I hung a bird feeder the other day. With the snow cover gone everything looked so bleak. I thought the birds might need a little something to get them through until spring when their food supply became more plentiful.
I took a trip to the local nursery and bought a bag of mixed seed hoping to appeal to all. I really had no idea what I should get. I just figured I’d get something that looked good to me.
I filled my caged tube feeder that hung from a tree in the backyard and waited.
The first day I watched from my kitchen window. Nothing came near my feeder. On the second day, still not a single bird stopped by for a snack. I wondered about the seed mix, was it right? Would the birds eat it? I looked good to me, but I wasn’t going to eat it.
On day three they came. It reminded me of the baseball movie Field of Dreams – if you fill it they will come.
I don’t know a lot about birds, I’m not a birder. But I like to know what I’m Looking at. I recognized the ubiquitous Black-capped Chickadee and the Tufted Titmouse, but after that I was stumped. I needed a bird book. So off to the bookstore for a copy of Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. It sounded good. I’d at least have this side of the continent covered.
They continued to come. The next day I identified a White-breasted Nuthatch and after careful research in my guide and online I’m sure I had a Hairy Woodpecker out there. Three days later when a Downey Woodpecker showed up I was surer of my ID of the Hairy Woodpecker as it is larger. A Red-breasted Woodpecker became a regular visitor.
The next day when I walked into the kitchen; a Song Sparrow was looking in the back door. From the window over the kitchen sink, from where I watched my feeder, I saw a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Like the White-breasted Nuthatch, these birds often feed upside down. I guess it helps when you’re picking bugs out of trees.
On the afternoon of day four as I glanced out the kitchen window, my collection of feeding friends scattered. It caught my attention, maybe the neighbor’s cat. I looked out the backdoor and perched on a high branch overlooking the backyard and my feeder was a Cooper’s Hawk. The big bird surveyed the yard and then swooped in closer. It perched on a dead tree just inside the tree line behind the feeder and watched. Somehow the birds knew it was there, because they were nowhere to be found. The hawk moved to another perch nearby and continued to watch in the direction of the feeder. It finally flew off. It was a while before the small birds returned to feed.
This morning as I made my coffee I looked out to see a Blue Jay hanging from the feeder. Below poking around in the dead leaves were two Dark-eyed Juncos.
So far, with the possible exception of the Hairy Woodpecker, the birds visiting my feeder were common. But this morning a bird arrived that was a challenge to identify.
I studied it, noting the color, the feathers, bill and overall size. When it flew off I pulled out my Sibley’s, but didn’t see anything that looked similar. I needed to see this bird again.
Shortly the little creature obliged and returned to the feeder for another snack, mixing in with the chickadees and nuthatches. Based on the feather pattern and coloration, the small black beak and eye-ring, my guess is that what I had out there was a female Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Six days ago I never knew they existed.
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