Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fuss And Feathers

One way to reduce stress levels while the doctor fiddles with the chemical cocktail I'm ingesting is to find some reason to laugh. But when that mega-dump of cold white shit landed all over my supposedly temperate rainforest, laughter became a scarce commodity. Why, I asked myself, did I bother to leave Winnipeg when I got out of the Air Force if its weather was only going to follow me home?

Other beings who were suddenly also not impressed with the cold white shit were the birds. Their usual feeding habitats were being turned into cold-storage units, saving for next month sometime what they had been used to eating today.

So I built a feeding station on my third-floor balcony.

I made a hanging feeder out of a plastic 1-kg coffee container and one of those pants hangers you get from the dry cleaners.

I set up an open feeder from a cafeteria tray set on a level stand.

And I used a six-foot length of bamboo, duct tape, string, and a small (18-inch tall) artificial Christmas tree to give the tree-feeders something on which to land.

The hanging feeder contains loose seed. The tray has some loose seed, a large seed bell, and some shelled raw peanuts (they will eat roasted peanuts, but the roasting process actually makes the oil in the peanuts more susceptible to going rancid -- not that these little guys are about to let that happen). And the tree is festooned with sprays of millet.

I was just putting the last knot in the string that ties the tree to the bamboo pole (thereby holding it firmly on top of the balcony railing) when I heard a shrill PEEP in my ear. There was a bird sitting on top of the pole, inches from my head, impatiently inquiring when dinner would be served. And when ("if you don't mind...") I was going to get out of his way so he could enjoy his feast.

I wish, at times like this, that I had a camera.

So far, I've attracted Chestnut-backed Chickadees (and they are the ones who go for the peanuts), Dark-eyed Juncos (which are a type of Sparrow), and Pine Siskins (which are a type of Finch).

Mostly, they are all polite to one another (humans could take a lesson, especially at this time of year -- been to the mall yet? OY!), waiting their turn and not crowding one another. The different species give each other space...most of the time. Once in awhile a Chickadee will take a bit of a run at one of the Juncos in an attempt to get to the peanuts. Chickadees grab and run (or fly, actually) back to hide their food prize, much like squirrels do, instead of staying to feed like the Juncos do. And if a Junco gets between a Chickadee and his peanuts, look out!

And, sitting in my warm apartment behind the glass door, I indulge myself in a bit of a giggle-fest, watching the antics of my feathered guests.

Sress? What stress?

UPDATE (Monday): Looks like I've also attracted a Downy Woodpecker. He doesn't seem to be interested in the feeing stations, but he's enthralled with the bamboo pole. He either sits on top and tries to drill down through the closed section/joint, or he hangs onto the side and drums like crazy on the pole. Apparently, drumming is a territorial announcement, and it looks like my balcony has just been "adopted."


Anonymous Ian Scott said...

Chemical cocktail?

Hmmm... everything ok?

Monday, December 04, 2006 4:33:00 AM  
Blogger Dez said...

Terrific idea! I'm going to set up a bird feeder on my balcony too.

Mostly what I see around here are crows and seagulls (who never have trouble finding a meal), but the little seed-eaters must be having a heck of a time finding something to eat.


Monday, December 04, 2006 9:12:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Ian: Everything's fine. I'm de-toxing from one very addictive form of medication onto a less harmful (and more effective) form of medication that corrects a chemical imbalance in my body. Part of the cocktail is a control drug that keeps me from going into withdrawal shock, and it leaves me a little sluggish.

Dez: If you've got any livestock feed stores around your area, they're a better bet for finding wild bird seed than pet stores. Most of the stuff the pet stores sell as wild bird seed is stuff the birds won't touch. Chickadees like black oil sunflower seeds (smaller than the stuff humans eat, and they're oil-rich, which is crucial in winter) and raw peanuts (not for human consumption). Juncos will go for the millet and the sunflower seeds. Both will go for suet.

I can see Mustafa now, licking his chops, lol!

Monday, December 04, 2006 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Nice of you to concider the strife of the wee flying folks out there. Love your descriptions. I could pictue exactly what you were talking about. I keep a very large bird feeder in front of the cabin. It is far more enjoyable to watch the different birds and the squirels than most of what you can find on TV these days. Thanks for letting me view it through your words. Take care.

Monday, December 04, 2006 5:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Ian Scott said...

Thanks - a friend of mine recently passed away from cancer - he would refer to his "chemical cocktail" - so... it made me wonder.

Hope things get better for you soon!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 6:18:00 PM  
Anonymous dez said...

Follow-up to my bird feeder project:

I made a feeder from a cardboard milk carton, per the Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife instructions, and filled it with my own mix of millet, oat groats, red wheat, spelt seeds, and buckwheat berries. (I'll buy some black sunflower seeds and raw peanuts later, this is just stuff I had around the house.)

So far, I have attracted some juncos and robins, but also a Stellar's Jay, who probably has a nest in one of the big fir trees in my yard.

I hadn't seen any signs of life since the big wind storm we had recently, but today there is a considerable crowd of assorted birds in the trees surrounding my home (mostly juncos and robins, but honestly, there are too many for me to identify right now). So I scattered some extra seed across the roof (flat composition roll roofing, easily accessible to me from one of my balconies), and tossed out some stale bread chunks for the larger birds.

Birdie buffet. The little guys are going nuts.

Note: I just want to mention that I understand the commitment I am making. Some of these birds might have migrated South by now, but are hanging around for the free food. If I stop feeding them now, they may have missed their chance to find greener pastures, and could starve to death. You can't start feeding birds in the winter-time and then walk away. You have dependants now, and they need you.

(I know you understand this, Chimera. I'm just making a point for your other readers who might want to help our feathered friends too.)


Tuesday, December 19, 2006 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Chimera said...

Cardboard milk carton? What a great idea! Got a link?

You got robins? I didn't know they were seed-eaters...

Re responsibilities: Not only what you said, but for birds like chickadees and jays, who actually store food for the winter, the worst time for their ability to feed themselves is in the spring. By that time, all their stores are used up, but the next season's seeds are not yet available. Some will be able to survive on insects, but others are strictly vegetarian.

Bird feeding is a year-round thing. So is cleaning up after the little buggers, lol!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006 5:19:00 PM  

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