Sunday, December 27, 2009

Birdman of White Plains, Part II

Now that it’s winter and for now snow covers the ground (this was written before the drenching rains of Saturday), the bird population is increasing around my four-course feeding station.

Blue Jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, finches and more, and, of course, squirrels, abound. The snow cover has restricted their food supply, so they patronize my aviary restaurant more often. The other day a neighbor’s black and white cat sat pensively on the snow underneath the main bird feeder. The birds just waited him out, returning to feed when the coast was clear.

The birdbath has frozen over, topped by a snow mound. It affects not just the birds but the squirrels as well. You see, though the water bowl is about 30 inches off the ground, the acrobatic squirrels figured out all it takes is a running leap and bound to jump up and perch on the rim to sip their fill of water.

With the water frozen, new tactics for liquid replenishment are required. The other day I spotted a squirrel in a tree nibbling away at something held by its front claws. Through binoculars I saw it was a chunk of ice. In short order the grey rodent had crunched its way through the little berg.

Like the Birdman of Alcatraz (Robert Stroud really was the Birdman of Leavenworth, but Birdman of Alcatraz was a far more exciting title for the book and subsequent movie starring Burt Lancaster), I did not plan a birdwatching avocation. Stroud was serving a life sentence of solitary confinement for murdering a prison guard. His ornithological career began when he came upon an injured bird in the prison’s exercise yard and his need for companionship drove his interest.

I’m no prisoner. Nor am I in solitary confinement. But I am often alone (not lonely). As I implied last September 27 (, there’s something comforting and fulfilling having other living creatures dependent on you.

Writing, even writing a blog like this one, is a lonely job. It takes discipline (something I often lack). It takes dedication (hopefully you’re not overwhelmed by the frequency of postings, and more hopefully, not underwhelmed by their content). It takes creativity and an ability to view simple things in complex or interesting ways (okay, I can do that). It takes a willingness to reveal things about yourself (up to a point, in my case). You have to accept that some of your work will not please everyone (sounds reasonable). It doesn’t take talent (there are lots of blogs out there to validate that notion; hopefully, my blog doesn’t fall into that pit). It takes lots more, but you get my drift.

The birds offer a momentary diversion, an opportunity to look outward instead of inward.

Ellie spent Christmas weekend with us and she too was captivated by the diversity and antics of the birds.

It’s not just an old guy’s fascination.