It's funny that I never really paid much attention to the birds in Boulder. Although I would listen to them on summer mornings, I didn't ever think about feeding them. When I moved to Bellingham, into a nice little apartment with a nine-foot-wide covered front porch, I noticed some pegs that a previous tenant had installed on the side farthest from the front door. I figured they were for flowers, which is a possibility.
Some of the other nearby neighbors had bird feeders, and I enjoyed watching the birds come and go, and before I knew it, I had purchased some bird seed and scattered it on the porch. Almost immediately several birds found the seed, so I took a trip to the local Wild Bird Chalet
to learn the do's and don'ts of bird feeding. There is also quite a lot of information on line, and now I'm not only hooked, I found a perfect use for those hooks on the porch: two upside-down feeders (such as the one in the top picture), two suet feeders, and a black-oil sunflower feeder hang from them. One peg is vacant because I discovered that the squirrels can reach it. The others are beyond their reach, as well as protected from the rain, so that the bird seed stays dry, an important aspect to consider here in the Pacific Northwest.
I also learned that when you feed birds, it's important to provide a water source, as they need water to digest the birdseed. And in the winter when the water freezes, it's essential to find a way to keep it from freezing up. That's the reason for the coil under the rock in the picture. It works very well, and it did make me feel much better to give them a water source that stays available, even when it gets really cold. I have a family of Northern flickers, chickadees, goldfinches, bushtits, song sparrows, nuthatches, juncos, and the ubiquitous house sparrows (which travel in huge flocks and try their best to crowd out the native species). That's why I have the upside-down feeders: sparrows are perch challenged and cannot feed on them. They are left to forage with what falls on the ground. The juncos also want what's fallen on the ground. So do the squirrels, but that's another story.
I joined the Whatcom Birds email Listserv hosted at Western Washington University that has allowed me to learn a great deal about local birds, as well as to see pictures of them for identification. Joe Meche, president of the North Cascades Audubon Society
, puts lots of pictures on the site that can be downloaded to help identify birds. Other people also put pictures up that give me pleasure, such as this one from Victor Burgett:
He said in the email, "This fierce little bird was quite incensed to meet its reflection in the mirror, and spent a few minutes aggressively attacking it, quickly returning after I shooed it away initially, as I didn't want it to injure itself in the confrontation." I laughed at this description and loved the picture, hoping to use it in a post someday.
At first I thought this bird was hurt, but Joe Meche explained, "I observed this Glaucous-winged Gull yesterday afternoon, getting in some serious stretching and preening in the bright sunshine on the lower creek." He captioned it "Gull Yoga," which is quite appropriate, I'd say.
I continue to learn more and more about the birds that visit me, as well as other local wildlife, including the hawks that sometimes come to check out the fat little birds that hang out on my porch. Sometimes they will even venture onto the porch themselves, wondering where their tasty treats went off to. Even though the Northern flickers are big but nowhere near as big as the hawks, the birds know the difference and make themselves scarce when a hawk shows up.
Sometimes a bird will strike my front window hard enough to knock itself out, and occasionally to kill it, although I've put reflective stickers on the window to minimize bird strikes. I take the bird and place it in nearby greenery, hoping that it will be recycled into Nature one way or the other. I love my birds, and I do realize that Nature is not always kind. But it gives me great pleasure to see them, to learn more about them, and to appreciate their winged freedom.