One morning not long ago, I was sitting at our breakfast bar doing a crossword puzzle to try and shake the cobwebs out of my half-awake brain.
All of a sudden there was a loud noise coming from the direction of our large paladin window to my right. It sounded like someone had thrown a good-sized stick against the window.
I quickly sat upright on my stool expecting to hear the sound of glass crashing onto the kitchen floor. Apparently, what I heard was a large bird coming in for a landing a little too fast and overshooting his approach to our oversized bird feeder a couple of yards from the kitchen window and crashing head-long into the glass.
Judging by the ferocity of the collision with the window, I had fully expected to see either a dead bird or a bird lying motionless and unconscious. Neither was the case.
The bird — about the size of a smallish pigeon — was lifting off by the time I made it to the window — albeit it a less-than-textbook takeoff. I guess his "flight or fight" instincts had instantly kicked in.
That's just one of lots of our adventures in "birds and other things wild" we've experienced while observing life in and around the bird feeder.
I take great pride in sharing with you that I personally designed and constructed the great white painted bird feeder. The tray where the birds and other critters sit and share seeds is two-feet square and has an oversized A-frame roof protecting the seeds from any casual rain showers that are so frequent during our "rainy season" here in our part of the state.
I can't take all the credit for the credit for the feeder, though.
Both my sons — at various times — have lent a helping hand in reconstructing and remodeling the tray and the roof and painting the two to match the 4x4 post that holds them both in place above a stand of camellias and boxwoods.
By the way, this paint-matching is not all that difficult since the various parts of the feeder are painted white — the same as the trim on the house. Not exactly rocket science.
A wide variety of birds are the mainstay of the species that frequent the feeder ... although it's the unintended visitors that create the greatest amount of interest — mainly squirrels.
Unlike some purist bird watchers, I like squirrels and have no problem with them usually being the first on the feeder and the last to leave. I have several tubular, wire feeders exclusively for the little birds that weigh "just enough" to move the wire and clear plastic cylinders into place where they can enjoy a meal of seeds without having to share their bounty with the squirrels.
But it is quite humorous to see the squirrels try their best to conquer the "squirrel-proof" design.
I wish I had a way of telling the squirrels apart. That way we could give them names and keep up with the amount of time they spend on the feeder, etc.
I figure if whale watchers could learn to tell one whale from another by the markings on their tails, we should be able to do the same for furry little squirrels.
I've learned a thing or two about the birds that are regular customers at the Howell House of Seeds.
I've learned that when I go outside to refill the feeding tray, the red birds, or cardinals, are usually the first customers that show up when I'm back in the kitchen observing. Usually, a male cardinal wastes little time getting back, ankle-deep, in the seeds. His female counterpart is a little more cautious but makes her appearance not long after. The unnamed squirrels are never far behind.
Paula gets mad when the blackbirds come to the feeder en masse. She has been known to stand at the window, banging on the glass to try and send the selfish seed-hogs packing.
The problem is, the other birds don't know that it's just the blackbirds she's trying to scare off. Fortunately, the blackbirds are usually "just passing through the neighborhood" and are not much of a long-term problem.
We have a few humming birdfeeders, too, that attract a handful of the beautiful, tiny but colorful fliers in season.
Thankfully, my good friend and expert wildlife person, Lew Scharpf in Auburn, has lots of wonderful suggestions for attracting all kinds of birds ... especially the hummers.
He's also very good at identifying snakes that show up from time to time in our neighborhood, too.
However, I don't suggest setting up a feeding station for our scaly, slithery friends. They're on their own when mealtime rolls around.
If you don't already have a spot where the birds feel safe from natural predators while feeding, think about finding such a spot around your home and getting started in what Paula and I have thoroughly enjoyed for lots of years — casual bird and critter watching.
And who knows, maybe you will crack the code on telling squirrels apart!
Until next time.