I thought I’d dust off my Friday Frivolity feature to share a few thoughts about birdies and bandanas that have been rumbling around in my brain while I’ve been rambling around the ‘hood.
It is also a chance to bemoan the fact that it is four weeks today since Council Point Park closed. I’ve been taking some pictures of what I’ve seen and where I’ve been in the ‘hood, though that collection of photos would never equal, nor surpass, my last walk taken at Council Point Park on May 1st. On that day, I was blessed with a bounty of furry and feathered critters that crossed my path, saw blossoms on ornamental trees in bloom, all framed by a flawless blue sky. Sigh. Hopefully our City’s 22 parks will open soon. I walk by my favorite nature nook all the time, as well as check the City’s Facebook neighborhood chat forum, to see if the situation is status quo or not, but sadly the barriers blocking the entrance remain and we walkers are shut out.
My morning jaunts at the Park were beneficial to my brain, as well as getting steps in toward my final goal. As I walked along the perimeter path, a bag of peanuts clasped in one hand, and the compact digital camera in the other, I felt as free as a bird. All time spent on the walking loops in a natural setting was the best way to begin my day for the past seven years.
Follow me where I go …
I do miss tendering peanuts to the squirrels, but the birds were also my little peanut buddies in my morning meanders. I liked that the Blue Jays, Cardinals and even the rather-ornery Red-Winged Blackbirds, would often follow me around, flying from tree to tree, waiting for an opportune moment to swoop down and snatch a peanut from under a squirrel’s nose. Sometimes I’d catch those birds eyeing me from the tree tops, then, once they knew they had caught my eye, they would hop down closer to me, knowing I’d toss down peanuts just for them. I shake my head when I hear people calling them bird brains, an expression that is the biggest misnomer ever! In fact, I had built up a rapport with these feathered friends – it is not just the squirrels who are interested in treats – a peanut for a pose benefits both of us. 🙂
One of the last times I walked at Council Point Park, I had the eerie feeling of being followed. It is not unusual to have a squirrel or two following at my heels, especially if they were distracted and missed my first pass-through along the loop where they congregate. In the past, walkers behind me, or approaching from the other side, have snickered, then pointed to the ground while saying “look behind you!” I saw what made them laugh, as I resembled the Pied Piper of Hamelin, that legendary fellow who lured the rats away from Hamelin, Germany while playing his magic pipe. Well, I had no magic pipe, just peanuts and perhaps the smell of fresh nuts was wafting from the open bag. (Then again, it might have been my personality – who knows?)
So … back to that feeling of being followed. Well, I slowly craned my neck around to find a beautiful male Cardinal hopping along the path behind me. I couldn’t help but smile, then immediately thought “hmm – how long has he been there?” Then I amended that thought to “good thing I didn’t back up!”
Usually the birds just swoop down and snatch a peanut from the squirrel’s pile … so maybe he was the shy type? I rewarded him with extra peanuts for his effort and after I watched him grab the largest one in his beak and head off for parts unknown, I said “now don’t forget to come back and finish these okay? At least take some home for the little woman, or a few for the kids – by the way, are those babies weaned from grubs and onto peanuts yet, or are you still awaiting the big event?”
Yes, I talk to all the birds in the trees to coax them down, or give them an “Atta boy” or “Atta girl” for being bold and brazen, especially if they ventured over on their own. I follow a few birding sites online and yes, birds do recognize their human friends, not only identifying them by their face, but also differentiating between human voices. (I concede that a Ziploc bag in my hand or peeking out of a coat pocket may make a difference too.)
Too bad I was walking without the camera that day, but, as I whirled around to move along, another walker caught up with me and said “I saw what happened there – that was pretty cool – are you a Cardinal whisperer?”
Hmm – I lived on that compliment the rest of my walk. He seemed incredulous that a bird would hop along behind me.
Late to the peanut party.
What made that morning just a little sweeter was when I got home from walking and there was a male Cardinal sitting on the porch. I glanced toward the wire basket of peanuts I left for the squirrels and birds and it was empty – yes, this beautiful red bird was late to the peanut party, so could I help out? He waited until I opened the bag I had in my pocket, then put a few on the porch for him, then he took off with one.
Whistle in the wind – bandanas and birdies.
Well sadly, all the fun and games with the critters at Council Point Park came to a crashing halt on May 1st. I am relegated now to walking only in the ‘hood and will do a picture-laden post to show what I’ve seen during the month of May. But remember – I wended my way to the Park by walking through the ‘hood most days – other days I drove to give the car a run, but usually I walked one mile each way. So communing with nature in the ‘hood is not something new to me.
One thing that always amuses me are the birds on my morning walks. A cheery Robin will be singing, or a Cardinal will be tweeting, and, as I usually do, I whistle back at them. In some cases, a bird will fly after me, alighting on a branch, singing sweetly while I whistle back. This is not unusual at all, but now there is a hitch. Wearing a bandana has not been conducive to maintaining our little game. After all – how does one whistle while wearing a bandana? Well, it is a muffled whistle at best and a pretty poor showing on my part. Hard as I may try, I can no longer match the Cardinal’s tweets note for note like I usually do. At first the resident Cardinal got a bit exasperated with me for not participating in our usual repartee, so he kept getting louder, perhaps thinking I was distracted and didn’t hear him? (How could that be … this bright-red bird was persistent and loud!) I found myself muttering a muffled apology, though my mouth was concealed by the bandana, so the apology was rather lame. As a concession, I ended up tossing some peanuts down onto the sidewalk as a peace offering, since the head tilt told me my little feathered friend had decided I’d lost my whistling ability.
Don’t feel bad birdies – wearing a mask is like shaving off your eyebrows. Your face is devoid of expression. Often when I’m walking and encounter an unmasked walker, they might smile and say good morning. I reciprocate, but belatedly realize my smile is covered – so, do my eyes crinkle up in those so-called “laugh lines?” There are many things to ponder these days.
Singing is not the only amusement offered by my fine-feathered friends.
Birdhouses and birdies.
During a large part of our State’s Stay-Safe/Stay-Home Order, most non-essential services were nixed. As the Order became less restrictive, more businesses have been able to open up, like builders being allowed to return to work sites and building homes as of May 7th.
The birds were way ahead of these brick-and-mortar builders and since May is the primo time for birds building nests, I was checking the elbow in my coach light daily, since this is a favorite spot for Robins to raise their chicks. Well, not if I can help it and I’ve warred with these nest-building birds nearly every Spring for years. Whew – I caught a break this year thankfully. Those industrious Robins can build a nest in 24 hours that is rock solid, airtight, quickly slapped together with long grass, wet mud and lots of love for their bundles of joy that are on the way, but still encased in the pretty blue egg. The downside for me, however, is their mud splats drip down on the mailbox and porch and once the mud hardens, it cements the nest, which will function as a nursery, so it fits snugly in the elbow of the lamp – believe me, it isn’t going anywhere soon. Me, the big meanie, wages war to stop them in their tracks by stuffing the elbow with bags or balloons. Perhaps they tired of me ripping it down, or decided to simply not tangle with me and said “let’s give Linda a break – 2020 is rough enough.”
Since I’ve been walking in the ‘hood and returning to old haunts, I’ve been scoping out gutters and low-hanging trees for potential shots of Mama Robins sitting on the nest, or hatchlings with their mouths upturned awaiting grubs and worm bits. But I’ve not yet been successful. I may be ready to take photos like in the past, but where the heck is everyone?
Even while the Park was still open, I found no Robin’s nests – the last two years I was lucky to track two or three families and enjoyed using the camera for that 14 days to capture images from hatchlings to fledglings. No such luck this year.
Home Tweet Home.
I have even seen some vacant homes, er … nests, which I’ve been monitoring for any birdie action, but no such luck. I mused to myself thinking how a realtor would describe these little gems.
Birds have always brought me joy, whether beloved pets, or songbirds in the wild. I am ecstatic to find a hummingbird flitting around the garden (especially since there are no flowers – dare I admit that Homer honed in on a tall weed with pink flowers?) So, I took a leap of faith and bought two small feeders to put up and will see if Homer will stick around and bring along some hummingbird pals for sugary Slurpees.