Bob’s glad the farm is for the birds

Bob's glad the farm is for the birds by Bob Karolevitz I�m a bird-watcher, but not the conventional type.

I�ve seen at least 30 different species � not counting pigeons, chicken hawks, Chinese ring-necked pheasants and wood ducks � at our farm this past year. As a result, our bird book is almost worn out from paging.

Actually, Phyllis is really the bird-lover at our place. She puts strips of masking tape on the bay window so that the slate-colored juncoes and the black-capped chickadees don�t go crashing into it.

And she�s almost driven me to the poor farm supplying niger thistle seeds for the American goldfinches and their cousins, the red kind. Besides that, she buys sunflower seeds and corn for the bluejays and cardinals who come to our feeder � which the squirrels visit, too.

She also spreads peanut butter on the hackberry tree bark for the nuthatches and brown creepers when I would prefer the expensive stuff on my toast.

Feisty little wrens sing up a storm in the pine tree beyond our patio. They pop in and out of the tiny bird house there; and, believe me, I don�t need my hearing aids to know that they are around.

Every now and then I hear the machinegun-like rat-a-tat-tat as a red-headed woodpecker attacks a dead Siberian elm in our shelterbelt. We also have downy and hairy woodpeckers who like the suet we hang out for them. Phyllis buys that, too.

I find myself enamored by the pine siskins, the rufoussided towhees, the rose-breasted grosbeaks, the song sparrows and ladderbacks which show up occasionally. So, too, does a colorful Baltimore oriole and an Eastern bluebird, but I�ve got to be quick to see them.

When the cedar waxings come by on their flight north, I watch them gobble up the seeds on their name-sake trees, probably to gain some calories for their continuing migration. I don�t know what they find so tasty in those tiny green seeds. I tried one once, and they�re bitter.

I�ve got mixed emotions about the barn swallows which mess up things wherever they make their mud nests, but seeing them on the wing makes up for all the trouble they cause. We�d no doubt be up to our navels in bugs � especially mosquitoes � which they feast on as they swoop across the lawn.

Speaking of mosquitoes, we are well aware of the West Nile virus, and we hope we don�t find a dead crow which has the disease. Incidentally, I was volunteered to hold Phyllis�s miniature horses while she gave them shots to protect them from the malady.

When I walk down our road, I scare up an occasional killdeer which proceeds to do its fluttering act to lead me away from its nest on the ground.

Likewise I see king birds and mourning doves along the way. The latter are really tiny pigeons which I missed a lot in my shooting days which are gone forever.

Of course, we have too many robins, starlings, blackbirds and English sparrows (which I call eaves-droppers), but I condone them for the good that they do. Even the ubiquitous sparrows have their place in the God-given cycle of life; and, goodness knows, they are not an endangered species.

Lastly there is the Eastern meadowlark whose song is symbolic of South Dakota. I missed that during my years away, as I did the taste of a sun-ripened tomato. I�ve filled up on both of them since.

I think I�ve mentioned all 30 different kinds of birds I�ve seen on our farm. I didn�t want to just list them because, after all, they each have individual meanings to me.

I admit that I am no John James Audubon, but I like birds, even if I don�t watch them in the conventional way.

� 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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