Thursday, March 31, 2011

Want Ad

I haiku-ed in my previous posting about the robin that has staked out our property for his next nesting site. Other similar homesteaders are also appearing throughout our neighborhood and around town.

One robin per yard --
Norwegian bachelor farmers
Seek mail order brides.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Haiku x 2

It is early spring and the migrators are returning to establish their new digs for the warm weather duration.

If he were a wolf
he's mark his territory -
then kick back and nap.

But he's a robin,
so he defines his borders
by endless hopping.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sometimes It Works...

We offer something for every palette at our avian food court: oily & striped sunflower seeds, millet, thistle, cracked & kernel corn, and nuts. With enough seating to accommodate even the biggest crowd. Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn't.

Six feeders, one bird –
it’s like “Waiting for Godot”
performed by junco.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

When Laws Collide

Many of us first learned about the Law of Karma from The Beatles, back in the sixties -- "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." In more simple terms, we give seeds to the wild birds and they pay us back with their songs and their colorful appearance. Ironically I was on my way to fill our bird feeders when this recent real-life wild kingdom moment happened.

It was mid-February and I was going out through the garage in order to put on my muck boots before slogging through the snow to the seed containers. As the automatic door passed the halfway point a large white and gray blur of feathers appeared to my right and crashed into the snow bank along the left side of my driveway about six feet in front of me. The white was a large hyperactive hawk. The gray -- a smaller but equally frenzied pigeon.

The raptor smashed backwards into the crusty pile of white stuff with his wings splayed out and his talons parallel to the ground. He seemed to have a surprised look on his face. The pigeon meanwhile was twisting and turning within the larger bird's grip -- shedding feathers at an alarming rate.

Suddenly the captive broke free, and exited stage right. The hawk gathered himself and flew down the length of my driveway. As I walked out to the pile of feathers I saw the hawk sitting on a branch in one of the snow-shelf trees across the street. I turned back towards our house and noticed the fidgety escapee pacing on the peak of our colonial house.

After I excitedly recounted the action for Marsha I went about the mission that had brought me outside to begin with. As I replenished the various feeders I could see the hawk, sitting in place, staring in my direction -- breathing deeply in order to calm himself down and contemplate his next move.

The pigeon meanwhile flew down from the rooftop and began pecking ferociously at the sunflower seeds that had fallen to the ground as part of my process. Unlike his contemplative predator, the pigeon was clearly amped-up on adrenaline and mainlining bird food to keep his state of agitation going. In spite of the pile of gray feathers at the crash scene, the frenetic bird had no visible gaps in his plumage. Then again he was pretty fluffed up -- either to keep him warm or as another manifestation of his hyperactive behavior -- which may have hidden any newly acquired pattern baldness.

Before the attack there was the usual plethora of finches, juncos, sparrows, chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, titmice, nuthatches, and squirrels that feed en masse at our tree branch diners -- plus a few of the pigeons that occasionally crash the party. All are welcome.

Now the yard was totally bereft of fauna, other than the one hyperactive survivor of the near-death experience. Most of the birdbrains were smart enough to leave the scene. The pigeon, which Marsha and I consider to be more of a squirrel with feathers than a real bird, clearly did not fully comprehend the danger of the situation. Even I had some personal apprehension as I stood at the bull's-eye of raptor's target area. I had no idea how much, if at all, he blamed me for his failed dinner-grab - and for long, if at all, a hawk held a grudge.

Then I looked across the road, and the hawk was gone.

This was the second known raptor-on-pigeon attack in our yard this calendar year. Last year we had the same number all annum -- plus one murder-by-cat. I am guessing that the increase in our violent crime rate is at least partially due to the excessive snow accumulation that drives the birds from their inaccessible natural eating haunts to the backyard feeder circuit. Similarly the larger predators start dining in the more civilized parts of town as their normal woodland food supplies become more difficult for them to find.

In helping the first group I am also aiding the second. It's what happens when the Law of Karma, meets the Law of Supply and Demand, meets the Law of the Jungle.

Friday, March 11, 2011


"Why do woodpeckers peck on wood?

They do this because they are looking for food. Termites and other wood dwelling creatures for example are a good source of protein for them. Woodpeckers also raise their young in trees by pecking away a large hole in a tree! Woodpeckers also drum on trees to communicate territoriality." (

It is 6 a.m. on a mid-March morning. The seasonal rat-a-tat-tat has begun.

In the past I have suffered in silence -- quietly putting up with the predawn perturbations of these pileated peckerheads.

No more! This year I am officially putting it in writing. And duct taping my choleric communique firmly over every tree-hole within earshot.


Re: Territory
I got here first. It's all mine.
Can YOU hear ME now?

Saturday, March 05, 2011


We have a chipmunk in our spirea. Who even knew that they climbed?

He doesn't actually live there. But he does hang out in the winter-barren shrub in the early morning hours. I suspect that he is waiting for the sun to rise high enough to warm his muscles because he seems to leave shortly thereafter. We have seen vultures performing a similar ritual in the open fields of Marfa, Texas -- so I assume that what is good for large, cold muscles is equally good for smaller ones.

The bush is just outside our kitchen window so we get to observe this ritual while we are preparing breakfast. It is also about fifteen feet from the back door of our garage, where we are certain he actually resides. The other night I wandered into that car shed, which is attached to the family room, and startled him. He quickly spun around and scurried to the farthest corner, under our coiled up garden hose that is stored inside for the cold season. In previous years we have witnessed previous chipmunks sneaking around our carport. And discovered purloined sunflower seed hulls that they had shucked into the air filters of our vehicles. They have also taken refuge in our downspouts -- but I suspect that housing is more suitable in the warmer weather.

The chipmunk is the second observed occupant of our garage this winter. During the height of the twice-a-week, heavy snowfall in early and mid-January, a tiny brown and white striped bird (possibly a wren or severely undersized sparrow) took refuge there.

The first time I saw him he was hopping towards the car enclosure with a wobbly gait as if he were injured in either leg or wing or both. I was between him and his goal and my startled reaction frightened him into reversing his course and rapidly hobbling back into the precipitation.

The next morning, when I was refilling the bird feeders, I looked down and he was standing at my feet, within inches, and pecking in the snow at the millet that was falling to the ground as a byproduct of my efforts. I carefully stepped over him and created a small cereal-eating area on a cleared-off segment of pathway away from the normal foot traffic. He followed me into his private dining area and began daintily chowing down. This same vignette continued for several days.

A day or two later, as I was out having my early morning pipe in front of the open garage, he strolled out and hopped past me as if he were on his way to work, totally oblivious to my presence. Our paths crossed daily for the next couple of weeks during either or both of these scenarios.

Then he stopped appearing. I figure either he somehow got locked out of his adopted home by the accumulation of snow and became a victim of the elements or - - and here is what I'm hoping -- that he recovered from his earlier impairment, built up his strength thanks to my specially provided meals, and continued on his way to wherever it was that he was going before his unplanned stopover with Mars and me. Either way I miss him.

The chipmunk however looks just fine -- reasonably chubby and yet extremely agile. I expect that we will see him off and on throughout the upcoming seasons. At the moment I don't have any plans for a personalized meal plan for him. This however could change at the first sign of injury. In fact I have already checked out specially designed feeders online.