As I passed our patio doors just now (Friday noon) to get to my computer to write this, two juncoes arrived at one of our seven seed feeders. They represent 25 percent of the total number of birds we’ve seen at these feeders in the past six days. I have no idea of what is happening.
Chickadees are regular. Cardinals are loyal. Birds attract birds. Why this hiatus?
It comes at a time when I am working on a column about our declining insect population, and the impact of that on bird numbers. That’s a serious concern. But this isn’t insect season. So, why?
The entire neighborhood, including the tangled swamp behind us, seems bereft of birds, no sight, no sound. There is a reason, probably not worth a second thought. The birds will return, right?
We are at a time and place where declining bird numbers are worth a second thought. But this is silly.
A visit today to All-Seasons Wild Bird store in Wayzata might have answered my question. The woman behind the counter suggested that presence of a hawk might have frightened the birds to this extent. Big extent! Give them a few more days, she told me. It was a duh moment for me. Cooper's Hawks are in the neighborhood. The nested last year in a tree in the yard next door. The year before that, on the other side of us.
As I write this -- noon Saturday -- suddenly, birds! Siskins, goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees.
And then, this, written last weekend.
Visited with a friend in Plymouth Sunday to see his bird-filled yard. I intended to tell him about the four Pine Siskins feeding on our thistle seeds Sunday morning. There were about 40 siskins in his backyard, eating thistle from four different feeders. I kept quiet. His thistle was mixed with small sunflower chips. That might have been the difference. Or, it could have been the array of feeders and water sources that fill his normal neighborhood yard. Bird friendly it is.
We have eight seed feeders in our yard. He has about twice that many, and three sources of water (heated birdbaths). He feeds black oil sunflower, nyger thistle, suet, and a mix that includes cracked corn (not a usual choice, he said, but it was on sale, and the Blue Jays love the corn). He has several suet feeders, showing me photos of the PAIR of Pileated Woodpeckers that visit.
I also got to see the bluebird house — in his suburban backyard — that has held nesting bluebirds for the past four years. That’s the only backyard nesting I know of. His yard is large and open, but still …
Open refers to the center of the yard. It's edged with bushes and mature trees, including several large blue spruce. The birds can arrive at or retreat to safe places. The water birch in his front yard has a dead major branch that has been under attack by one of the Pileateds. He does not trim such branches. That’s a good idea, Dead wood has a purpose.
He’s had redpolls this fall, he said. The Red-breasted Nuthatch that’s a regular visitor drank from one of his heated water bowls about four feet from my knees. “They’re real friendly,” he told me as the bird drank. Cardinals were there that afternoon, along with a Red-bellied and a Downy woodpecker.
He has four nest boxes in place, one for his bluebird regulars, the others welcoming House Wrens.
His kids, he told me, call him a bird nerd. Really, he’s just a guy who loves watching birds, and is making certain that they remember where his yard is. He didn’t do it all at once. He bought this and then that, and the next year one or two more. Some feeders were gifts. People will do that when they see the pleasure such a gift brings.
It was fun to see someone who can enjoy birds so much without even leaving his yard.