Jaywalking and Cardinal Sins


We don’t have to watch Netflix for our entertainment these days.  We don’t need to tune into CNN to know that there are some birdbrains in this world, or that serious power struggles take place everywhere.  In fact, we don’t need cable at all to know the dynamics of what is happening in the world – it’s all played out right outside our windows every day.

It started with one birdfeeder.  Like a slightly shabby convenience store on a lonely country road, it got its share of travelers passing through.  With the limited quantity of provisions available, and our intermittent refilling routine, the bustling bird population largely ignored the generic mix of seeds trickling from the lone feeder, and those that did stop by were dismissive of the meager fare.

So, we added a couple more feeders, and got a little more conscientious about filling them.  To our delight, the tweetie birds began showing up a lot more regularly.  There were Carolina Wrens trilling and flitting about, Black Capped Chickadees, collecting and hiding seeds in squirrel fashion, Nuthatches with blood rushing to their heads as they scrambled upside down on pine trees, and lots of other sweet-natured songbirds.  Delighted by the increased avian activity, we added a few more feeders, and expanded the menu with a more gourmet selection of suet blocks and oiled sunflower seeds.

When the Cardinals got wind of the new buffet, our yard became a destination vacation spot for the red-feathered songsters.  Like a colorful busload of tourists at Taco Bell, they left cracked shell wrappers in their wake, unapologetic about littering the porch and patio with debris.  Downy Woodpeckers, with beaks freshly lubricated with suet, tattooed critical reviews of the cuisine on every tree in the yard, and Brown Thrashers used their impressive musical repertoire to broadcast the call to the table.  Then the Blue Jays strutted in, and things began to get a bit testy at the feed trough.

Some days the wing flapping and backbiting make it a little bit like watching CSPAN.  During nesting season, it’s more reminiscent of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, with lots of mindless chirping and more than a few ruffled feathers.  No soap opera could ever compete with the flirtations and nest swapping, but there have also been a few moments when I could have sworn we were tuned in to a World Wrestling Event smackdown.

A new bag of fancy birdseed guaranteed to attract even more actors to the never-ending show outside the window sits waiting to fill the ever-growing number of feeders, and we can’t wait to tune in to meet the new characters and watch the new plot twists unfold.

Our anthropomorphic enjoyment of the bullies, divas, rock stars and comedians that fly in and out of the backyard may have moved us beyond being nature watchers to something more along the lines of bird voyeurs, but we don’t mind.  We never argue over which channel to watch, there are no commercials, and no one complains about the volume – and best of all – it’s way cheaper than cable!

/Susan Frampton

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