Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Feeder Fodder

There are days when I could swear the black-capped chickadees are so ticked that, if they could, they'd hurl their black caps at me! They chirp vigorously and incessantly, as they flitter from branch to branch, as if to say, "the feeder is bare". I've pointed out their frantic behavior to my wife, explaining that I think they want me to top-up the birdseed.

When you first set up a bird feeder, books tell you it's important to keep it filled with seed. After a while, experts explain, the birds depend on the food in the feeder for their survival, especially in winter. They can't afford to arrive at your feeder in -22 degrees Celsius, only to find it empty. For more than a decade now, I've kept the feeder full, with two varieties of seed.

The benefits have been substantial, if not enriching. There are stunning cardinal couples who stop at our feeder regularly; he, in his blazing red and she, in her earthy brown, with bright orange beak. There are sparrows, nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, blue jays, grackles and, of course, the busy black-capped chickadees. I've begun to incidentally notice a lot of other birds in the yard, such as pileated woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, ovenbirds, common yellow throats, red-winged blackbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks.

When my wife and son first suggested hanging a feeder from a branch of the maple tree in our backyard, I voted against the idea, knowing full well I, inevitably, would get saddled with the responsibility of keeping it full. That's exactly how it worked out. During the first couple of years, I nearly suffered a nervous breakdown trying to fend off our freaking Cirque du Soleil squirrels! I tried everything short of dynamite to stop them and would have resorted to TNT had there not been a municipal by-law in place banning  its open-air use. These squirrels built pyramids, zip lines, trampolines, pole vaults and a trapeze! At all hours of the day, I could hear their squeaky, rodent giggles echoing around in my head! Thankfully, I'll be done my treatments in eight months.

As I was saying, I'm the one who makes sure to buy and stock the constant stash of seed and I'm the one trudging out there to keep the feeder full. Sometimes during the busy season, all the seed is gone the next day!

Last spring when I started back at the television station, I was told the best way to make sure things went smoothly was to supply candy. True to their words, I brought candy and things have gone smoothly. I have made sure to have a stash of candy in my locker and, as much as possible, I have placed and replaced containers of candy on the most accessible desk in the newsroom.

While I only supply the birds in the yard with two varieties of seed, I have been supplying journalists with several varieties of candy, including gummy bears, ju jubes, jumbo gums, licorice and gummy worms.

I've discovered that, like the birds, journalists feed regularly. They invest little bursts of time before winging their way back into their busy days. There are Mikes, Tims, Martins and Louies. I see Karens and Finicky Phils, along with Alexandras, Karols and Yannicks. They sometimes chat as they pry open the lid to peck at the treats inside. Often, they express gratitude, if not with a quick word of thanks or an appreciative smile, then with their repeated consumption and enthusiastic ingestion.

Much the same way seed in the feeder helps fuel the birds, the candy seems to provide a little lift!

When the desk is bare, or the container empty, they are not happy. Like the frenzied chickadees, they become noisy and agitated. Yesterday, an otherwise elusive Cheeky Dan came flittering around the desk, chirping and demanding to know what kind of workplace allows a candy container to go empty!

His reaction to the missing candy container has me worried colleagues have begun to depend on the candy for survival. To make matters even more worrisome, winter's right around the corner!

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