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Although I watch birds I’m not a “birdwatcher.”
Birdwatchers are serious people who spend great sums of time and money on things like photo equipment and travel to exotic bird-watching places.
I just watch the birds that gather at the feeders outside our kitchen window.
Birdwatchers belong to bird-watching societies and clubs and they take well-organized bird-watching trips with groups of other serious birdwatchers. They load up their customized, late model SUVs and head into woods and fields - known only to birdwatchers – toting bags filled with high-power binoculars and cameras and lenses and other bird-watching equipment that the rest of us aren’t even aware of.
Serious birdwatchers spend days at a time – whole vacations even – looking for and photographing all kinds of exotic birds.
That is not what I do.
When I’m in the kitchen, I’ll often look out the window to see what birds are hanging around the feeders. And then I go on and do something else.
Like most things, my whole business with the birds started innocently enough. Soon after we moved to our present home here in the Oxford Hills, my wife and I noticed that there didn’t seem to be many birds around our yard. A while later someone happened to give us a suet feeder - among other “homey” things - as a housewarming gift. Since suet isn’t among our regular food staples, we didn’t have any lying around the house. And so the suet feeder sat on the shelf for a while. One day I happened to be in a hardware store and decided to buy a cake of suet and eventually I got around to hanging the now-filled suet feeder on a tree near the kitchen window. Well, that feeder could have been hanging on the moon for all the attention it got at first. Not a single creature of a feathery persuasion came near the thing. For weeks it hung there, swinging in the breeze.
After what seemed like months, a stray nuthatch happened by the suet feeder for a visit He could have been scoping it out for his fellow nuthatches. One minute this suet feeder was hanging there unused, and the next minute, here’s this solitary, wandering nuthatch chowing down at it. I’ll admit it was an event. A few days later the lone nuthatch returned for more suet. Over the next few months small bands of chickadees and individual woodpeckers joined the nuthatch, and our feeder was finally in business - it was on the “suet circuit.” But business was definitely slow.
Not wanting to go overboard with this bird--feeding business we left just the one lonely suet feeder hanging there on the tree by the kitchen window for over a year. Birds were so few and far between that the first cake of suet cake seemed to last forever.
In the fall, while getting ready for winter, I was again at the hardware store and on a whim I picked up a deluxe, clear plastic, triple-decker, multi-seed birdfeeder, just for the heck of it. That afternoon I hung the fancy new feeder on the tree by the suet feeder.
The fancy new feeder got a little more attention but business was still slow.
It wasn’t until winter arrived and the ground got covered up that the feeders got busier.
There were times when we could have used an air-traffic controller in the backyard to handle the number of birds looking to perch at one of our feeders.
Now, from spring through fall, there are chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and all kinds of finches out there from sunup to sundown.
Come winter, only the chickadees remain. The hearty chickadees are like native Mainers who stick it out through the long cold winter.
I now enjoy watching birds. But I’m still not a “birdwatcher.”

John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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