The Suet Block is Always Tastier on the Other Side

“So glad I got here first. That pushy Steller’s jay would be hogging both suet blocks if he could.”

DSCN9210

“Darn it all. That flicker got the best suet block. If I’d only been a few seconds faster, it would have been all mine, for me, myself, and I.

I’ll have to take the left over one. I’m sure it’s not as good as the one  Mr. Polka-dot is nibbling at. If he were a tad smaller, I’d scare him off, like I do the little runts that come here looking for a free handout.”

“Good, he’s gone. I’ll give that other suet block a try. Hope it doesn’t stick to my beak like that other block does.”

“Let’s see…. One big leap and a quick turn in the air and I’ll be up there. Can’t wait to get my beak into that treat.”

“Now for a taste of the good stuff.

Blech! Yech. Blech. He sure didn’t let on it tasted that bad. Yuck! Where can I spit?”

“Oh well … I’ll do without. The missus says I’m getting a bit of a belly anyway.”

***Please don’t forget to check on my other blog. Right now I have an interesting guest author with a beautiful children’s book for you, just in time for Christmas. Why not click to follow https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/  

Nature’s Orchestra

It’s early morning. I throw a jacket over my housecoat and take our two dogs outside. We have a big yard so there is no need to go far, but I do have to step outside with them or they would just huddle by the door and wait to be let back in the house for breakfast. All winter it has been cold, often with rain pelting down sideways in the wind. I’m always glad to get back in the house to warm up (and to do that before any early walkers see me).

001

But the other day, the air was noticeably warmer. The breeze carried a scent of trees and warming earth. The warm, pink rays of the sunrise said good morning to the snow-covered hilltops. Pussywillows on the neighbour’s willow tree seemed to have opened overnight.

The sounds around me were definitely of spring. I tried to identify each one.  No more morning stillness. I heard the calls of Eurasian collared doves, flickers, towhees, chickadees, juncos, nuthatches and two other songbirds I couldn’t identify, and of course the big indicator of spring – the robin. And right after the robin’s call came the scratchy cawing of crows. They are already cruising to find the early nesting sites of the robins so they can raid them. If they don’t get the eggs, they’ll get the chicks. Good old Mother Nature will provide well for the crows, as she does every year.

In the waters of the bay below, sea lions barked to call each other over a feed of herring while the loons filled the quiet gaps with their lonely calls.

It’s like an orchestra here on some spring mornings. The songbirds are the strings,clarinets, and piccolos, while the doves are the oboes, and the loon is the flute. The sea lions are the tubas, and the crows are the brushes, tambourines, and snare drums.

And me? I guess I could be the opera singer, calling my dogs to come in now for breakfast.

 

A Man’s Gotta Eat

When the cold weather hit us about ten days ago, I hurried out to make sure my birdfeeders were full, and added some suet blocks to the menu. One of the first to enjoy a meal of suet was this Oregon junco. My sister calls them her little soldiers because of their black helmets. (I took these pictures through a window and using the zoom lens so that accounts for the graininess, but it’s the only way I could get close to the birds.)010

But a rather large dinner guest arrived. The steller’s jay muscled his way past the little soldier. He gobbled down a big dinner and then beat a hasty retreat when an even bigger diner flew in.012

This woodpecker, a red-shafted northern flicker landed right on his dinner plate. He had his black bib on and came prepared for dining. He looks quite dapper with his polka-dot shirt and a slash of red lipstick on his moustache. No, it’s not Mrs. Flicker, according to my bird book. In bird families it’s the men who get all gussied up and the women who keep a low profile. So here we have Jack Flash and his red slash, holding on for dear life to his seat at the table.

024

“Is it okay to start eating?” he asks. (Polite young man, isn’t he?)

023

Oh, maybe I spoke too soon. He’s got food all over his mouth.

030

“Did you say something?”

033

I told him he had food on his face, but he didn’t seem to care. He just stuck his face right into his plate.

047

“This place is a bit too picky for me. Maybe I’ll try ‘Avery’s Restaurant’ next door. They don’t stand there watching you eat, taking pictures like private investigators. I suppose they’ll mail these photos to my wife. But go ahead. See if I care. She’s out to a ladies’ lunch date at the Treehouse Diner with her girlfriends  having the Insect Borgasschmord. I’ll get whatever I can get wherever I can get it, and so what if I make a pig of myself? A man’s gotta eat.” 036

It’s Just Lunch

The songbirds always let it be known when there’s a killer in their midst, be it a cat, a raccoon, a hawk, or a crow. Today, it seems that every bird in my little acre was shrieking with alarm — not just the usual robin whose nest was threatened, but the chickadees, nuthatches, and many others as well. When all the birds sing happy songs, it’s background music, but when they sound like several fire alarms going off, something is wrong. I went out onto the deck to have a look.

In the tall firs next to the house, many songbirds were divebombing a preditor who sat and watched from her perch on a dead broken branch. I ran back into the house for my camera. The merlin (a small falcon) didn’t seem to care about me being there. She was either a juvenile or brazen or both. However it was, she allowed me to take many pictures, even posing a bit.

She ruffled her feathers, being Mrs. Cool. I’m not afraid of you!

??????????

The songbirds set up the alarm in the whole mini forest around my yard. A chickadee and a nuthatch, both tiny birds who are often chosen by the falcons as appetizers, bravely sat on the branch directly behind the merlin, scolding her.

The merlin merely gave them a look that said, “Who? Me?”

031

Then she looked down at the ground to see if her lunch was still there. I suspected she had done something because she had blood on her hands…er…beak.

033Yes, it was me, she says. I’m not proud of myself.

035

She shrugs her shoulders and says, “It’s just lunch.”

039My little puppy, Emma, found the falcon’s intended lunch, lying on the ground below the tree. A juvenile red-shafted northern flicker, one of my favourite birds in this area.

??????????

I was choked. I don’t want to hear another person say a word about “Mother Nature.” There is nothing “motherly” about nature. As beautiful as nature is, it is also very cruel when we apply our human values to it. But that’s how it has to be.

And I do think the falcon was sorry.

003

I waved my arms but the falcon didn’t want to fly away. It was only when I opened the big patio umbrella that she flew off. The songbirds settled down and silence hung in the air.

??????????

When I picked up the flicker, a single tail feather fell to the ground and as I walked away, I heard one lonely bird calling. It had to be the mother giving one last quavery call to say an anguished goodbye to her baby.

Birdbath Time

This female red-shafted northern flicker has heard about Anneli’s birdbath, but on checking it out, she doesn’t look that impressed.

“The little birdie that told me about this should have warned me. I thought he said it was nice and clean,” she wails. “What do you think? Should I risk it? Or will I catch something?”002a

 

“I don’t know…I have my suspicions. I think someone peed in the pool. Actually, I think they did more than that. Those aren’t  ALL fir husks from new growth.”

??????????

Sweet Suet in the Snow

The snow comes down like the rain we had a couple of weeks ago – steadily, relentlessly, non-stop. The third day now, and still, it keeps coming. I want to call it a white-out, but it’s more gray than white.

002Up in the firs, it collects for a while, giving the trees a look of Christmas. That would be fine, except for two things: we’re waiting for spring, and the avalanches of snow whooshing down from the branches when the wet clumps become too heavy are dangerous for any little animals underneath them.

??????????Three days and nights of snow has accumulated on the roof of the birdfeeder. Even the birdbath is looking more like a wedding cake than a place to splash around in.

020

Alighting on the roof, the flicker is surprised to sink into the snow.

010

“Didn’t I see some suet here last time I visited? Ahh…there it is. Now to get up there. Jump, turn, grab onto something, and chow down.”

012

“Time to get some more suet out here, Anneli. This piece is almost small enough to fall through the grid again.”

013“And sure enough, here comes company – the nuthatches, one on each side of the feeder. Got to eat faster. I don’t care if anyone sees me gobble my food. It’s survival of the fattest.”

016

And yes, Anneli braved the weather and the avalanches, and put another package of sweet suet in the empty wire grid.

Quick Change

How quickly the weather can change. I was away for a few days and got home just in time. Imagine if I’d had to drive home in this snow.

001

Last week this red-shafted northern flicker was just checking out the fence. At that time he could still enjoy some bare ground to pick over for grubs.

??????????

And he had time to show off his lovely markings.

??????????

But today with the snow I was pleased to see him return and find the suet blocks by the feeder.

He dropped one of the pieces of suet …

??????????

And then had to sit on the ground to finish his meal.

??????????

Do you feed the birds? Have you seen any special ones?