Country Scribe: Sometimes I think bird feeding is for the birds
Sometimes I think this feeding birds business is for the birds, pardon the pun. Niger thistle seed, which attracts the prettiest birds -- the redpolls and the finches -- isn't cheap. From my two feeders, the gluttonous critters gobble three dolla...
Sometimes I think this feeding birds business is for the birds, pardon the pun. Niger thistle seed, which attracts the prettiest birds -- the redpolls and the finches -- isn't cheap. From my two feeders, the gluttonous critters gobble three dollars worth per day.
The finches keep bringing their friends. It's like a teenage keg party spun out of control. I haven't called the cops, but I am going to start rationing the thistle to limit the crowds.
To get maximum enjoyment out of the birds, I bought a little speaker fed by a wire which runs through the window to an all-weather microphone that hangs on the feeder.
The speaker allows you to hear every twitter and chirp, as well as the flutter of wings when the whole flock spooks and flies away. You can also hear if somebody new and obnoxious, like a blue jay, shows up.
The microphone is so sensitive that it picks up a multitude of outdoor sounds you wouldn't hear otherwise.
Apparently, I have a mating pair of great horned owls nearby. Their "who, who" calls come over the speaker and haunt the whole house late in the evening.
The mike picked up some high-pitched squeaks the other afternoon. I didn't see any birds on the feeder, so I stood still by the window for a while to see if I could figure out where the noise was coming from.
Didn't take long. A little furball called a redbacked vole bounded across the snow for some fallen seed. While I watched him nibble, a pink-snouted mole peeked up from a hole in the snow, snagged a sunflower seed and disappeared.
Apparently, the songbirds don't like the rodents. They stayed away from the feeders until the furballs on the ground got their fill.
No squirrels yet. That's when I'll get out the .22 and find a wild game cookbook. I hear squirrel tastes like rabbit, which tastes like froglegs, which taste like chicken -- and I love chicken.
The indoor/outdoor bird microphone has an added benefit, one which thrills me to no end. When it is on, I can hear train whistles clear as a bell from the Soo Line 10 miles to the east.
I have always loved train whistles. Is there any better lullaby? I never slept better than the year of college when I lived one block off the tracks in Moorhead, where 58 trains come through every 24 hours.
Now, living out in the wilderness where I never thought I would hear a train, I can turn on a microphone and fill the house with distant whistles. Or, if I have company, I can turn off both the trains and the birds and visit.
I avoided feeding the birds for years, because I heard it was cruel to start putting out seed only to up and go to Arizona. The birds, so they said, would get addicted to your feeder. When the seed ran out they would just sit there, confused and forlorn, until they starved to death.
That's bull, a local bird expert told me. Birds aren't that stupid. They'll find something to eat if they have to fly across the state to find it.
Just as false is the notion that when birds eat rice at weddings they swell up and explode, just like they do when they get tossed in the microwave by a demented fifth-grader.
But birds have been eating rice out of farmers' fields in Asia for centuries, and not one has blown up yet!
So, the next time some high-horse newlyweds tell you that they aren't handing out rice because they are environmentally conscious and don't want to blow up birds, toss a water balloon at them instead.
Or, for fun which is comparitively cheap, wholesome and won't make anybody mad as a wet hen, stay at home and watch the finches filch thousands of thistle seeds from your feeder before breakfast.
(Visit Eric's weblog at www.countryscribe . com)