Shnay: Bird watching a great way to enjoy nature
By Jerry Shnay Citizen Journalistemail@example.com May 30, 2013 1:40PM
Updated: July 3, 2013 6:16AM
The bird feeders in our back yard need to be replenished daily. It’s been that way for the last two months or so, as even the first frosty days of spring did not deter those winged wonders from scavenging for food.
Recently, two red-and-gray male cardinals, eyeballing an afternoon snack, scuffled with each other underneath one of the feeder stakes until one departed, looking for an easier meal and less of an adversary.
The cardinal is our real national bird. Seven of our 50 states, including Illinois, list the cardinal as their state bird.
The eagle is the majestic symbol of this country, but like a $100 bill, you sometimes have to wait a long time to see one. The cardinal, however, is a dollar bird, available to the average person.
The first butter-colored goldfinches arrived in early April and were soon joined by a band of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks on their way northward from Mexico. There were five Grosbeaks in the group, including two adult males in all their chesty brightness, and a couple of young ‘uns.
The “family” stuck around for a week or so, ate their fill and moved on toward what we assume to be the wilds of Canada. Bon voyage.
We think we might have seen a nosy hummingbird checking out the menu, but these are now-you-see-‘em, now-you-don’t creatures. They are fleet of wing, and perhaps they see danger lurking on every puff of wind.
Those avian Baltimore Orioles dropped by about three weeks ago. To welcome them, we hooked up a special feeder that we’re told is specifically designed for them. It’s nothing more than a large, orange-colored plastic flower with a bird perch near which is a huge glob of grape jelly.
It is said orioles love grape jelly. Not me. To tell the truth, after making about 20 million peanut-butter-and-grape-jelly sandwiches for our children when they were young, I grew to detest all such nourishment.
Our kids survived, and I suppose the orioles like what they get to eat. I guess there is no accounting for taste.
One of the bird feeders is close enough to the garage that a foolhardy squirrel tried to leap from the edge of a gutter to a feeder. That it failed and fell, only to get up quickly stirred the soul. How foolish and reckless and somehow brave we thought.
Squirrels don’t wear name tags so we don’t know if it was our impulsive hero or another who, after two days of trying, succeeded in landing atop the slanted roof of the feeder. It stayed there long enough to shake down some feed before leaping to the ground, gathering a few tidbits and scampering off.
Our feeders must have a high rating in the squirrel Zagat. Just the other day, Mr. Squirrel made another leap to the feeder, this time knocking off some suet set aside for a few itinerant woodpeckers. Another star for this restaurant, he must have thought as he made off with a sumptuous repast.
Along with all the other birds, we see the bullies of the bird world, the starlings, move in, trying to dominate the feeders. Starlings are street-tough. They intimidate, are ill-mannered, do not take kindly to sharing and travel in packs. They are the street thugs of bird-dom.
Starlings may torment other birds, but doves seem to be immune to their aggression. Sometimes a couple of doves will sit on the telephone wires above our yard, probably trading bird gossip or looking askance at the scene below them.
When it suits their fancy, they drop down, peck at the morsels of seed on the ground under the feeder and then fly back to their perch to continue their conversation.
Billing and cooing, no doubt.