Thursday, October 23, 2013

I am sitting in my office, south and west-facing windows. It is mid-morning and the sun is raising my spirits, even though a north wind reminds me of Chicago, temperature in the 40’s.

Something moves in the south yard. I look up and see two mature does, their luxuriant deep-tan fur gleaming in the light, head butting at my thistle feeder. They bump it, sniff it, try to gnaw it. “If only the dang, dangling tube would stay still,” one doe said.* They touch noses. One doe rises up on her hind hooves, leaning against the clothes pole and staring intently at the feeder. I reach for my binoculars and get a close-up view of the ladies. They must see a reflection, for they turn towards me and stare, then run like hell across the down-sloped meadow and into the woods.

Yesterday a red-headed woodpecker landed on the feeder and hammered at it, its beak too big to extract seed through the tiny slits. It walked up, down, sideways, upside down on the bottom, all the moves designed to penetrate the feeder. Then flew in a downy woodpecker, also landing on the feeder, and a Keystone Cops chase ensued, the redhead chasing the downy. The goldfinches and chickadees for whom the feeder tolls, lined the branches of the red-and-orange-poison ivy leaf-decorated maple tree, waiting for the intruders to give up.

Other visitors: seven wild turkeys, standing under the feeders and—dare I say it?—hopefully looking up; a blue racer snake, straight and flat in the grass, waiting for a careless songbird to land on the ground and forage (I was bitten in my right Achilles heel by a blue racer this summer); a nuthatch doing its signature nut dance; a raccoon trying to climb up the pole but falling backwards.

Now the goldfinches are back. The males are turning from bright yellow to olive green, their winter camouflage. Their drab mates await their turn. The boys and the girls never eat together. Is there a lesson there?

“Birdfeeders are the office coolers of the country.” (Note to self: contact the Bartlett’s quotation people.)

*Please, oh propitious, patient patrons pardon the anthropomorphizing, por favor.





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