Saturday, March 19, 2011

Attracting the Wildlife

"What's that?" said Mrs Elliott.

"It's a bird feeder."

She eyed the new feeder sitting on the dining room table as if it was an artifact from a foreign culture.

"What's it for?"

Mrs Elliott sometimes asks questions that just fluster me. I can never tell if she's messing with me or is just being blond or what.

"Feeding birds." I venture.


Now she's stumped me. I would have thought it self-evident that the whole point of a bird feeder is to attract birds, to feed them, so as to watch them.

I do have a field guide to Central Oregon birds near the window, and have been known to stand there -- in plain sight -- with a pair of anti-shake binoculars pressed to the face, exclaiming about some bird, a Dark-Eyed Junco, for example, that I spotted.

And few weeks ago, Bruce Miller gave me a poster of Common Feeder Birds of Western North America he lifted from Wild Birds, Unlimited. I showed it to her that same day.

"Look what Bruce gave me."

Mrs Elliott was mystified.

"What's that for?"

"To . . . identify birds. See, it has pictures of the common birds around here."

She looked at me.

"For the bird feeder I'm going to hang."

"Why are you hanging a bird feeder?"

She's killing me.

Back in February when we had that heavy cement snowfall, the juniper outside our bedroom deck on the second floor lost a few limbs. Peeled them right off.

I had been studying that tree for a couple weeks, trying to find a limb where I could hang a feeder. I didn't want the feeder too close to the house because the bird poop would fall onto the wood steps down on the ground floor, so it would have to be about ten feet away from the deck, and about 18 feet above the ground.

The best location was buried back in a tangle of branches. So when the snow ripped those other limbs off the tree, I decided that a little more pruning wouldn't hurt and fetched my limb pruner from the garden shed and did a little cleaning up of the candidate bird feeder hanger limb.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm clearing a spot out there to hang a bird feeder."

"What for?"

I explained my plan, how the feeder would hang out over the lawn so the grass could take care of the poop, how it would be rigged with rope so it could be easily lowered down to the ground for refilling then hauled back again, and pointed out how the pruning I'd done provided clear view of the feeder as well as an unobstructed path below the feeder to the ground.

That was back in February. The poster came into the house early March.

I swear the woman has had ample warning that a feeder was going up. I couldn't have made it more obvious if I'd hung a big yellow sign from the branch with the words FEEDER GOES HERE on it.

And yet, she gave every impression of being baffled by the new bird feeder on the dining room table.

I know she's not simple, and she gives all the indications that she understands me when I speak, so it's not clear what's going on.

Anyway, the feeder's filled, hoisted into position, and it looks right nice in all its copperyness.

I don't know how Mrs Elliott is going to react when she comes home this afternoon, but if she says, "What's that?" I'll know that she's totally messing with me.


  1. Great feeder there Mr. Squirrel. If you get a niger thistle sock and hang it too you'll get flurries of goldfinches. Of course you have to put the niger seed in the sock first.


  2. A nyjer thistle feeder to attract goldfinches and pine siskins definitely is a must. Jack also should have a suet feeder to attract flickers, nuthatches and woodpeckers, and a hummingbird feeder to attract ... well, that's obvious.

    This bird-feeding business can get surprisingly complicated.


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