Snowbirds who stay

A silly little sign reading, “Winter is for the birds,” hangs on one of our kitchen windows.  I purposely placed it there because outside of that window, you can view our birdfeeder attached to our backyard deck.

So winter really is for the birds at our house. Usually, when someone uses this phrase, it means that winter is undesirable, and a lot of folks agree with that statement.

After all, the winter season, especially here in the northern and western hemisphere of the world, delivers cold temperatures, often frigid ones. Frost, ice, and snow along with wind chill factors are the norm, and it can become downright bleak outside.

Most of us think that before winter arrives, birds flock south from this northern clime where I live, but that’s not true for all bird species. Some actually hang around during the winter and don’t pack their bags for Florida like human “snowbirds” do.

Years ago, however, we didn’t see many birds in our yard during the winter season. Possibly, the fact that we owned a calico cat, who believed herself to be quite the hunter and stalker, prevented birds from visiting us.

Once we placed a bird feeder in a backyard tree, things changed somewhat. As we kept it filled with birdseed, we would catch glimpses of cardinals, blue jays, and a few smaller birds here and there, but not many.

Those hoggish black crows tried their darnedest to join the feast also but were too large to get their beaks into the feeder, thank goodness.

A few years later, our beloved Callie went to kitty heaven, and then we purchased a suet cake holder for a front yard tree and a second birdfeeder that could attach to our deck railing. We positioned it so we could view our fine-feathered friends from the windows by our kitchen table.

And fine-feathered friends began arriving in droves or I should say flocks, especially during the winter season.

Not only do we enjoy visits from several Mr. Reds, those bright red, male northern cardinals, but also from their mates, females of muted brown with small slashes of red.  They stand out so brilliantly against a snowy scene.

But we’ve also spied several different bird species, common to our area of the state, but not really noticed by us before we started tempting them into our yard with a smorgasbord of seeds.

So far, in addition to the flashy cardinals, these lovely birds are partakers of our free eats: tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, black-capped chickadee, white-throated sparrow, house finch, song sparrow, American goldfinch, cat bird, and black-eyed junko. But I haven’t managed yet to get photos of all of them.

Blue jays still try to chase the other birds off and perch unsuccessfully on the feeder to grab some tasty morsels, but they soon give up and fly away because they are just a mite too big to sit there comfortably munching away. Larger birds like mourning doves have also gravitated to our outdoor dining area but gather on the ground below the feeder to gobble up seeds that fall.

Often, it looks like a bird convention at that feeder, but when I try to move close enough to the window to capture a photo, they get spooked and fly off. Still, during these cold winter days when we’re socked into our home, not so much because of weather conditions as the continuing pandemic restrictions, birdwatching provides enjoyment for us.

That’s not the only reason we keep refilling the feeder though. As we supply a little nourishment for the birds, we also provide them a little shelter from the snow.

Watching our little visitors supplies a feeling of serenity and a bit of peace for us. Those moments cause us to be still and silent as we watch at the window, so we don’t frighten our fine feathered friends away.

Is winter really for the birds? Definitely, at least at our house.

“Feeding the birds is also a form of prayer.” ~ Pope Pius XII

© 2021

Message from Bob White

blogIMG_8735On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…a partridge in a pear tree.

Okay, I know, it’s NOT Christmas. But you know, there are only 148 days until the holiday is upon us. You really wanted to know that, right?

But this post isn’t about Christmas although something did occur last week at our country home that made me think of that old Christmas carol and those particular words.

See that photo above? A partridge in a pear tree. Okay, it’s not a pear tree, it’s an Alberta Blue Spruce and it’s a shrub in our front yard.

And yes, that’s not a partridge either. But it is a Northern Bobwhite Quail. And it’s the very first time ever in my life, I’ve seen this species of bird up close and personal.

As a child growing up, I often heard these birds give their call from far off. My parents would say, ”Oh, listen, there’s a Bob White.”

That’s what we always called them – Bob Whites. As opposed to Bob Greens or Bob Browns. Why were they named thusly? Because their particular way of whistling sounds like they are vocalizing the words, “bob white.” Click here to hear one.

As a kid, I would attempt to whistle “bob white” back to them to see if they answered me. Usually they did not, probably because I wasn’t a very proficient whistler.

I never knew Bobwhites were really a variety of quail until recently when I searched the all-the-information-you-wanted-to-know highway called the internet.

On one of the cooler days this month, our inside front door was open to allow refreshing air to circulate through our home via the screen door.  My attention focused on the computer keyboard while writing a blog post, I suddenly became aware of that distinctive call.

“Bob White! Bob White!” It sounded very, very near. The sound registered in my mind but I continued at my task.

Then once again I heard “Bob White! Bob White! Bob White!” rather insistently and again awfully close to our front porch. So I pushed back the desk chair, stood up, and strode to the window thinking I’d see that bird in our front yard tree or maybe noshing at the suet cake holder.

Nothing. No Bob White to be found. Back to the computer, I resumed typing.

“Bob White! Bob White! Bob White!” Loudly, that bird was calling to me.

Our daughter and granddaughter happened to be here at Mama’s empty nest, so I asked Daughter, “Do you hear that?”

She replied affirmatively, walked to the front door, peered outside, and quickly informed me that the noisy bird was perched atop one of our shrubs.

Well, you know what I did. I grabbed my camera and tried to capture a shot of it through the screen door. Not a good angle and the pesky screen was in the way as well.

Very certain I would scare the bird away when I opened the screen door, I stepped outside anyway and was surprised when that noisy fellow did not move. I focused and clicked. It just turned its head and began calling again,  “Bob White! Bob White!”

I inched closer. Click. Another step. Click. Mr. Bob White barely moved. Just kept whistling away.

Fearing that if I proceeded any further he would fly away, I paused.  Bob White looked straight at me.  Gently in the quietest voice I could muster, I asked him, “Are you alright?”

I feared that he might be hurt, maybe a damaged wing, or something that was keeping him perched on top of that blue spruce instead of fleeing from the presence of a human.

“Are you hurt?” I whispered again. “Do you need help?”

“Bob White!” was his reply.

“I know who you are,” I affirmed. “I just want to know if you are injured.”

He took another look at me and decided it was time to move on. Off he flew and I was left in astonishment. My family was also surprised I managed to not only get close to that quail but speak to it also.

Just call me the “bird whisperer.”

I’m not sure what Bob White was trying to convey to me. I have no idea why he decided to perch on that shrub by our front porch. In the 19 years we have lived here, I’ve never seen bobwhite quails at our home, but I have heard them.

It seemed strange that the quail came so close to our house. It was almost like he wanted my attention for some reason. Perhaps I am a bird whisperer, but so far, I haven’t been able to actually understand bird language, so I couldn’t interpret what he was imparting to me.

Later, as I pondered this rare little snippet of life, I wondered why did Bob White come to my house?

There’s a Chinese proverbs that says, “A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.”

It’s true Bob White didn’t have an answer for me; he just stopped by to voice his song. And maybe there’s a message in that.

I don’t have answers for why things happen the way they do. I don’t know why we struggle with disappointments, illnesses, things that just make us weep. I don’t understand occurrences in the world that make me shake my head in disbelief.

But I do know that my God is in control – of all things, even Bob White – and I can place my complete trust in the God who sees and knows all.

I also do know the Lord’s given me my own “song” to sing – a knack for writing this very blog. Maybe this was what Bob White tried to tell me.

“Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”  ~Author unknown.