Monday, August 25, 2008
This afternoon, after speaking to Fluffy and gently touching his feathers - which he permitted in his quiet way - I was forced to say goodbye to him. He'd flown up to the roof and nestled beneath the eaves of a window, again in the shade, but several minutes later he fell from the roof onto the patio. I was with him as he died, and we've taken care that no predators will benefit from his passing.
It is unfortunate that the birds we can most easily identify as individuals are also those who have the least likely odds of survival. Their charming characteristics often come from bizarre behavior, unnatural colorations, or other genetic aberrations that ultimately make them more vulnerable to predation and natural selection - Fluffy undoubtedly had such disorders that made him less able to adapt and react to his surroundings. For a few weeks, however, they bring joy and wonder to our backyards as we grow to know their personalities and observe their behavior, and it is with fondness tinged with inevitable sadness that we remember them. Farewell, Fluffy.
There are, of course, other options to deter birds from hitting windows and glass doors, and I use several. The patio furniture is placed in front of one of the doors to minimize airspace where birds could gain enough momentum to cause themselves injury; any barriers like this can be helpful. Feeder placement is also crucial: a feeder or birdbath should ideally be placed no more than three feet from a window or glass door, or if it is further in the yard, it should be at least twelve feet away (further is better). The former placement restricts how much speed birds can gain before they would accidentally hit a window, and the latter placement gives them enough room to manuever and avoid obstacles once they are in flight.
I highly encourage all backyard birders to invest in some method of control to reduce window collisions and needless bird injuries; these simple adaptations can help save the lives of our avian friends.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
The second new visitor was even more fleeting, but for a few moments as I sat working at our patio table, I heard a hauntingly familiar stacatto call and moments later a black capped chickadee flitted to the feeder and snuck a few bites before flittering away. I haven't heard that call in years, for while these small yet hyper birds were common in the north woods where I frequently spend childhood summers, they are absent from the southeast where I lived for several years. I have seen them on some walks here in Utah, and I'm thrilled to have one as a guest at my backyard feeder, however brief the visit.
Monday, August 18, 2008
I saw a rare treat, an albino sparrow with creamy yellow coloring. Another sparrow conspicuously lacked a tail but had no trouble surviving on the richly abundant food sources available -- though I doubt they were the same nutritious fare that their wilder cousins would dine upon. I saw different species of birds take advantage of fountains, waterfalls, and lagoons to keep cool in the relentless summer heat. During nesting periods, birds of all species fiercely defended the territory they had deemed their own, regardless of the constant intrusions (and woe upon us whose necessary attire was mistaken for aggression). Fearless enthusiasm was rampant both among the birds and the humans who unwittingly increased their food supply through casual discards of fries, breads, and crackers.
Naturally, these birds and their antics are not part of my typical backyard observations, though I have enjoyed comparing the differences between the more aggressive, decadently fed birds in a less wild atmosphere and the equally entertaining birds that thrive in my growing sanctuary. While they are different species separated by hundreds of miles, the joy and determination they all find in life is identical. At times we all need a migration out of the ordinary to appreciate that.