Feed the birds: Tales of a local bird lady

I don’t remember when I fell in love with the birds.
As a small child I do remember often finding my mother leaning over the kitchen sink to get a better look out the window at some rare bird at the feeder, hushing us as we came in the room so as not to scare it away.
I was never very impressed at the time, but something happened along the way, and now I’m that crazy lady who feeds the birds religiously every morning so they keep coming to my feeders and keep nesting in my hedge.
Admittedly, I’m a very novice birder, only able to identify a dozen or so common feeder species like chickadees, sparrows, goldfinches, cardinals, nuthatches and mourning doves. My favorite is the tufted titmouse, which makes a grey Mohawk look classy and always politely shares the feeders with the other birds.
The blue jays are the opposite; giant hogs that scare away everyone else and just sit there screeching about their victory.
But I feed them all the same.
Birds don’t tend to be the tidiest of animals, so seed shells litter the area under the feeders and build up quickly to form a small mountain. A couple times each year I rake and shovel these shells out, dispersing them into the other gardens — they act as very good lightening matter for our heavy clay soils and even sprout into full sunflowers around the yard.
Fortunately, I learned early about Agway’s birdseed club, where you get a $10 gift voucher for every 500 pounds of birdseed you buy. Believe it or not, I earn one of those $10 vouchers about three times a year.
My morning ritual involves starting the coffee pot and heading out with the dog for a lap around the yard. I scan the gardens to see what might be surfacing or blooming, while Trudy chases the squirrels that inevitably are poaching the bird feeders. I keep the black oil sunflower seeds in a tin outside and top up the feeders and the bird bath each morning.
Then we head inside and I collect a cup of coffee and sit myself by the window to admire the birds.
These avian visitors vary seasonally, as does the thicket that they occupy to the far side of the bird feeders. But on a good day there are several dozen birds chirping and ruffling the hedge and enjoying the seeds in the feeders.
Some prefer feeding from the ground, while others choose their favorite type of feeder. Chickadees are bold and unafraid, always the first to return to the feeder after being frightened away by a passing dog or loud noise nearby. Some, like mourning doves and cardinals, tend to travel in twos — one male and one female usually — which I can’t help but find very charming.
I can easily watch them until my coffee turns cold and I am late for work. There’s something soothing and methodical about their routines and their simple quest for a good meal.
Of course I know that these aren’t my birds and they have no loyalty to me like my dog or other pets do. But nonetheless these critters have become part of my animal family, and providing hundreds of pounds of birdseed for them every year somehow seems like the least I can do in exchange for the joy they bring to my mornings.
Sometimes the unlikeliest of animals can flutter their way into our hearts.

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