When Rick and I were shopping for a place to live in Del Norte County we looked at a vacant lot off of Kings Valley Road.
The small lot was planted in various species of trees and shrubs with homemade bird feeders were everywhere. As we walked on paths between the trees we’d spot an occasional birdbath or watering hole. The property was an aviary without walls. Bird songs, whistles and chirps could be heard a block away.
We did not buy the lot for several reasons, one being that we did not want to disturb this magical place. I have never gone back to see if birds still thrive there, or if someone has built a human residence and taken their space.
At my house in Brookings, I fed a lonely crow. I left him bread and in return he brought me gifts. I don’t know where he got the stuff, but he often brought leftovers like chicken bones and shiny objects like aluminum foil. He left them in or near the birdbath I kept filled for him. When I backed out of the driveway to go to work every morning, he screeched from his perch in the fir tree something that sounded like “by-ee, by-ee.”
Finches cling to thistle socks and pick at the tiny seeds until most fall on the ground; flickers seem to come around every afternoon just for suet. Starlings gobble up everything in sight. I try to be tolerant, but they are the least welcome birds in my yard. Years ago they built a nest near the front door of my home in Grants Pass. Every time I opened the door, they swooped down to attack me like Tippi Hedren in the movie “The Birds.”
There are yellow birds in my yard — Rick calls them wild canaries — and small birds with bright red heads. I have the books to identify them with, but don’t often take the time. I enjoy them, whoever they are, and try to be a good hostess catering to their individual tastes and whims.
Now I shop at a gourmet birdseed store with seed bins that are labeled to identify what birds the seed attracts. I buy seed in 1-gallon milk jugs that I return to the store to be refilled. It’s an educational and environmentally-sound shopping experience.
My birds — and I’m sure some of them are your birds too — have become a huge responsibility and quite an expense. A realistic birdseed budget can be as much as $50 a month. Suet, thistle, several different mixes, cracked corn, sunflower seeds and, of course, sugary water for the hummingbirds are on my list this week. It’s spring and there are a lot of mouths to feed.