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Bluebird Suggestions

Thursday, January 18, 2007


This is a staredown, bluebird style. These birds know me so well.
A situation has developed on our front porch with an unusually aggressive male bluebird. If I had to guess, I'd say he's got testosterone poisoning, resulting from the abnormally warm winter. Maybe I should call him El Nino. But he defends the suet dough feeder, and he beats the other bluebirds up when they try to feed. This is unusual for bluebirds in winter, expected for bluebirds in breeding season. He's screwed up. Darn him!

So the bluebird pair who nests in our front yard has taken matters into their own alulae, and they've started a campaign to get me to establish another suet dough feeding site, out of sight of the one El Nino is defending. It's working.

This little female sits on the plant hook off the back deck, where in winters past I have fed her suet dough and mealworms, and she stares in the deck door at me. She fixes her beady eye on me and pleads, nay demands, that I put food out there. Think about the thought process here. She knows that I'm the dough lady. She can see me running around inside the house. She knows that she's been fed on the back deck before. She's tired of being bossed around by El Nino. So she makes an appeal to HQ, and it is received. Because I know she's not sitting on that cold metal hook because she likes to. She's sitting there because she wants me to notice her there.

OK, Mrs. B.--I get your message. You're right. We do need a second feeding station.

The other day, I put out a healthy handful on the back deck railing, and it was gratefully accepted not only by the bluebird pair, but by this lovely little junco. Traditionally ground feeders, juncoes will go where the good stuff is. They adore suet dough. I think of them as vegetarians, but they obviously appreciate the lard in this mixture. House finches and goldfinches are observant vegetarians, however, and won't touch the stuff, no matter how harsh the winter. Cardinals eat lots of animal protein, and are delighted to follow the bluebirds' lead.

And along came a white-breasted nuthatch. They always take the biggest chunk they can handle, and process it offstage. This is a male, with jet-black cap. Females are grayer in the cap. I love those busy little birds. Smart as whips they are. I had a nuthatch in rehab for a couple of weeks (a cat casualty with muscle and nerve damage. Dratted cats!) He was depressed in his cage until I moved him in with my other birds, and provided him a shaggy-barked log and a dish of sunflower seeds. That boy got busy and shelled them one by one, pounding away, storing others in every crevice. I named him Hank. I released him, flying rather weakly, but flying, figuring a compromised life in the wild was better than life in a cage. You can read any interpretation into that you wish.

Sorry about the discontinuity, but I am whipped flat from a fabulous day on Sanibel. The talk at Ding Darling NWR went really well. I think there were 130 plus people in the room, and the book signing line took over an hour to clear. The crowd was enthusiastic and knowledgeable and very appreciative. I snuck out onto the Wildlife Drive for two hours afterward, met some wonderful birders from Alabama (is there a sweeter accent in the world?). Then, went on a photo safari with Lillian Stokes and out to dinner with her and Don. Wow! She taught me SO much about what my Rebel can do, in less than a half hour. Just back, tired as can be. I have gobs of glorious photos from today but no time or energy to download or write much.

Friday, I give the same talk at the new Southwest Florida Birding and Nature Festival in Naples. Birding at Ding in the early morning. An interview with the local NPR affiliate at noon. Then to Naples for a reception, talk and book signing. I'm gonna be really fried crispy this time tomorrow. Think I'll take the weekend off to make my way back to Ohio. Hope there's not another canceled flight in my future.

Emergency Chet Baker fix, as much for me as for you: He's in good hands, getting lots of love, and Mission Control checks in with me periodically. My latest instruction to Bill: If he won't eat, put rump roast gravy on his food. I suspect it worked. You gotta love his polka-dotted pink tuxedo. Think this little girl loves her doggie? As wonderful as roseate spoonbills and flowers in January are, I do miss my babies.

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