Monday, January 7, 2008

Back to Work

The holidays are over.

Likely you have had that sinking feeling already. But I just got mine.

My wife and I returned last night from a two-week trip to Iowa to see her family and a few old friends from our time at The Tribune newspaper in Ames, Iowa. So, now comes the task of reestablishing order in our lives.

The first order of business, for some reason, was sifting through a pile of mail on the kitchen table. Michelle, in a spasm of activity around midnight, made the initial pass, resulting in about three pounds of junk mail, including a multitude of catalogs mostly from companies I've never heard of. She also sorted out mail addressed to me. I'll attend to that later today, I guess, but I can tell you I am not excited. I mean, is there anything fun about mail nowadays?

We also need to get busy stowing gifts, food and other prizes from Michelle's generous family. My haul included all sorts of stuff for birds. A feeder, a cage designed especially for finches, bird socks (for finches, black-capped chickadees and other birds that can cling to them and feed), sunflower seeds for cardinals and fruit and nut bars for cardinals and other birds.

I'm no ornithologist, but I really like looking at birds. Even grackles, who congregate on the eave of our garage, peer inside the open door, and raid Hviezda's dog food from the bowl while she's sleeping. We've been trying to drum up more bird species to visit our yard – with mixed success. This fall, the Lewis buffet was patronized by house finches, American goldfinches, mourning doves, more sparrows than I can count, a family of cardinals, a few blue jays, grackles, juncos, one or two tufted titmouses and one passing oriole. Not bad diversity for an urban yard, but I'm hopeful that some advance work and planning will yield a more diverse bounty this spring.

It won't be anything like what Michelle's mother and sister have going on in their yard. It's like a 24-hour truck stop at their place. All kinds of birds coming and going. They've got all the species we have but in far greater abundance. And they have some great diversity. There were red-tailed hawks, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, nuthatches, purple finches and other types we could only dream of. They live near the Cedar River, which helps, but they've really set up an enticing locale. If I were a bird, I'd call it Club Med. They've got different feeders, including a drawer mounted on a pole and filled with bird food. Cardinals love eating from this flat, open area. They've got evergreens near the feeders, where the birds can hang out and hide. They've got bird baths, and this Christmas, Michelle's mother got an electric water heater for one.

Well, we can't compete with that kind of setup. But we'll make the best of it. Advertise for us.

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