The birds have been frequenting our back deck, promenading back and forth along the railings and peering at me from the handles of the grill nearest the patio doors. They’ve been hanging out around the spent stalks of the hostas in front, parading up and down, stopping with each ascent to gaze in through the windows. They’re organizing sit-ins around our biggest windows and doors.
“Hellooooo in there. Anybody home?”
“Hey idiots, we’re gettin’ hangry out here.”
The mercury’s been dropping, and they’ve been fluffing and tittering and quite adamant that it is time for their feeders to be up and filled to the brim with black gold. They’ve got quite the memory on them, these birdbrains.
I’ve been thinking about the feeders for weeks, even before those Puss’n’Boots eyes began showing up outside my windows. But as the young hairy woodpecker couple exclaimed from the railing the other day, “Thinkin’ ain’t gitn’r done, babe.”
Yesterday, in a fit of outdoor domesticity, I set to shuffling the piles of crap in our shed in order to make room for a few vehicles through the winter. As the essential-to-keep-how-could-we-consider-getting-rid-of-it armada of scrap lumber and assorted tarpage was being rearranged, the empty feeders—lying exactly where I placed them this spring after the black bear had his way with them–threw themselves in front of me, desperate to be put into service.
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We’ve got some friendly black bears around these parts that REALLY like black-oil sunflower seeds.
History Lesson Part A:
A couple of years back there was this incident one summer night with the bear that I spied laying under our feeders, on his side, lapping up the seeds he’d liberated from the busted feeders above. Didn’t even have the decency to sit up, or look like he was in a hurry. Just laid there with his tongue lolling out the side of his head.
Now while that in itself doesn’t really constitute an incident, you just KNOW we created one. Yes we did. Because Scott wanted a picture. I have to say, I’m disappointed in myself for not blogging about it.
So anyway, Scott wanted a picture, and being dark outside, there was no way to get one without joining the bear on the other side of our protective walls. I didn’t think this was wise, but no one was asking me. So he creeps out the back door, and circles the house in a leftward fashion, to sneak up on our visitor. But our visitor hears, and lumbers off. Scott returns to the bedroom dejected. The bear is gone for seventy-six seconds; then he comes back and assumes his supine position on his bed of seeds. The husband heads back out the back door, quieter this time, slower, with a rightward circling attack on his mind. The bear doesn’t spook. The man is sneaky. But the bear does run out of seeds.
About the time I figure Scott is rounding the farthest corner of the house, our new friend heaves himself up onto all fours and points himself homeward. In a leftward circling fashion around the house.
Those of your with exceptional spatial awareness see what’s coming. I, too, saw what was coming, but there was very little I could do about it in the next twelve seconds.
Man and bear meet at the one remaining corner betwixt them, and both are, shall we say, startled. Luckily, man is armed with a camera and in his terror fires the flash at bear, blinding both of them long enough for man to stumble up the side steps and back into his protective walls. Where he belongs. Bear re-settles his full belly and continues on his merry way.
The picture was not the one Scott was hoping for.
The feeders were ripped apart that night, but somehow snapped back together, and only required a few extra braces and parts to be put back into service the next year.
Thanks to this neighborhood brute, and the ill-thought-through actions that occur when the brute makes an appearance in our yard, the feeders have henceforth been relegated to the shed in the non-snowy months. Birdies, you’re on your own.
History Lesson Part B:
Fast forward to this past spring. Because we’re slow learners, we hadn’t yet gotten around to retiring the feeders when our buddy returned. This time, not quite so tired, he used our feeders as tetherballs and swiped the hell out of both of them. From my bedroom window eight feet away, I watched as he tired of his sport and leaned his beefy body onto the one paw that was on the base of the feeder, bending it like a taco and releasing it’s bounty. I yelled. I banged on things. I was pissed.
That night, after the furry jackwagon had gone home, I went out and took the feeders down. I didn’t even look at them. I was sure they were junk, and even more sure that we were idiots that don’t deserve bird feeders. Or birds. We shouldn’t be trusted with anything. I trudged through the dark and placed them (chucked them?) on the appropriate piles in the shed.
So when the bird feeders appeared yesterday, emerging from the stacks of detritus, I looked them over with a bit of apprehension. This was an assessment that should have been made directly following the bear attack, but I’d managed to put it off for the entirety of the now-essential bird-feeder down-time. Happily, the decrepit units had somehow come through yet another mauling relatively unscathed. It was an autumnal miracle. They would still hold seed.
I cheered for their resilience. The very quality that anything around here must have if it is to survive.
Ah, yes, I hear you, hairy woodpeckers! Thy salvation is nigh!
I proudly trounced out to the bird-feeder-hanging-pole-of-legend (oh yeah, I did blog about that), and hung the gladiators of the bird-feeder world from their perches.
Ah, yes. Call me Francis.
I deftly retrieved the birdbath from its spot nearby, slid its iceblock neatly out onto the lawn, and tucked it away in the shed, out of the harsh elements for the impending winter. Because I am responsible.
I took in a deep breath. Slapped the dust off of my gloves. Surveyed the fruits of my afternoon. To most, it would look like a shed in which a bobcat had shoved everything up the sidewalls, but I knew the truth. What we had here was a shed ready for winter.
This morning as I started a fire on the hearth and glanced our over the lightly dusted snowy yard, the chickadees were still there on the nearest hosta stalk, staring at me in disbelief.
“How ‘bout some feed in them there feeders, eh?”
I nodded knowingly, and as coolly as possible made my way out to the front yard, buckets in hand, as though this were always a two-day process, three weeks late.
And entire feathered kingdom shook their little heads ad rolled their tiny little eyes.
If you need me, I’ll be here, doing nothing I’m supposed to be doing,