Hello Fellow Readers,
Anita of Blairstown, NJ, shared the story of Squeak, a male Cardinal who squeaks after snagging each sunflower seed. “He’s also a bit of slob,” writes Anita, “dribbling shells back into the dish.” Her other guests, such as “titmouse, nuthatches, juncos and sparrows, take one seed at a time” and nosh elsewhere before returning for another. How polite! Anita’s story inspired a search for more fodder from my birder buddies Dennis Briede of, Blairstown NJ, and Mike Niven of Coatesville, PA.
I’ll admit I’ve only recently begun to embrace birds fully. Years ago, I was beaked by a Blue Jay who aerial attacked during a morning jog. I learned male Blue Jays protect the nest while the female incubates the eggs. Surely Mr. Jay thought I was a predator and made a bloody mess of my scalp; never mind the “ick” factor. To this day, I hold a grudge for Blue Jays, though I chuckle that running with flailing arms could have made America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Indeed, Blue Jays are aggressive, confirmed both birder buddies. Mike explained they also provide warning signs by creating a ruckus when hawks are approaching. Dennis, whose day job is Stewardship Manager of The Land Conservancy of NJ, shared a Blue Jay once landed on his hand as he set out food, which sounds friendly and appreciative. However, a Cesar Millan of birding would say the gesture was not of kindness. Rather, dominating the dish. One time during a Big-Stay (a concentrated bird watch), Dennis counted 650 Blue Jays migrating. It seems a mystery that some migrate south during winter, others don’t, and some migrate every other year.
Dennis’s love of birds began as a kid when his dad described the fields of Bluebirds in Jersey City, where his dad lived in the ’20s and ’30s. Conservation groups have been concerned over their decline, though the introduction of nest boxes has helped them make a comeback. Dennis once provided mealworms to a Bluebird on his deck rationed over five days. When the allotment ran out, the Bluebird banged his beak on the sliding door asking for more. Another time a three-and-a-half-foot black rat snake was partly inside a Bluebird box filled with babies. Dennis intervened by grabbing the snake and tossing it aside. The next evening Dennis felt a presence. He looked up, and the rat snake was glaring at him through the sliding glass door. “My hair stands up every time I tell the story.”
Mike became a birder and masterful at photographing them over the last ten years. As a result, his backyard became a certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation, and he served as a Steward for many years. Mike has counted 85 species of birds on his property so far. Dennis has counted 162. Both have improved their properties with native plants and water sources to provide a happy habitat for their feathered friends.
Link to Bird Fodder Part 2!
About creating a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat
Column Updated 6/20/21