I love my bird feeders. I can't believe what joy they bring me this time of year. Especially this time of year, the antics and dramas at the feeder make me laugh.
It's not just the birds, though. All appear and are welcome at the feeder, so long as they don't destroy the feeders. Although even that I will forgive eventually.
The most regular visitors are the birds, obviously. Recently I've had a flock of Pine Siskins, bold little birds that are reluctant to give up their cafeteria, even as I step up to fill the feeders. They are much different than the other birds that visit, often coming in groups, rarely alone. They have a preference for the ground, but will perch on the tube feeders as well. Though not aggressive, they have strength in numbers and so seem to dominate the feeders with their flitting about and constant working of sunflower seeds in their beaks.
Photos by Sarah Hatfield
Some recent visitors to a bird feeder include, clockwise from top: A Red Squirrel, birds of all kinds and even a mouse.
The word "siskin" is such a playful word, like the perfect 3-year-old - adorable and mischievous. It is easy to say over and over. Siskin, siskin, siskin. It is a wonderful word, and a beautiful bird.
I have a Towhee that has been hanging around the feeder as well. He doesn't like the porch with its easy pickings. He prefers rather to bound about in the snow, flinging clouds of it with every wing beat. Flying low, he will skim the snow to the safety of the hemlock hedge until hunger lures him out again. Often it is only his head I can see in the yard, but by such behavior, I know it's him.
The regular crew filters in and out throughout the day - chickadees, titmice, cardinals, nuthatches, juncos galore, doves, bluejays, and the woodpeckers. Not that these are birds to be overlooked. I like watching the dominance struggles between the elder juncos and the youngsters. And the nuthatch is a pretty brazen young man himself, driving any smaller bird off the feeder when he gets in his moods. The woodpeckers almost always arrive in pairs, as do the house finches.
The Carolina wrens are one of my favorites. They prefer the suet, but will occasionally pick at the seeds. Their rich golden brown contrasts greatly with the coolness of the season, and I just love it. They hop around on the porch and look quizzical. Unmistakable and so gorgeous.
Now most people would regard the red squirrel as a pest, but I have a weakness for them. Maybe it's the white eye ring, or the fluffy tail. Or maybe it's the way they hop and bound. But their antics crack me up and I'm thrilled to have two at the feeder. They have learned that the cats can't get through the glass and effectively ignore them now, coming right up to the door. They have burrowed little tunnels through the snow, from sidewalk to feeder and shrub to shrub. Their footprints in the snow make me smile, without fail, every morning.
Another visitor is the opossum. It's a young one, probably not a year old. Half its tail is black and half is pink. If night falls before the birds have cleaned up the seed, the opossum takes care of it. He is not a predictable visitor, preferring to stay holed up somewhere for the colder days, but when hunger drives him out into the snow, I can count on his tracks to the compost pile and a fresh deposit of fibrous scat on the porch.
The raccoons are fair-weather raiders of the feeders. They do some damage, though, so I have a tendency to bring feeders in when they are roaming about. The little ones are cute, though, with such cunning eyes. You know they are capable of so much more than we give them credit for.
Finally, the unexpected visitor, the mouse. He's so cute and little! One day I was watching the birds and he scurried up to the seed, grabbed one, tried to grab another but dropped the first one. He wasn't quite sure what to do, so he ran over into the corner, ate one, then went back for another and scurried off the porch again. Not a sight usually seen during the day, it was really interesting to watch him and his seemingly random behavior. Sometimes he would eat the seed, sometimes carry it to the corner. Sometimes he would run off into the bushes with it. Sometimes the birds chased him, sometimes he chased the birds. Cute in any case.
Thus, bird feeders, at least at my house, are for more than the birds. And I don't mind. Each is trying to survive. Adapting to the presence of birdfeeders is an excellent survival strategy. And it gives me a reason to sneak to the door every morning and peer out to see who is benefiting each day.
There are lots of birds and mammals to watch at Audubon's bird feeders. And we even have a special blend of birdseed to sell designed for the mix of birds in the area. Come down and visit on Saturdays and Mondays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. or Sundays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Hike or ski the trails any time from dawn until dusk. Liberty is available for viewing, dawn to dusk as well. We're located at 1600 Riverside Road off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. Call 569-2345 for more information or visit for upcoming events and information. Don't forget our Snowflake Festival on Feb. 1 from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon and a self-proclaimed bird nerd.