Sunday, January 9, 2011

Where are the Birds? Beyond Nuts and Seeds.

Feeding my beloved friend, Yeshua Chippie, on Pick Pocket Mountain in Granite.

The snow fell lightly; random flakes suddenly change direction as if possibly returning to the clouds. I thought if I stepped outside, I would be weightless – inside of a life sized snow globe.

With my eyes fixed on my ever growing bird feeding station, I fetched a piece of scrap paper so that I could keep track of the activity (or non-activity in this instance). In late October, I established a winter feeding grounds for the local birds. I hung a small cylindrical feeder for perching birds, a cup hanger made out of a cream cheese container – which is popular with the Gray Tufted Titmice and Chickadees – and a wire suet holder for all, including a spectacular male Hairy Woodpecker. This is happening on my clothesline outside of the kitchen window – a victory for them and for me. The past three years I was traveling and although I did try to maintain my connection with the birds, circumstances dictated change.

The first day I hung the feeders, the birds wiped out the black oil sunflower seeds in less than half a day. In all of my years as a birder, this was without question the fastest consumption of seed I had witnessed. I was worried, just thinking about the cost and my commitment to offering a reliable source of food throughout the long, bitterly cold, New Hampshire winter.

I went out to the clothesline and examined the cylindrical feeder to insure that there were no holes or malfunctions causing the seed to spill. It seemed intact. I returned to the cellar where I store the seed in a closed metal garbage can (to keep out the mice), dug in the scoop, returned to the feeder and filled it. I realized that this feeder was not as big as my usual perching feeders in the past. I’ll admit that I was trying to be economical; the larger feeders with the green wire outer cage that claim to be ‘squirrel proof’ were over twenty dollars. I was cheap and feeling lousy about it; the woodpeckers and other large birds need to eat too.

I am of the belief that squirrels and chipmunks need to eat too. Don't we all? I was raised to think that squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and skunks were the enemy.  If they crossed the line into the yard my mother sent my father out with traps or pellet guns to get rid of them. Comically, the chipmunks beat him back to the house after he released them down by the lake. My parents invested loads of time and money on gadgets to keep the squirrels away or off of the feeders. The extremely agile and skillful creatures usually triumphed; after all, they have to eat. I decided that I would take another approach; my devotion to them was equal to the birds; I have befriended many over the years. I make sure that there is a good amount of food on the ground for the squirrels, chipmunks, Blue Jays and other ground feeders. I cannot comprehend why people “hate” Blue Jays. They are magnificently colored and have a beautiful crest. They are blamed for being aggressive. They are what they are. They’re quite mild compared to the Mockingbirds in the Southern Gulf of Mexico. I throw bread crumbs and seed under the feeders for them as well. The world is to share; it is not ours exclusively. How would you like to get shot at if you went to grab a bite to eat? Really.

A few weeks later I saw the same large feeders that were over twenty dollars at the hardware store for ten bucks. That was it. Of course I bought it and loaded it up with seed and hung in on the clothesline with the other assorted feeders, suet and homemade suet cakes that my mother gave me.

Just before Christmas, I noticed a sharp decline in the number of birds that came to my feeders. With the exception of one stellar day following a snow storm when a flock of Redpolls and American Tree Sparrows showed up, the feeders are rarely visited. I have attributed this to numerous possibilities including owls that I have spotted or heard in the area within the past year consisting of Great Horned, Barred and recently a Snowy Owl. I am aware of the fact that hawks inhabit the vast surrounding region. In addition to the ever present predator situation, there is the dramatic alteration of weather patterns, the jet stream and the mystery surrounding the obvious fallout of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and how it has affected the already fragile eco-system and the Gulf Stream. I will not address my other concerns that deal with the obvious chem trails which are laced over our heads in the sky; all it takes is to tip your head upwards and look on any given, clear day (and often moonlit night) to see.

When I heard about the thousands of dead birds falling from the skies in a variety of locations around the globe, the dead fish that washed up on the shores in Arkansas and then two million spot fish in Chesapeake Bay, I had to consciously work on not careening into some sort of newly woven depression born out of deep concern and fear. I am not a scientist and I am not thumbing frantically through Revelations. There is no point in me trying to solve the riddle. My greatest hope is that the unusual frigid temperatures, higher incidences of earthquakes which might cause the escaping of methane, lightening or whatever else could be plausible is what we are dealing with. The fireworks explanation does not work. I am at a place with officials and the media, where I take what they say with a grain of salt. There is no accountability; they can tell us anything that is convenient for them or their agenda, or they can withhold the truth completely. I can either shrivel up and tremble in a paranoid ball and let global atrocities and propaganda whip me into submission, or I can continue to maintain my place in nature and the world around me with integrity.

After processing the news of the unusual deaths / mass suicides in nature, I found myself craving a more deep and meaningful connection with Gaia. I am pretty sure that my life has always been mostly earth based, but now more than ever, there is a calling. I feel it. There is a longing in my chest that is not heavy or painful; it is urgent and energizing.

Day after day I look out at my feeders, dismissing negative thoughts concerning the fact that it is the dead of winter and I have not had to fill them at all. I understand that weather and migration patterns change and there are possibly many reasonable explanations for this, even though I have been a birder all of my life and this is an exceptionally weird year, I think I can handle it. What choice do I have?

Chickadees – III
Red Breasted Nuthatches – II
(Male) Hairy Woodpecker – I
Red Squirrel – II

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