Sunday, September 27, 2009

Birdman of White Plains

The hummingbirds have flown south for the winter.

This summer I became a multi-dimensional birdman. I’ve had a birdfeeder for years, a large gazebo-type structure sitting atop a pole which every year gradually leaned over so much because of the soft soil underneath that it was impossible to use.

This year I finally decided to hang the gazebo from a tree limb easily viewed from our kitchen windows. The birds loved it. So did I. Sparrows, starlings, finches, robins, cardinals, blue jays—all manner of birdlife came to our yard.

But birds being birds, they too often scared each other off. The gazebo’s openness was just too inviting a perch. In their rush for a seat at the table they spooked those already eating to swiftly depart. And it was too easy to create a mess underneath. Almost as much seed wound up on the ground than inside the gazebo. The birds didn’t mind. They became bottom feeders, though they did have to share the bounty with squirrels and chipmunks. A circle of scratched earth where grass used to grow surfaced underneath the birdfeeder, a small price to pay for observing nature.

It wasn’t until mid-summer that my multi-dimensional bird watching developed. While on Cape Cod for a family vacation, I bought a tubular birdfeeder to replace the gazebo, along with a suet holder and a birdbath with a battery-operated agitator to keep the water rippling slightly to ward off mosquito eggs. A week later my niece gave me a hummingbird feeder. I didn’t believe hummingbirds were in our area but within two hours of hanging the glass globe filled with sugar water, the first hummingbird appeared, floating in air next to one of the feeder’s three red plastic flowers (hummingbirds are attracted by red).

Don’t worry, I’m not going to wax euphoric about hummingbirds, or any other birds for that matter, other than to say that watching them visit each day is strangely fulfilling. I don’t go looking up bird types in an ornithology book. I just like the responsibility of keeping them fed and watered. Are they my new staff? Do they represent my need for leadership responsibilities?

Until I wrote that line just now I hadn’t thought of it that way. Since I’m no shrink, I’m going to leave it at the conscious level—I just like looking at them. With and without the binoculars I put on the kitchen windowsill.

After spending the winter in South America, the hummingbirds will be back next spring. The rest of the birds and I will be waiting.