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Although I watch birds at the feeders just outside our kitchen window, I wouldn’t call myself a birdwatcher or birder. To me a birdwatcher is a very serious person – or at least someone a lot more serious than me – who takes well-organized bird-watching trips with groups of other serious birders. They load up their SUVs and head into the woods and fields and swamps, toting bags filled with expensive binoculars and cameras and field guides and lots of other bird watching equipment. These serious watchers spend days at a time - whole vacations, even – engaged in serious bird watching activities. They even text each other about birds and, of course, they tweet – a lot. That is not what I do.
When I’m in the kitchen, I’ll often look out the window and see what birds are hanging around the feeders. And then I’ll go on to something else.
Like most things, this whole bird business started innocently enough. Soon after we moved to our place in Oxford Hills, my wife and I noticed that there didn’t seem to be many birds around our yard. A while later, one of our kids gave us a suet feeder as a gift – no suet just the structure thst holds the suet. But, since suet isn’t among the essential food groups, we didn’t have any suet around the house. And since we weren’t in the habit of buying suet, the feeder sat on a shelf for quite some time. One day when I was in a local hardware store I bought a cake of suet and eventually hung the suet feeder on a tree by the kitchen window. Well, that feeder could have been hanging on the moon for all the attention it got at first. Not a single bird or bird-like creature came near the thing. For weeks it hung there swinging in the breeze.
After what seemed like months, a stray bird, a nuthatch, happened by the feeder for a visit. One minute this suet feeder was just hanging there unused, and the next minuet, here’s a 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 of feeding birds. But business was really slow.
Not wanting to go nuts with bird feeding we left just the one suet feeder hanging on the tree by the kitchen window for over a year. Birds were so few and far between that the first suet cake seemed to last forever.
One morning in the fall, while preparing things for winter, I was again in the hardware store and on a whim I bought a deluxe, clear plastic, triple-decker, multi-seed bird feeder, just to see what would happen. That afternoon I hung the fancy new feeder on the tree by the suet feeder.
The fancy feeder got a little more attention – mostly from chickadees – but business was still slow. When the snows came and the ground got coed, the feeders got busier.
When warm weather returned, our feeders actually got busy. There are times when we could use an air-traffic controller in the backyard. We even had to add another feeder just to handle all the business.
I now spend a lot of time watching all our birds, but, like I said I’m no bird birdwatcher or birder.
And I’ve yet to tweet.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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