|My back view in late autumn. The bird feeder sans birds.|
Saturday’s monochrome sky mutes all the colours except the garish patio chair covers. Even then, on this cloudy day, they are easier on the eyes. I scan the garden with a keen eye for detail, then settle down on the loveseat (a $200 purchase from IKEA twenty-three years ago), armrests protected with my late sister-in-law’s matching crocheted doilies. The writing studio is a comfy place, accented with bohemian pillows and accessories, wall hangings, motivational quotes, miscellany furniture, and a collected 1860’s arrow back chair paired with a distressed antique white writing desk. The style is shabby chic along the lines of “traditional India meets prairie farmhouse”.
I read. A Real Book. A rare treat in a world of 140-character tweets and three-second SnapChats. And out of the corner of my eye, I watch for birds.
Yesterday a Northern Flicker made his house call, hanging nearly upside down from the eaves until I saw him ("Nature poses just long enough for the right photographer"). It would take me a thousand tweets to describe his clothing. Such a suit he flaunts: a striped jacket over a polkadot vest, a long beak and a crown of red flash. But that beak? I cover my eyes in fear and he flicks away.
The new bird seed draws them. Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and squirrels. Yes, noisy red squirrels and ugly black squirrels with crazy eyes. Perhaps at night, the mice come also. And the neighbor’s cat. I worry about the possible nesting sites nearby: under the cracked concrete no longer held fast by the bowed retaining wall, or below the neighbor’s deck: squirrel access at eye level where the lattice is broken (not my deck, I just live beside it, another post for another day).
A murderous magpie puffs up double size on the end cap of the back door neighbor's hip roof. “Stay away!” I think, (to the magpie, not the neighbor), recalling the brackish sounds of their fights outside my window pre-sunrise before I removed the third feeder, purchased in ignorance on a whim, where they and the very unwelcome, noisy Grackles, fought to gorge themselves with high-energy suet. Since that’s gone, they’ve generally been scarce. “Good riddance,” I murmur.
But now the Blue Jays have come. Oh, joy! Such coloring! Picking at the crumbs below the wild bird sunflower seed and corn feeder. A pair, unafraid, as I call for Henry to “Look, quick! Jays at the feeder!!” but scatter when I open the patio screen to zoom in with my Canon.
“I’ll give them a refill,” thinks the benevolent side of me, as I step into garden clogs, dismissing any embarrassment at going out in my pyjamas to retrieve the empty seed dispenser (the yard is quite private and if the neighbors do look, they’ll never wanna look again). Once the feeder’s full and back in place, surely they’ll return, so I can finally photograph them! And I must fill it now, when they’re in the yard. (The jays, not the neighbors).
One jay remains in the tree not ten feet away, watching. Smelling, perhaps. Do they smell? How else would they know the food is there? Keen eyesight? Intuition? They are bird brained. What DO they sense?
But after filling the feeder, cleaning up and settling down again with my book, I wait in vain and write this to prove you can lead a Blue Jay to crumbs but you can’t ensure he stays. Human presence, at least mine (was it my perfume?) disturbs any bird, hyper vigilant as they are. Nervous, twitching, flitting from this branch to that. (And I thought I was A.D.D.)! I’ve been unable to determine a predictable pattern on bird activity yet, since I’ve not really tried and I’m only one summer in to this bird observation thingy.
Passerine birds are my most common visitors. Logical, since it’s the category for half the birds in the world. I usually have visitors of black-capped chickadee, sparrow and finch, co-existing happily with the squirrels and not so happily with the cat (who is, of course, violating the city ordinance that cats are not to roam free). An entire sub-system of communication: chirps, tweets, songs and movement, often gracing the the largest spruce in dozens, clustering like pine cones or perched on the tips like Christmas tree ornaments on a holiday card.
And this is my greeting card to you, on a monochrome Saturday, a snapshot of a few creatures doing some Calgary dreamin’ on such a winter's day. I am now going to return to my book, ironically titled: “Bird by Bird" until the birds are back in town.
Photo credit: personal collection