For The Birds
by Dickie Anderson
I guess you could say we're for the birds. We truly enjoy the entertainment they provide and are more then happy to fill our feeders and fight the furry little devils also known as squirrels. We brought our enjoyment of feeding birds from our Midwestern roots, where birds truly depend on the generosity of those who put out food and water in the challenging cold of deep winter. We are now treated to the delights of more colorful birds that make our warmer climes their home.
There are cat people, there are dog people and there are bird people. It is not mutually exclusive, but the mix of cats and birds is not always a good one. Sometimes cat owners who have house bound cats buy bird feeders to entertain their captive pets. Dogs rarely bother yard birds, but those bred for hunting can pull a grown man down a beach at a very rapid pace when the turkey-sized gulls take flight.
This time of the year is a busy one for our year round bird populations as we as the migrating visitors that stop for a few days or weeks and move on. Part of living in a warmer climate is the delightful potpourri of birds that abound along the coasts of Florida and Georgia.
Birds, like people, may affect a variety of color options in the appearance. Goldfinches are now crowding thistle feeders on the island. The brilliant yellow of these feisty little birds is a treat to the eye. Warblers abound. One just needs to stop in front of a busy outgrowth and you may catch a glimpse or hear the frantic chattering of these busy little birds. Of course, the regal crimson Cardinals are regulars and stop often reminding us of our feeders hung from snowy trees so many years ago. The Blue Jays, bossy and loud, make regular stops. The Red-winged Black Birds come in like a gang on motorcycles; their shiny black feathers set off with epaulets of bright red and at certain times of the year yellow. They are a noisy gang and demanding if the seed is low in their favorite feeder.
My favorite? No contest. The Mona Lisa of all birds is the Painted Bunting, which does indeed look painted. Once you see them you will never forget the male with its incredible combination of blue, red and green. Of course, the male is the flashiest, but the gentle female is beautiful in her own way. She is delicate of profile and is an almost iridescent greenish yellow. Locals call these colorful visitors the tax birds as they often appear on April 15 the deadline day for our income tax returns.
Each spring we are determined to attract a pair of Blue Birds. We have the correct Blue Bird house on the correct height pole, facing the correct direction and in the open but with protection close by. We long for a Blue Bird pair and have a couple shopping now. I suggested to my hubby that we reduce the rent this year and maybe they will stay and not go on as they did last year.
Our porch overlooks a tidal marsh and resembles a busy airport at the end of each day. We see a wide variety of flight patterns as the bigger birds come to feed or rest for the night. The bigger birds wade in the marsh looking for things to eat. Egrets, Herons and Woodstorks displaying their flying agility and are oh so elegant as they fly like ballerinas with wings and slowly circle down. Then they land. Marsh landings are mostly graceful, but if you have ever watched a Heron of Stork try to land on a pine limb it rivals the best of any circus clown balancing act you have ever seen.
Of the larger birds that hang out in our backyard marsh our favorite is the Great Blue Heron. We have a confirmed bachelor who has adopted a limb high in a pine tree boarding the marsh behind our house. "Big Blue" comes in like the last airplane of the day and folds up for the night. He has been with us for several years and appears to be a wise old curmudgeon living his solitary life.
Our porch at the end of the day provides us a quiet place to watch the birds as they come in shifts and find our feeders. They love the sprinkler system that comes on at the end of the day and flit in and out entertaining us. Such simple pleasures and no commercials!
Dickie Anderson is a free-lance writer living on Amelia Island, Florida. Born in Seattle, Washington raised in Chicago and schooled in New York, Dickie ended up in Iowa City, Iowa where she was responsible for the marketing of the men's and women's athletic programs at the University of Iowa. She started her own marketing and consulting business and moved to Amelia Island. Following her dream to write she has finished her first book and is working on her second. Her quirky look at mid-life and living on a barrier island off Northern Florida resulted in her weekly column, From the Porch, for the Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville Florida's daily newspaper. Learn more about Dickie and her upcoming book at http://www.dickieanderson.com .
© 2002, Dickie Anderson, All Rights Reserved