Saturday, June 11, 2011

Feeding the Birds

There are many activities that excite Nathaniel. Wrestling on the bed, helping mommy prepare meals (he's the sous chef.), throwing balls around the house, skating, (trying to) ride his tricycle, banging his drum, playing his kitty piano, and on and on.

I should mention that tops among all things that Natty Lou likes to do is anything that involves being with our neighbor, Caleigh. But that's a story for another time.

The story for this post is another activity that Nathaniel enjoys, and that is feeding the birds.

We have three bird feeders in out backyard. Two of them are the long, vertical feeders that hang from shepherd hooks. They keep squirrels out by sliding downward and closing the feeding holes. Sometimes, though, the squirrels are able to scale the shepherd's hook just enough to latch on to the feeder, and while it slides shut, the apparatus is shaken so violently is spills some seeds. A few squirrels have figured out how to take a flying leap from the fence and latch themselves on to one of the feeders. To those who succeed, the reward is like the coins that tumble out of a slot machine when the jackpot is hit – a whole bunch of seeds come tumbling out.

The third feeder we have is a mesh sock of sorts that we hang from a tree branch. This sock holds thistle, or nyjer seed, and is there mostly for the finches. I'm always impressed how the finches find the sock, even when it's partially, or mostly, hidden among the tree leaves. We always have steady visitors to the hanging buffet.

The problem with the sock, with its little holes, is that it tears easily. I'm not sure whether the rips come from the finches or from sparrows that, when the other feeders are empty, sometimes will try to alight on the finch bag. But whoever it is, the sock shows tears from the first time it's hung. And they're not cheap, either. So, to save some money, I patch the holes up with duct tape. It looks a tad unsightly, but the birds aren't going for appearance; they're going for the food. Unfortunately, the duct patches last for about one feeding, meaning that when it's time to refill the bag, the duct tape has been worn off or is so covered with seeds that it won't stick anymore. So, another round of patching is needed. And so on.

OK, Nathaniel's role has been to help me fill the vertical feeders. I give him a middling grade in this endeavor, but not for a lack of trying. We use a plastic cup to pour the seed into the feeder, and that does take a fair amount of precision and control. Nathaniel, exuberant as he is, hasn't quite got the touch. So, I help guide the cup toward the feeder opening, and he pours. About half the cup goes in the feeder; the rest hits the ground.

Much more entertaining for Nathaniel is the filing of the finch bag. We need a ladder for this job, and Nathaniel loves that, because that means he gets to run to our neighbor's yard, where we borrow the ladder. After some extracurricular dashing around, I can usually wrangle Natty to accompany me to our yard, where I climb up, get the finch bag and refill it. At least it should be that easy. Of course, it isn't. Nathaniel wants to climb the ladder, too. At the beginning, he'd only climb a couple of rungs and tentatively at that. But now, he scrambles all the way up, some 7-8 feet off the ground.

The birds arrive soon after we finish, as if they've been watching us, waiting for us to go inside. That's where Nathaniel, will stand, nose pressed against a window. "We have food, birdies!" he'll call out.

And, inevitably, they come.

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