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Attention-seeking Birds

Thursday, February 21, 2008


This morning dawned brilliantly clear, standing at 18 degrees. Last night, the kids and I danced in and out of our warm house every ten minutes or so, dragging ourselves off the couch to check on the total lunar eclipse. American Idol; lunar eclipse. From the ridiculous to the sublime.

First there was a nibble, then a bite, and finally at about 10:15 the entire disc of the moon was covered in shadow. The snow, once brilliant silver in the moonlight, took on a dull pinkish glow, and the night deepened like velvet. The moon was viscous and dull, swirled with burnt orange and violet. My photographs are hopeless. Some things must be left to the pro's, with their tripods and timed exposures. Resting a 300 mm. zoom telephoto lens on the top of one's daughter's shivering head produces less than admirable results. She is tall enough to serve as a tripod now, but I needed a bit more light than was offered by the slowly surrendering moon.

Liam was spooked, and he didn't want to be alone in the house with the moon doing things like that, so he put his coat on and trudged out with me and Phoebe to look, too. I have to think that eclipses were strange and scary to early people who, like Liam, couldn't have understood what was happening. Lunar eclipses make my heart race, but solar eclipses make me run around in circles, helplessly wondering. Have you ever seen birds fly to their roosts in a total solar eclipse? I have, twice, once when I was a child in Virginia and once here in Ohio, in early May of 1993. I love freaky nature, nature that's bigger and stronger and stranger than any of us.

Cold as it was, it was such a beautiful morning. I scuttled from window to window in the house, snapping pictures of the birds clustered around it. They come here for the food and the cover, and yes, for the sight of me inside, and for the hope that I'll emerge to stoke their feeders full again. Make no mistake, they are hoping to get my attention by sitting close to the windows, looking decorative. Ahem? Sunflower's getting low. I am beautiful, no? Feed me.


Hello, Zick? Juncos like suet dough. They like it a lot. Here's my feathery butt. Cute, yes? Feed me.There's been a big influx of goldfinches lately. They love the gray birches we have planted all around the house, and they work on the seed cones as they wait for a place at the feeders.
Junco tracks give silent testament to the wildlife value of gray birches. Think of birches as showering food all winter long, and you have them from a junco's eye view. No wonder juncos like snow. It makes their food so easy to see.

I have to confess that the junco tracks are a bit more concentrated around the front door, where I throw suet dough several times a day.These are the tracks of a single dawn, in the twilight hours before I get up, put on my rubber clogs, and go out to slop the juncoes. Yes, it's ridiculous. We have a lot of birds at Indigo Hill. And I love each and every one of them, down to their little pink toenails. Don't think they don't know it. In cold like this, in late February, when the daffodils should be blooming, as should the Norway maples, they make me feel needed.Have a wonderful weekend. Ours started yesterday, with a snow day. Just another four-day weekend for my barely-educated kids. When people ask, "You must home-school, right?" I answer, "Yes, in the winter, whether I like it or not."

19 comments:

Thankyou for the comment of the snow appearance during the eclipse. We enjoyed the bites being taken out of the moon also. Here in Nebraska the Omaha newspaper printed good coverage of the eclipse before and after. It was refreshing news for a change. We also have many birds at our feeders and rationalize that since birdfeed is bought out of our entertainment budget, several dollars a day is not a big deal. Seeya in Kearney. Merlin(my wife had you sign her dress in Nebraska City)

Yes, we all like to feel needed by our bird family--mine was fortunate enough to get my attention before I started fixing our dinner.
A little chickadee waited patiently within reach on a branch while I took the feeder down, filled it, and rehung it.
He'd probably been waiting for me all afternoon in this very cold weather!

Stay warm and cozy inside with your human family!

I'm wondering how tall Phoebe is now! She's willowy and will turn a lot of heads in a few years. Get ready. And Liam, being spooked. HA! It's that imagination he has.

Heavy clouds rolled in last night. Drats.

My birds expect a lot from me, especially on days like today when an ice storm is approaching. I was dizzy meeting their expectations and couldn't fill them up fast enough. Heading inside for more nuts, I turned to see the song sparrows hopping around on the deck giving me a one-eyed stare. About 4pm, over one hundred birds devoured your dough and wanted more. I love all of them and will triple the dough recipe next time.

Love your photos :o)

Ooops. 8pm. Fox.

'nuther beautiful piece of writing (...are you sure you and Annie Dillard weren't twins separated at birth???)
speaking of writing, can you give us a hint of what your next book is (a book of essays I suspect, but if not what!!?)

Thanks for asking, C.Thrush. Next book: Essays, bird-centric, a bit more information-dense than Letters from Eden, but still lyrical. Weird stuff you can only get by living with birds and trying to fix them when they're busted.

Ma Nature didn't cooperated here in SD letting us see the eclipse. She chose to open the sky curtain to a beautiful full moon about midnight, when the festivities were all over.
I got play by play from daughter #2 who lives in rural Minnesota. Ratz!

I come from a long line of Aurora Borealis, meteor shower and eclipse watchers. Kids hauled out on the front lawn, in bathrobes at 2 am in the winter in the Champlain Valley of NY. We all still do same and haul our kids out with us, or at least call the adult ones and send them out to look.
Caroline in SD

I too went running in and out last night--checking out the moon. I always try to think what the ancients thought--watching the moon (or sun) disappear, then reappear. Certainly explains some of the wonderful myths.
Our loopy weather reporters here (I won't call them forecasters) had people calling in asking--what's happening to the moon. At least the weather guys had some humor--they said: well, the Navy fired off that rocket and it hit. . . then they cackled in laughter. HA HA--sadly, there are just some nutty folk out there who probably believed them.

Hi there, I guess we were all doing the same thing, checking out the eclipse...my photos are not so good either, no excuses, and I wish I could wake up and see the beautiful birds you do Julie.

I had forgotten that the eclipse was due, when the local TV station rana a "Breaking News Alert" ticker at the bottom of the screen around 9:55pm - "The lunar eclipse is nearing its peak." Whoo-hoo! I ran outside, then called my sis in Columbus to tell her about it. A full moon, a clear sky, and an eclipse = Priceless!

I have had a weird mix of birds the last two days. Purple Finches, American Tree Sparrows, Red-winged and Rusty Blackbirds, and Killdeer all within 48 hours. Strange. Nature can't decide what season she is in right now. No woodcocks yet. After last night's storm, I don't expect them for some time.

~Kathi, who is serving up the suet dough, black-oil sunflower and golden safflower as fast as she can

Julie, these photos are beautiful.
There's something so special about cardinals in that kind of light.

The photo of the goldfinches makes me miss ours. We have the strangest thing this year in southwestern Ontario-no wintering goldfinches. People are saying that it's because of the high numbers of redpolls this winter, and I think I agree. I've never seen so many, sometimes nearly two hundred at a time. They're really amazing to watch up close.

We got snowed out during most of the eclipse, but at around 7:30, before the show, some of the blowing clouds showed reddish edges. I knew what it was but my lizard brain didn't, and I felt myself react on a visceral level.
Wow. Thanks for sharing.

Lovely photos :-)

We had a thin layer of cloud here last night, so our eclipse viewing (at 3 a.m.) wasn't great this time round.

The Spring before last we took the kids out of school for a week to sail to a small Greek island off the coast of Turkey to watch a total eclipse of the Sun (luckily both their head teachers agreed with us that this was a not-to-be-missed experience, even preferable to a week of Numeracy and Literacy!). It was the most amazing experience, very very strange and quite, quite stunning. Seeing one would definitely be on my list of things to do before you die.

We had overcast skies that night... hmph.

Those birds of yours have some serious attitude.

...But you guys are required to make up snow days that cut into 182 required attendance days, aren't you? In our district, make-up days are attached to the end of the school year and/or Saturdays and holidays.

Hello Julie,
We had a lunar eclipse in Australia last year - I managed to get some photos using a tripod. It was a bit hit and miss but some were ok.
http://soulsongart.wordpress.com/?s=lunar+eclipse
I do enjoy your blog!
Lyn Weir

Junco bootie!! Too cute!

Feeding the Livestock


A dozen hungry critters
are waiting for their feed
while they’re kicking up dust motes
and whinnying for more seed.

A dozen pair of legs
are jockeying for a perch.
I hear the clomp of feathers
and know I‘m being watched.

They reckon that I’m coming,
as any rancher might,
with something good in my pockets
tucked coyly out of sight.

Some feign indifference,
but their muffled little shoves,
betray the nervous twiggy hooves
shuffling up above.

The gentle jostling at the tray
is all the thanks I need,
as I find their genial squabbling
well worth the price of seed.


(Sorry. Couldn't resist. When I got to " . . . slop the juncos" . .

I just love your blog! Love your writing and pics, it's great to find blogs like yours, thanks for sharing your talents!

Hi!! I gave your blog an award today, check out my blog and pick up your Academy Award! Cheers

I love freaky nature too. I love it when it's unpredictable and doesn't behave in the ways that science says it should. I want it to always be that way. I want it to be untamed! I love this post.

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