Yesterday afternoon, after we got everything unpacked, I installed a bird feeder we brought up from California. It’s a screened ball, black, designed to dispense sunflower seeds. The plan was to start simple because I haven’t had a bird feeder since we sold our previous house in 1998 and moved aboard a sailboat.
It was windy yesterday afternoon and the birds never discovered the feeder. This morning, however, a few hours after daybreak, the first Chestnut-backed Chickadee showed up, somewhat tentatively. Knowing that songbirds tend forage visually, I’d lined up sunflower seeds on the rail of our deck, my way of inviting the neighbors for breakfast. It worked.
For the first hour or so the chickadees would approach furtively, snatch the nearest seed off the rail and then streak away in near panic, flying a good thirty meters into the forest before landing to eat. Red-chested Nuthatches would perch on nearby trees, watching to determine whether the chickadees would suffer negative consequences for stealing seed. They didn’t join in until the seeds on the deck were all consumed and the seeds on the ball were finally being purloined.
By noon, at any moment there would be half a dozen birds within a couple meters of the feeder, taking their turns one at a time extracting seeds. The flock, if I can call them that, was equally distributed between chickadees and nuthatches; a Brown Creeper landed on the nerest Douglas-fir, but didn't help itself to seeds. Same with a Black-headed Grosbeak. I'm expecting him to return any moment now.
I was supposed to do two things today: install the screens and write a book. The screens went up slowly, but they were in by lunchtime. By then, the first Dark-eyed Junco showed up. It seemed disappointed that only sunflower seed were being offered, and didn’t stick around long.
We decided early on not to equip the cabin with television—after all I have a book to write this summer. But now I’m worried that an ever greater distraction has made its way into our world.
(By the way, the blurred blue in the background of the photo above is Lopez Sound, as viewed from my bedroom. It's what the real-estate adds call a "filtered view," the filter in this case being a couple hundred evergreens between the cabin and the water. )
Journal of Natural Hist. Ed.
Natural History Institute
Center for Humans & Nature