Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Backyard Bird Envy

So, you go and create a blog and then, shockingly, you find that you have to keep up with it. Oy.

Where have I been? In Virginia visiting family, generally. Specifically . . . worshipping the porcelain god in my parents' upstairs guest bathroom because I managed to catch the worst possible stomach virus in the history of mankind. Now you know that I love nature's colors - all of them - but I'm going to skip the description of the colors that went along with this particular natural event. You've seen them before, I'm sure. Or, if you haven't, I hope that you never, ever will.

I learned in my Buddhism seminar that we are supposed to pray for the happiness of all sentient beings, so I'm working on that. But, as far as I'm concerned, bacteria and viruses could not possibly have the neural networks required to be sentient, so I don't think Buddha would mind that I spent a few hours praying that all stomach viruses would be confined to the deepest, darkest pits of hell. What was I thinking? Silly me - they're already there. They probably run the joint.

Not that I'm bitter. Really.

My Virginia vacation wasn't a complete loss, though, because I got to spend time with my mom (an unassuming naturalist who's learned more from the creatures in her back yard than most learn from wildlife and forestry degree programs) talking nature and watching her birds.

To say that my mom has birds that visit her yard would be something like saying that Canada can be a bit chilly this time of year.

If it's a songbird living east of the Mississippi, chances are it can give you directions to Diane Clifford's deck and repeat the sound of her "I'm throwing peanuts out now" whistle. The woman has black oil sunflower seed in two different feeders and thistle seed in another. She has suet and peanut butter in a third and peanuts get thrown out on the deck regularly.

The yard is, of course, a certified Backyard Habitat, as is mine - but she's had hers for going on 30 years now and her birds are loyal. (Not like mine, who disappeared for no reason for weeks this fall. What's up with that?) In just a few minutes' observation, I easily spotted a Carolina wren, chickadees, titmice, a nuthatch, gold finches, cardinals, and an unusually large blue jay. There was also a red-bellied woodpecker in the woods nearby and a red-shouldered hawk that lives in the neighborhood.

And, speaking of larger species, my mom's deck is also the favorite eatery of a group of grey squirrels who must be the largest of their kind in the whole of North America. Seriously, these squirrels are huge. Fat and happy. Each one is the size of a cat, I swear.

Those are just a few of her winter avian friends. In the spring and summer there will also be warblers and catbirds and all sorts of migrants who rest and refuel at Di's Place. I can't blame them - I found it a great place to rest and refuel myself. Don't tell the birds and squirrels this, but if you think the bird food outside is good, you should check out the people food on the table inside . . . and don't even get me started on how nice the bathrooms are!

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