The best place to watch the birds at my house is by standing in the bathtub. There aren’t many windows in my house that face the backyard and those that are, are placed high, in order to let in the light but not the view. The backyard faces the north, so perhaps the builders were thinking of keeping the cold northerly winds out during winter.
My daily habit is to stumble into the bathroom first thing in the morning, step into the tub and look out the window to see who is at the birdfeeding station. Yesterday, besides the usual suspects, I saw two striking black and white birds with red bibs. What were they? I had to get back out of the tub and back to the bedroom to get my glasses so I could have a clearer view. I’m old enough to need glasses or everything is a blur.
I got back into the tub and took a better look. With clearer vision, I could tell they weren’t any kind of a woodpecker (the only birds I know of that are black and white with a patch of red); they were small and plump and had a prominent seed-eating bill. Different shaped bills will often indicate the type of food the bird eats.
Then I remembered, they are Mom’s birds. My Dad was the real birdwatcher in the family, but we all enjoyed the comings and goings and the seasonal changes of the birds that frequented our birdfeeder. One of Mom’s favorites was the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, the male was a beautiful black and white with a blood-red bib while the female was plain brown and white, more like a sparrow. Though they still visit her feeder out in the country about this time every year, I had never seen any at my urban feeder. It was very exciting.
Every evening, when I get home from work or my various errands I step into the tub to view the evening activities. Yesterday was no exception. I was excited to see the grosbeaks were still there, and a couple of bright yellow goldfinches were playing tag. They would chase each other, zipping in and out and around the bushes, the feeder and the fence. Then they would stop to rest, perched on a branch, then begin again. After watching a few minutes it dawned on me that they probably weren’t playing but fighting for domination of the nesting/feeding area. They were two males. After one finally banished the other from the backyard area, he went up into the River Birch tree where his ladylove was waiting. Kind of like the chivalrous knight rescuing the damsel in days of olde. Almost medieval.
It is amazing to me that birds seem to have definite personalities. Blue Jays are rude, they yell at other birds with a caw and scatter sunflower seed from the feeder to the ground; cardinals are cautious,flitting away whenever anyone comes near and chip, chip, chipping in a warning to others until the person leaves; goldfinches seem brave and cheerful, refusing to leave their feeder until I get a few feet away then flying in a zig zag pattern up and down through the branches, seemingly just for the joy of it. Juncos and Titmice are timid and shy, while chickadees are sassy and fearless. They flit down to the feeder while the visitor stands right next to it, picks up a seed and perches there, just daring the human to try and take it away. They can even be trained to feed from a person’s hand. I received a photo from the daughter of an old friend who was able to experience this while staying in Toronto.