[Tweeters] birds still gotta eat (plus *)

Barbara Deihl barbdeihl at comcast.net
Mon Mar 3 13:21:40 PST 2014

Raindrops pounding on windows and roof. Despite that, a dozen Band-taileds moving in to the feeder outside, tripping over each other, flapping madly to stay on the little tray under the tube feeder, but frequently falling off; the same 'old' gray-headed Orange-crowned trying to hide behind the suet feeder, out of the way of the big, bulky, unbalanced Bandies; Steller's jays squawking to try to get me to come out to "peanut" them; crows swooping down to finish off the cat-bowl kibbles (all 3 pieces), now sodden; Bewick's Wrens practicing all 62 of their favorite calls while cruising the feeders; juncos flashing bright, white stripes; towhees playing hide'n'seek through the bushes, occasionally confusing this listener with calls similar to the juncos; Golden-crowned Sparrows throating out that zany 3-not call; Song Sparrows giving good gurgles as they tilt their heads back to let everyone else know they are ready for spring, rain drinks and all; Bushtits buzzing through, stopping to chat and chip at blocks of suet; a Townsend's Warbler duo trying out every feeder, then immediately cycling through again; 2 kinds of chickadees, RB Nuthatches and Anna's Hummingbirds, adding their staccatos to the mix, the chickadees loudly pounding open each seed they extract; a Northern Flicker drumming on the nearest tree, chimney cap or metal pipe (when not resting it's tail on the tail-prop of the suet feeder); a distant call-out by a roaming Pileated; little bright red beacons on the heads of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet and the Downy Woodpecker that both suddenly appear and disappear quickly; various thrushes (including Varied) croon their tunes out in the woods; and THEN, that unmistakeable, 'laryngitable' (I know, this is a real stretch...) announcement by a passing Bald Eagle, that he was patrolling (I always have to turn up my hearing aid to make sure it's an eagle)*.

All of this goes on out in the Barboretum while I, the steward(ess?) of the place, attempt to right my sleep-deficit disorder by sleeping in awhile (until the rain stops?). Not to be! So, I grumble a bit, but rise to the occasion, get up and find that the "steady rain" is taking a little break. I shuffle out to experience the avianosity (another stretch) to the full. I slosh over to the seed bucket, remove one scoopful of mixed seeds, pick out a few of the F-grade peanuts (with shells) for the jays or crows, whichever get there first, and plop them on a little platform feeder near the bucket. Immediately a jay appears, making an intermediate stop on the clothesline before dropping down to the 'peanut plate', with me a few feet away, and taking one of the nuts off to hide it in the crook of a downspout before returning for more. He calls out to the other jays that "soup's on", and a couple more show up, while the ever-aware crows close in, each one (of the usual 3) atop a different large conifer or gutter, watching and waiting for a chance to fly in to snag one of the tasty legumes.

I move off to fill a few feeders, but the passerines mostly stick around - they've learned that my presence is no threat and that often it means good things for their guts, or for their nest (my white hair has been known to attract a hummingbird working on its nest) ! I'm also, by being in the yard, likely dissuading the local Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks from trying for a meal while I am there - maybe... :-) The hawks certainly do make a meal of budgie or pigeon every so often - I find the evidence later when patrolling the property.

*Then I hear it again - the boo-hoo (cry) of a Bald Eagle. But all I see is a Steller's Jay calling out from a tree. WAIT! The open jay beak is in sync with the eagle call... ! I continue to watch the jay and realize that it has added a new imitation to its repertoire ! I've heard and watched jays imitate Redtailed Hawks, crow-clicking and starling white noise, but never before have I known one to make an eagle announcement :-) Now I'll have to see if I can detect a response to this mimicry, in any of the other yardbirds or the squirrels. A project for another day.

The rain has let up, the sun is making it through some of the clouds and I rejoice that once again, the weather report is in error, in our favor (here in NE Seattle) ! And the Barboretum and its inhabitants have once again, drawn me from my slumber stupor, out into the wonderful world of nature, even in the rain !

Barb Deihl
North Matthews Beach - NE Seattle
barbdeihl at comcast.net

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