April 11th, 2013


It's for the birds!

I never would have thought I'd be interested in birds. I had a parakeet as a kid and liked it, but I never thought wild birds would be something that could entertain me, hold my interest, make me smile, and make me learn.

On a whim, a couple months ago I bought a birdfeeder. If I had known how expensive the whole thing would be, I might have thought twice about it. $20-ish for the feeder seemed fine, and I bought a cheap bag of seed for $10 or so. Then came the mess. Then came the squirrels.

Oh the squirrels...

To deal with the mess, I bought a fittingly-named thing called a seed catcher ($30). Picture a trampoline with a lip suspended under the feeder by six wires. The squirrels loved it. Easy reach of the feeder and all the fallen seed right there for them. Eventually they kept tipping it over and it became pointless, the mess was just as bad without it. (I live in an apartment and strongly worried that the neighbors might complain and I'd have to take it down, so I try to keep things as clean as possible.)

So I took the seed catcher off, but changed the type of seed. (Hulled sunflower seeds.) It's a whole lot more expensive, but at least without the seed catcher, the squirrels have a harder time getting to it, and there are no hulls or wasted 'filler' seed to make a mess.

I bought a squirrel baffle (another $30), but I haven't put it up yet. I've spent nearly $50 on seed so far, but at least that should slow down and there should be no more "hardware" I need to buy.

Anyway! The birds! For all the first weeks, I had "just" house finches coming. Very small little birds, the females are plain brown and the males have red heads/chests:

They may be common everyday birds, but they're so friendly and chatter endlessly, and it's so interesting to watch them interact. Females seem dominant in their species (unless it's something that changes by season). They move in groups, but squabble endlessly with each other. There are four perches on the feeder, but two birds always try to control the whole thing -- I'd suspect one would hold it if it could, but it's too far around.

Then in the last week new species have started coming. First is the oddly named dark-eyed junco:

I think all birds have dark eyes. :P This is a subspecies of the dark-eyed junco, found from Northern CA to Alaska. It's enough different than the other juncos that it might become a stand-alone species.

And just today an American Goldfinch came:

It was even brighter than in that picture! I tried to take a picture of it, but doing it through the window screen never works.

And if all that weren't entertainment enough, there are the squirrels. Problems? Yeah, but I really do enjoy watching them as well.

And the cherry on top? Ellie New Cat is getting plenty of exercise and entertainment/torture. With only a window screen between here and all these birds and squirrels, I don't think her life is boring anymore.

Helpful hint for kitty owners: If you're worried about your cat scratching the screens, especially in an apartment, put a baby gate in the window! I have a big apartment window, so I can use a normal baby gate. I just put it in the window track and close the window an inch or so to hold it in place. Rarely she tries to climb the gate, but never do cat claws touch the screens anymore.

Edit: I forgot to mention the mourning doves! Beautiful birds, such pretty calls they make. They've been coming nearly as long as the finches, though they eat the dropped seed on the ground instead of directly from the feeder. They always seem to travel in pairs, and while I can see the gender differences in the pairs, I'm not sure which is which. If you've never heard one before, you can find a recording here. Sounds what I think an owl must sound like. It's hollower and more haunting than in the recording.
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