When I lived in the foothills
birds flocked to the feeder:
house finches, goldfinches,
skyblue lazuli buntings,
impeccably dressed chickadees,
sparrows in work clothes, even
through the trees. Some of them
disappeared after a week, headed
north, I thought, with the sun.
But the first cool day
they were back, then gone,
then back, more reliable
than weathermen, and I realized
they hadn’t gone north at all,
but up the mountain, as invisible
to me as if they had flown
a thousand miles, yet in reality
just out of sight, out of reach—
maybe at the end of our lives
the world lifts that slightly
away from us, and returns once
or twice to see if we’ve refilled
the feeder, if we still remember it,
or if we’ve taken leave
of our senses altogether.
~Sharon Bryan, “The Underworld” from Sharp Stars
I only started feeding birds outside our kitchen window a few years ago. Previously, I thought it was an activity for older people with nothing better to do. After I turned sixty, I realized I was now qualified to feed the birds.
Now the professional wildlife and bird folks tell us we are endangering the welfare of wild birds by feeding them – the rapidly dropping numbers of songbirds in North America is due to pesticide use, window vs. bird deaths, climate change and birds not migrating in their usual patterns due to artificial feeding stations like mine. Most worrisome is transmission of fatal diseases when birds flock together at feeders. And Avian flu is on the rise in our country with hundreds of thousands of farm birds being preventively slaughtered in the last few weeks.
Now I’ve become the purveyor of pandemic conditions.
I let the feeders go empty for longer periods in my attempt to appease both the birds and the ornithologists. If the feeders dangle without visitors for several days, I refill them, more for me than for them as I appreciate the wild birds’ cheerful presence within a few feet of where I eat my breakfast as they eat theirs.
I’m not sure who to apologize to for still wanting to feed the birds. I grew up with Mary Poppins singing “tuppence a bag” and believed every word she sang. The birds themselves seem robust and chipper, happily coming and going as they please. Yet the scientists and bird experts see me, the casual backyard bird feeder as the problem. Perhaps selling packaged birdseed will eventually be outlawed so people like me can no longer have the option to cause this disruption to our feathered friends’ life cycles.
The birds and I will strike a deal so they know I mean well and haven’t taken leave of my senses. I’ll plant more more bird-friendly bushes on the farm. I’ll dispense a treat now and then if they promise to continue to stop by to check to see if my welcome mat is still out.
After all, I don’t want them to feel forgotten…or probably more to the point, like the little old bird woman on the steps of St. Paul, I don’t want them to ever forget me.
Make a one-time or recurring donation to support Barnstorming daily posts
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is deeply appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly