By Sally Evans, Founder Emeritus, 2006
By the time anyone reads this epistle the Backyard Bird Count will be over, the Great Winter Storm will be over, Valentine’s Day will be over, and we will be working on the pandemic to be over! It has been a difficult time for people on so many areas of their lives with survival being uppermost. Actually the GBBC came at a good time because many folks could not do anything else except peep out the draped windows at the birds coming in to find what food they could. Bird feeders came to many of their rescues.
I had the opportunity to listen to a ZOOM talk given by Dr. Drew Lanham who is an author and an ornithologist. He was suggesting that bird watchers get so intent on bird identification and location that they (we) forget to put their binoculars down and view the whole picture. So I did. The birds were coming in close to the window so I could see them well and I had time to sit and observe. I knew that many of the birds I counted at different times were the same birds I had seen before. They live here and come here often for the handouts I give. The male cardinals with their brilliant reds against the snow were spectacular – and they were almost always accompanied or led by a female cardinal who was also very lovely. The red-bellied woodpecker’s red head was exceptionally bright and I could see him clearly on the suet feeder as he went back and forth from the tree to the feeder. It was always the same male. Once or twice I saw a female. On the bird count it would seem I had seen several of these birds but I knew it was the same one each time. I was following directions – counting all that I saw each time.
And the little upstart that took over the feeders and tried to chase everyone else away even though most were bigger than it was. It was a butter butt – a yellow rumped warbler – and every day it would go from feeder to suet to bush to feeder to suet, etc. except when it would chase another bird away. Just one! But according to the bird count I probably saw four or five!
For the very first time I had pine siskins. There were about a half a dozen that came to the thistle feeder and they chased away the few goldfinches that came to the thistle feeder. But the finches were clever and would just wait around and when the siskins flew away they moved in. I saw this because I put my binoculars down and just watched the birds and the trees and the snow. The doves would sit for long periods of time in the trees, fat fluffed bumps on the limbs. Then one must have said ,”GO!” because they would all fly off somewhere or inundate the feeders and throw seed all over.
I know there were rabbits at night because I found tracks everywhere. They would have had a hard time finding food as the snow was about three inches deep. My toes would have been frozen! Why weren’t their feet too cold to hop around?!
I also had time to contemplate. How fortunate I was to have a home, food, electricity, family and friends who were checking on us, a warm blanket and a pair of binoculars to watch the panorama in my own back yard. So like the robin who has been sitting on the banister in the morning sun, I will look at my surroundings and wait for better times.