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Backyard Nature Movie

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            Last Friday was a day for the birds.  My list of chores and errands vanished into thin air when I raised the shade covering the kitchen window and saw a skiff of snow and birds on my birdfeeder.

The birds must have been happy that I’d finally filled their feeder with sunflower seed.  Sometime last fall I mindlessly bought a 40-pound bag of Deluxe Bird Food.  The price was right.  I watched as bird after bird threw white millet and red milo seeds onto the ground and emptied the feeder.  And then, after a few days, very few birds nibbled, much less ate, my bargain seed.  A couple of weeks ago, I filled my feeder with sunflower seed and hung two nets filled with finch seed.  And last Friday while my bird friends dined, I couldn’t pull myself away from the show.

A dozen or more house finches ate side by side on the two eighteen-inch cloth mesh nets.  Some birds hung vertical with heads up, some upside down, some sideways.  I wondered if a finch doesn’t like to dine alone.  As a group they flew away and then returned a few minutes later.  Two, three, four – until once again a small flock pecked at the tiny black seeds.

Isn’t a northern cardinal its prettiest on a snowy day?  Why would a male sit on my snow-covered deck railing just three inches from the sunflower-filled feeder?  Maybe waiting for his mate?  When the female cardinal hopped onto a metal perch to eat, he joined her for a quick snack.  She stayed for a five-course meal and was happy to dine with tufted titmice, a white-breasted nuthatch, and purple finches.

And then a woodpecker zoomed in and all the other birds scattered.  A red-bellied woodpecker.  Try explaining to a five-year old child that a woodpecker with a red head is not a red-headed woodpecker.  My Grand was sure that I was confused.  “Look, at his coloring,” I explained.  “See the black and white ladder on his wings and back?  That’s how you know he’s a red-bellied, not a red-headed woodpecker.”  I agreed that I couldn’t see red on his belly and yes, maybe he should’ve been named the black-and-white laddered woodpecker.  The smaller birds filled every perch as soon as the Mr. Red Bellied flew away.

A rufous-sided towhee, really a large sparrow, swooped in.  With his tail pumping, he hopped across the deck railing to the feeder, appearing to choose his favorite perch.  He came  dressed for a dinner party – white belly, black head, and distinct brown and black markings.  Just when I thought the show outside my window couldn’t be better, a pair of deer trotted across the yard.  She pranced.  He, with his tall antlers, strutted.

Last Friday’s snow wasn’t deep enough for my Grands to sled down my backyard hill.  (I’m still hoping for a ‘real’ snow so we can have a sled party.)  But a dusting of snow was plenty for the setting of a backyard nature movie.  All for the price of a bag of sunflower seeds.

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