Familiar Sound
It was about ten o’clock in the morning this past Thursday. I was downstairs going about some daily activity I can’t recall. Then, I heard it. The familiar squawk of the blue jays in nearly perfect unison. And it wasn’t just one or two either. It sounded like the blue jay choral director was tuning them up for a performance. This went on for more than a couple minutes and then it stopped. From my experience, I knew this is generally NOT a good sign because I’ve heard blue jays go on like this until they’ve driven the offender out of their territory. A quick glance out the window showed there were not any birds to be seen on the feeders, in the bath or in the nearby tree branches.
Then, I saw him.
Standing not ten feet from the feeder station was a very large adult Cooper’s Hawk. Just standing there. At first, I thought he was just recovering from an unsuccessful attack near the feeder. However, he had something about him that seemed a little too proud and contented. Don’t ask me what it was. Maybe just his stance that gave it away. I tried not to let him see me and I think I was successful. I looked closer at him and I thought it looked like he was standing on something. I couldn’t tell for sure because leaves had fallen and our grass was a little overdue for mowing. He just stood there for a few minutes while I admired him.
If Wishes Were Horses
I wished very hard that I didn’t see anything under him but that was not to be.
Before another minute passed, he heaved his huge body up into flight and then I saw it. He was carrying an immature male cardinal in his talons. Lifeless it just hung from him as he flew into the woods behind our house to enjoy his mid morning snack. I felt a quick twinge of sorrow on seeing this because I had seen these guys kicking around in the grass beneath the feeder before this. I know it was because they don’t rank and are probably kept off the feeder by their elders. I remember thinking one time before as I watched on foraging a little distance from the feeder that it wasn’t a good idea. I’m so sorry to be right at times, you know?
Reframing The Incident
Times like these it is very easy to just feel bad for the little one who just hadn’t learned THAT lesson yet. The more I thought about it, the more my mind was put at ease. Here are a few of my immediate takeaways:
- We’ve had a bumper crop of cardinals this year and this was an unavoidable consequence that wasn’t anybody’s fault. If I had twenty more feeders up, he would still not have ranked to be up on it most likely.
- He probably served as the example for cardinal parents to tell their children “Be careful where you feed. Remember what happened to little Billy.”
- He was killed and eaten by a predator who had a real need for survival. He didn’t give his life to entertain some poor feral cat who had no intention of eating him.
I’m not saying that it makes easy for us. I’m just hopeful that I have any understanding of the grand scheme of life on this planet. I do believe everything happens for a reason whether we know that reason or not. It’s all about trust for me. I trust in a higher power and the Universe to keep all these forces working in a way that makes sense for them if not us. That we’ll be ok with how it all plays out.
Are you ok with this? Let me know if this story has struck a chord in you by leaving a comment below.
Water Is An Easy Start To Feeding
If you’re like me, you want to get the most enjoyment out of your back yard with the minimal amount of fuss. After all, when you’re not spending time in your back yard, you don’t want to be worrying about how you’re going to keep up with it all. That’s one of the reasons I like more permanent fixtures over portable ones. For instance, I love the new resin bird baths because they allow one person to buy the bath, pedestal and sand, put it wherever you want it and weigh it down to stay very easily. Just a little time with the level to make sure you’ve got it square and you’ve got a feature that will serve you for a LONG time. Plus, they allow you to easily remove the bath for dumping and cleaning which is HUGE! I can’t tell you how many of the cement or stone baths I’ve seen that are nothing more than mosquito breeding grounds because the owners dread having to clean them. I mean, let’s face it. There’s only so much you’re going to be able to do with a bucket and brush unless you want to mess with the hose. Being able to fully clean, dump, rinse and dump the bath without risking physical harm is no small gain.
I’ve had the same resin bath since I put it in over ten years ago. I got it at Home Depot and it has served me well ever since.
It’s very similar to this bird bath. The only difference can see with it is I can’t tell if the bowl unscrews or not from the descriptions. I think I must be behind the times for the search terms on this because I can’t believe there is any reason they would stop making them.
It has allowed me to clean it as often I need to and it’s even let me change completely frozen water with the help of a rubber mallet. If you’d seen me beating on this thing every winter, you would have bet money it wouldn’t last but it has.
Since providing water for birds is one of the easiest things you can do to start attracting birds to your back yard, why not start there? Then, you get a chance to observe what birds you have in your immediate area and can plan your feeding stations accordingly. I’ll have much more on that in future posts. For now, why don’t you make a small investment of time and money and set up a bird bath in your back yard today!
If you have a patio or deck in your back yard, make sure to locate the water at least 25-30 feet from it. That way, you’ll be able to sit and watch the birds bathe without making them nervous. It will increase the overall enjoyment for both of you!
Do You Have Questions About Providing Water?
Leave me a comment below and tell me if you have a challenge or a victory you’ve experienced providing water for your bird friends.
In most parts of the US, old man winter is starting to give way to at least small peeks of Spring. That means your back yard visitors are looking (or will soon be looking) for places to nest and raise their young. You can help them in ways you’ve maybe not thought of. Here are my spring nesting tips to help make your back yard a preferred spot for nesting birds.
In no particular order they are:
- If you have nest boxes, make sure they are cleaned out from last year before you put them back up.
- Put up at least two different kinds of boxes. I have a small box that only chickadees can get in and a bluebird box. This keeps the starlings or bluebirds from bullying the chickadees.
- When you finish brushing your cat or dog, maybe you can put the hair out in the yard so it can be gathered for nest building.
- I strongly recommend you use baffles on your nest box poles if you have squirrels or raccoons. In twelve years of birding, I’ve never had a squirrel be able to get into a nest box.
- Take a good look at any trees you have that may have grown and allowed squirrels access from the air to your nest boxes and trim them back or relocate the box.
- Be careful using any herbicides around any fencing you have. Especially if you have mossy rocks back there. Chickadees will use the moss to build their nests and you wouldn’t want to poison them, would you?
- Take some time on a weekend to pay attention to what birds are in your back yard and do anything you can to discourage starlings or house sparrows. Both of these species will displace or kill bluebird nestlings. You may just have to take down the food they’re sneaking until they decide to move on. Don’t worry. The birds you want will forgive you and return when you put it back up. It’s been my experience sparrows and starlings are worst if they can consistently find something to eat in your back yard.
- Think about planting some bright flowering perennials or shrubs to attract hummingbirds and give other birds a place to retreat if they feel threatened.
- Consider offering bluebirds some mealworms before they need them for their young. The best approach for this before there are young is to put out a small quantity at the same time every day. This way, you’re not wasting money feeding larger birds and will allow the bluebirds to figure out where they can find help feeding their young.
- Try not to over mow or spread noxious weed killer if you can avoid it too early.
I hope you found this spring nesting tips post helpful. I’m sure I’ve left plenty out but I wanted to at least give you a starting point for this nesting season. Let me know what you think of this post by leaving a comment below. Also, if you have any other tips that I’ve missed, leave them below as well so everybody can benefit from your knowledge!
This is going to be a very short post to give you a quick way to change your mood and liven up your life that costs very little and can reward you instantly.
Have Your Birds Over For Dinner
While this may work best if you have a patio or deck, you can pull this off with a feeder you can set up right outside your window. Platform feeders would be best but not necessary.
Depending on what time you get home for work or what time you eat dinner you want to do this just before sunset. That’s when they should be thinking about grabbing their last meal before bedtime. What you need to do is grab about 1/5 cup of sunflower chips and the same amount of hulled peanuts. Walk out your back door, scatter them on the ground (in at least a three foot strip to avoid crowding) and sit back and be entertained! Depending on your feeder refill schedule, you may have to do this a couple times before they figure it out. In my case, I did this while I was taking a break from my full feeding schedule so interest was quite high. This is not required though.
I have squirrels so I know it’s important to figure out their schedule too. Still, I’ve been able to feed any bird that’s interested before the squirrel pack comes to descend on it. One thing I use that helps is whole peanuts. Most of the time the squirrels will grab one and go away to eat it in peace. Other times, they’re perfectly happy trying to vacuum up the sunflower chips. Don’t sweat it. Make it fun. Just change stuff up each time you do it.
The most important thing is that you create a new feeding source that gets their attention and allows you to view your beautiful birds closer up. That way, you get to see all the squabbling, sharing and general hijinks that go on every day at your other feeders at arm’s length.
I promise you that nothing will lift your spirits faster than watching a titmouse come down, steal away with a peanut piece as big as its head and make off like he’s just committed the perfect crime!
Do Me A Favor
Could you do me a favor? Could you use your smartphone or camera to take a 30 second video of this, upload it to dropbox or google drive and send me the link at help at birdoculars dot com so I can post them in a future post? If you prefer, I can download them and post them on the birdoculars server if space is an issue with you or your service. Either way, I’d love to see your birds taking you up on your dinner invitation. Remember that this is something you can do whenever you feel like it so it doesn’t become something you feel you “have” to do. We all have too many of those things, don’t we?
Give it a go, have fun and let me know how you make out! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did! All I have to do is walk outside at around the time I usually feed them. I’ll see all the cardinals lining up in my trees and the titmice squawking and scolding me while flying from branch to branch. It’s a great feeling!
Please let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below.
The Day Started Like Any Other
I was catching up on email and other early morning tasks. My wife was working from home and was out watering the new plants around the house. After a while, she came and and told me there was a little bird out front under the garage light that appeared to be sleeping but was standing up. From my previous experience with my back yard friends, I was pretty sure this was not going to turn out well. I finished what I was working on and went outside to take a look.
She Can’t Have Much Time Left
By the time I got to her she was already listing to one side, breathing was rapid but shallow. She was almost completely unaware of my approach. She protested a bit when I picked her up but not for long. I held her in my two cupped hands making sure not to impede her breathing or startle her in any way. I asked my wife to open some doors for me so I could take her out on the back steps so we could be where she spent most of her time with us.
I just wanted her to feel safe, familiar and loved!
Her End Is Near
I watched her as she continued her rapid breathing. She appeared to be in no distress so I just comforted her, talked to her and waited for her time to come. I told her how happy we were to have her choose our back yard to come for food, water, play and relaxation. I told her how much joy her and her friends and family have brought to our family. She listened without sound or movement. She seemed so glad not to be alone at this time and I was happy I could help her now.
Time For Prayers
The last thing I remember her doing is opening her eyes briefly and looking right at me. It was as if to tell me “Thank you for all we’ve shared. But mostly, thank you for holding me now as I begin a new journey.” She then gave a brief shiver, closed her eyes and was gone. I’m sure I felt her spirit leave her body. I couldn’t help just staring at her and marveling at what I was blessed to have experienced. I prayed God would receive her and find her another back yard to play in. It may be cliche’ but… I know she’s in a better place now. I hope we get to see each other again some day! Amen.
Am I Paying Attention?
It’s time like these that I take a look at my life and ask if I’m really paying attention. Or is life just flying by where I only catch glimpses from time to time. I’ve been a daily meditator for the last three years and I believe this has helped me cherish all the moments more. I still struggle with it but I’m making progress towards my goal of being more mindful. I know it made spending the last days with my mom last year a little easier on both of us. For that I’m grateful.
What About You?
Have you had the incredible experience of helping one of your back yard friends or pets move on to the next phase of their journey? How did it affect you? Leave me a comment below so we can talk about it.
About The Artist
Robin Hallett is an Intuitive Healer, writer and artist who helps people discover and manifest their dreams. You can find her at RobinHallett.com.
Your Friends Need Help!
I know what your non-birding friends are going through. They know you love to feed, watch and learn about birds. But, that’s about as far as their knowledge of birding goes. End result? They end up throwing up their hands and getting you a gift certificate. That’s fine and it beats the heck out of taking a stab at something you already have or something else you don’t need. But for close friends who want to find a birding gift that shows they put some effort into it, this list should be emailed to them. I’m attaching a PDF below that you can download and email to those friends.
In an effort to make this list as useful as possible, I’ve included links to products on Amazon. These are affiliate links and I will receive some commission if you use the link to purchase the item. I just wanted you to know about them in the interest of being transparent.
Backyard Birding Boots-I have a pair very similar to this and they have been the best money I’ve ever spent! My back yard is backed up to woods and tends to hold water for a while. I just remove my shoes, slip these on and my worries of wet or cold feet just melt away.
Rubber Mallet-Any birder who has a resin birdbath and lives anywhere it gets below freezing in winter knows how challenging it can be to keep water available. Especially, if your bird bath is too far away to safely connect a heater. I’ve used one of these for almost 10 years on my resin birdbath and have not cracked it yet.
Under Feeder Rake Set-This is another one of those things I’ve used forever and I love it! I actually got it initially to pick up massive poop for dogs we were fostering. The first time I tried it for cleaning up under my feeders, I was hooked. And yes, it’s still the best way I know to collect poop too!
Brome Squirrel Buster Peanut Plus Feeder-This feeder was sent to me to demo by Brome and I can’t recommend it nearly enough. I have squirrels in my backyard and they haven’t figured a way to bust it yet. It’s easy to take apart to refill and clean and it allows you to set a specific tension to exclude exactly the birds you want to. If you put one of these up, you won’t believe the variety of birds who will use it. Nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers will get on it and a lot of other birds will feed from the little pieces that drop from it.
Metal Squirrel Feeder-Don’t waste your time with wood squirrel feeders! I went through 3 of them in as many years until I got a metal one. I’ve had it ever since. While I don’t believe this is all you have to do to stop squirrels from raiding your feeders, it is an integral part of a system along with baffling all your feeders and NEVER underestimating their intelligence.
Upside Down Suet Feeder-I’ve also had one of these for many years and they do really discourage many of the larger birds from raiding your feeders. Sure, some young bluejays and occasional starling will figure it out. For the most part, these will feed your chickadees, titmice, wrens, woodpeckers and even nuthatches!
20 lb Bag of Black Oil Sunflower Seed-Still the most widely accepted and most economical feed to give your backyard friends. Wrapping it might be difficult but what birder doesn’t love to have more seed on hand?
For your friends that just can’t make up their minds what to get you, gift certificates are always welcome. Here are two I recommend.
Walmart Gift Card-You’ll be able to find the cheapest price on your birding supplies here almost every time. Make sure to shop around but Walmart is a good bet most of the time.
Wild Birds Unlimited Gift Card-Look at this as a down payment on that special feeder, feed or doodad you’ve been eyeing all year. These are not available online but you can use the link to locate one close to you and make arrangements by phone.
How Did I Do?
Did I cover most of the bases? If not, let me know what else you recommend that you really love to get. Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it. Otherwise, download the PDF below and email it to your non-birding friends before it’s too late!