A few days ago I wrote about something I try to do as a legacy for my mother. Today is something that falls along similar lines.
My mother loved birds. It was actually a strange kind of love. She was terrified of being near birds outside, something about their wings flying around her . I have no idea where she got that phobia. I cannot think of anything else that frightened her; she was one tough broad. But although she did not want birds flying around her, probably in her top three favorite things in the world to do was watch birds. She had lots (I mean LOTS) of bird feeders. At the last house in which she lived, the lawn was 3 acres. She had feeders of all sorts scattered under and near trees throughout that yard and hanging from the porch eaves. She would also put cracked corn on a wide spot of the driveway by the garage to feed the mourning doves.
Although I was never afraid of birds and did not mind looking at them occasionally, I never really got into watching them. She would love to point out a new one that would come to the feeders. (Once a strange sort of hummingbird was way off course and was at her house for a few days. Some people from a local conservation office came to check it out.) I would be interested, but only casually. The only time the interest became greater is when my parents would leave town and yours truly got the posh job of filling the feeders. My mother filled the feeders three. times. a. day at a minimum of 30 minutes for each round. I did it twice a day in her absence, on the way to work and on the way home.
When Prince Charming and I got married, he expressed an interest in having bird feeders. One year for a birthday or Christmas, I purchased a very nice pole and feeders for him. It was his job to keep the feeders full. I liked watching the yellow finches come to it, but I preferred watching them on my giant sunflowers that took up half the garden. (I have always loved looking at flowers.)
We moved to the desert where there were no songbirds at all, at least none where we lived. We did not put up our feeder after we moved.
Last year (nearly 5 years after moving), the homeowners association patrol noticed our bird feeder lying by the side of our house (where it had been since we moved) and sent us a none-too-friendly letter about it not being appropriate there. This was just a couple of months after my mother’s death, and I had already been thinking I wanted to watch birds a little more. We decided to put it up. (Prince Charming’s father had also been into feeding birds, and had passed away recently as well, so it was easy for both of us to decide to put up a feeder again.)
During the summer I fill the feeders twice a day and could probably do it three or four times, but I refuse. What kinds of birds we get? House finches and pigeons and a few mourning doves. The house finches are OK, but they are everywhere. And the yellow finches do not come much when the house finches are around. The house finches will eat almost anything, so it isn’t like I can change the diet out there to make them leave so something more interesting will come.
But we have a jewel that comes to our house. Bullock’s Orioles.
The first time I saw one I gasped. (I guess I gasp a lot when things are beautiful. I do that all the time when I open Sky Watch Friday pictures.) We do not have cardinals or blue jays here (the showier birds I was accustomed to from southwest Missouri), but periodically we get a glimpse of the orioles.
We have a yellow Bird of Paradise tree/bush not far outside our back door. Little did I know when planting it that Bullock’s Orioles come there for a feast. They are terribly skittish birds, and nearly every picture I have of them is from inside the house, through the window. (The pictures in this post are the best I have from this summer and last. I do not believe the scarcity of good pictures is due only to my lack of ability to take good pictures!) When I first saw them last year, I did not know what they were eating from the tree until I enlarged some pictures and saw the worms in their mouths.
The tree only blooms for a short time, then the birds go elsewhere. This year we got an oriole feeder. The orioles still come since the flowers have gone, but not as frequently. But what do you think eats most of the jelly from the oriole feeder now that the orioles are not here as much? The house finches! I do not want to go so far as to scare the finches away, but it does get a little irritating to see an oriole finally light on the feeder, only to fly away (before I can even move toward my camera) because the finches ate all the jelly!
Last week, however, I received a special treat. A male was on the tree getting the last of the worms from the tree and a little grape jelly from the feeder, then taking it to a young oriole in a nearby tree. The male was so busy that I actually got the lens of my camera out the door and took a couple of pictures before they both flew away.
The orioles have made me interested in watching birds. They have made me want to build a life list of birds. They are the reason I started going to blogs like 10,000 Birds and Virtua Gallery. I wish my mother could have seen them.
By Louise Cannon