The Serenity of Birds

Male goldfinch on my feeder hanger.

Male goldfinch on my feeder hanger.

I walked Jazz the different direction we’ve been going lately and it wasn’t the best time of day for it. The weather was beautiful with warm sunshine and bright blue sky, but the traffic was awful. The road we walked is the main drag to and from the school and at 4 p.m. it’s excessively busy with cars and trucks going 55+ mph. There’s a shoulder Jazz and I can duck into most of the way but the roar of cars going by interfered with the enjoyment of the walk.

Jazzmin and I got our exercise in but the walk wasn’t as relaxing as usual and I was quite relieved to get back home to my quiet house on the hill. I put Jazz inside with some fresh water and went out on the deck to sit in the sunshine and re-center myself. As I sat on the rear steps of my side deck, I reveled in the lack of traffic noise. The only “noise” in fact was the sound of the various bird songs as my feathered friends fluttered around the back yard.I recognized the songs of chickadees, cardinals, finches, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds and the elusive bluebird that refuses to eat  from my feeder.

Most of the birds were hesitant to come to my back feeders with me sitting within 15 feet of them but the brave chickadee came and went several times.Eventually a male goldfinch landed atop the shepherds hook holding my red barn feeder and he watched me for a bit before flitting down for some seeds. He didn’t stay long before flying into a side tree where I’d been listening to and watching a male cardinal sing one of his many songs. There was another cardinal answering him in the distance and I smiled at him and assured him that it was safe to eat.

He landed but was still cautious...

He landed but was still cautious…

He's keeping his eye on me...

He’s keeping his eye on me…

Decided it's safe to eat and the chickadee is waiting in line below him.

Decided it’s safe to eat and the chickadee is waiting in line below him.

The best part of sitting on those steps in the sunshine watching the birds was that I’d remembered to bring my camera out with me. Every time a bird would land on my feeder I’d pick up my camera and snap a photo or two. The zoom is decent enough from that distance to show details of the birds and I was thrilled that so many members of my usual “peeps” were dropping by for a bite. I rediscovered my peace as I enjoyed the serenity of birds and I know I’d be lost without their daily visits!

A small sample of my usual peeps.

A small sample of my usual peeps.

Can you spot the sparrow?

Can you spot the sparrow?

After the last of the birds flew off for a break, I stood up from my step and saw the moon in the bright blue sky. I also realized that my largest maple tree appears to be on the verge of sprouting leaves and that made me almost giddy! It’s so wonderful that spring is finally, truly on its way and that I managed to capture today’s beauty as a ray of sunshine on the rainy days.

spring moon

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My Peeps aka Bird Watching

A gold finch and a purple finch at my feeder

A gold finch and a purple finch at my feeder

Finches feeding 3

Goldfinch keeping an eye out

Finches feeding 2

Both finches checking either direction

Finches Feeding 4

The finches eating side by side with a slate colored junco on the ground

I love feeding the birds. I have three bird feeders around my house so I can watch them from my kitchen window, living room window and deck. It’s fascinating watching the birds with their aerial displays and feeding tactics. I’ve learned what birds flock together, what their songs sound like and how their appearance changes depending on the season.

When I first put out a new bird feeder it usually sits untouched for a day or so. Eventually a scout chickadee will appear and I know that shortly after that the feeder will be covered with goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, cardinals, sparrows, blue jays, juncos, tufted titmouse, nuthatches, grosbeaks and the occasional bluebird. If you click on any of the bird names I just mentioned, it will take you to Audubon’s website with interesting facts about them, what they look like, what their songs sound like and where they live.

The finches and sparrows will eat together with only the occasional squabble and the juncos tend to remain on the ground and eat the fallen seeds. The cardinal couples usually come separately but now and then both male and female share the perch. Nuthatches and tufted titmouse flit quickly in and out without lingering and when the blue jays come they always make a lot of noise about it. Red winged blackbirds visit sometimes but starlings, cowbirds and grackles travel with them too and I don’t like having a huge flock hogging all the food.

I learned a rather surprising life lesson one day while watching the birds. I was sitting out in a chair in my yard watching several gold finches eating happily when suddenly a red-tailed hawk swooped out of the hedgerow and snatched one of the little yellow birds. My mouth literally dropped open. I felt bad for the little birds and they were traumatized for quite a while after that but eventually they returned to eat. That was certainly a vivid display of the circle of life and I am no longer surprised when I see hawks circling in the sky above my yard. The hawks need to survive too and my bird feeders fulfill that need in a roundabout way.

Springtime is an amusing time to watch my feeders because the male goldfinches are ridiculously combative during mating season. They perform aerial duels circling up into the sky before flying off in a huff. Meanwhile the female finches with their less vivid plumage sit contentedly eating at the feeder as the males compete in vain for their attention. I don’t think even female birds are impressed by macho, show-off males. The cardinal couples are always sweet to each other with the male feeding the female and sometimes coming alone to fetch food for her while she tends the nest.

Chickadees are the bravest and often fly right up to the feeder shortly before I fill it. I’d love to have them eat out of my hands someday but we all don’t know each other well enough for that yet. When I sit out on my deck and watch all the birds they often land on the railing or the electrical wires and chirp at me curiously. They’re not shy when it comes to getting their food and I am always humbled and comforted by their trust in me.