Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Feeding the Wild Beasts

People rarely become addicted to anything overnight. It starts slowly and builds. That is how my addiction to feeding the birds came into being.

I can no longer recall the exact sequence of events. I do not know when I discovered the Wild Bird House store (my "dealer"), but it all started with a cheap hummingbird feeder that attached to the window by a suction cup. Living in a 1970's double-wide had its perks: the windows opened out and were easily accessible from the front porch. I could easily maintain the feeder with minimal effort, and I could sit comfortably in my living room enjoying a marvelous up-close-and-personal view of the birds.

That particular feeder had a serious design flaw that I discovered - repeatedly! One of the hooks that held the entire thing together would inevitably break when I tried to reassemble it after cleaning. After paying for at least three of those models, it occurred to me to buy a different style. (I do not easily adapt.) By the third feeder, I am sure The Wild Bird House was getting my money.

The WBH is dedicated to the back yard bird enthusiast, selling high quality bird seed mixed for the various types of birds you wish to attract. The seed is fresh, clean, non-GMO and of the highest quality. The "house mix" smells good enough to eat, and that is not an exaggeration.

I graduated from hummingbirds in the summer to feeding the wild birds in the winter thanks to the WBH. At first I was only spreading the seed on the ground in front of my house. I could sit by the front windows and watch the birds for hours. It does not take long before word gets around the neighborhood. Everybody is coming in for a bite!

From my close vantage point, I learned to identify about a dozen new (to me) species of birds. I observed that the handsome little titmice, with a top knot just like the jays and cardinals, are as fearless as the hummingbirds. Whenever blue jays arrive for the cracked corn, everyone else clears out - except for the little titmice. They swoop down, grab a kernel right from under a jay, then zip to a tree where they hold the corn against the branch to peck it into smaller pieces. They are the cutest little fellows!

I saw for myself the reason why the dove is considered the bird of peace. Even if a group of blue jays is commandeering the feeding ground, when a dove arrives everyone calms down and shares both space and food as if by magic.

I think my favorites are the little round juncos. They always travel in a little flock and they are absolutely the most industrious of all the birds. They are the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night, coming and going all day. They thoroughly comb the entire area for every little speck of food. They make the most lyrical small whistling among themselves while waiting for me to refill the containers.

The next stage in my addiction came when I purchased a small, two-perch nyger seed feeder for the American goldfinches. It was a six-inch long clear tube that had to be refilled every single day. Addictions always escalate! Just this year I purchased a finch feeder that is about 24" long and have started filling it with nyger mixed with tiny pieces of sunflower seeds. The flurry of activity around that feeder every day is amazing!

I could write forever about the observations I have made but the point of this entry in my magnificent blog is to relate how I became a wild bird feeding junkie. As I say, it started with the hummingbirds and then became a small amount of mixed seeds tossed on the ground in winter. Eventually, I was buying 50 pound bags of bird seed, just like the feed for the horses and the chickens. Then I added the nyger seeds for the gold finches. When I noticed rabbits were coming in at night, I added cracked corn for them. Here is how I know I am a full blown junkie: I am deliberately feeding squirrels now. The WBH sells a mixture for the squirrels - peanuts in the shell, huge sunflower seeds, and large whole kernels of golden corn.

As you can imagine, none of this is exactly cheap. The worst part of it is that the trees (spared specifically to shelter the winter bird feeding activities) are actually too far from the house for me to even recognize the smaller birds, which is why I spend way too much money on those pesky squirrels. I can clearly see them from the front office windows.

I was buying cracked corn from the farm store for the rabbits and the blue jays. It was about $7 for 50 pounds of stale, dusty, and most likely GMO corn. If it is not GMO, it is surely grown in soil sprayed with tons of herbicides. The WBH knows its addicts! Yes, they also sell cracked corn - non-GMO, fresh, clean and in "designer" feed bags! It is $13 a bag, plus Topeka's 9% sales tax!!! (Oh my God!) None of that matters to an addict...

Designer feedbags!  Feedbags are a fact of life in Kansas but when have you seen any as fancy as this?

It is as clean as Orville Redenbacher's popcorn!

1 comment:

Don said...

I am glad you clarified that last beautiful photo as (a big bird) I was beginning to get hungry.