One of my favorite things in the world is feeding the birds. My yard is a sanctuary for them, with multiple feeders and several heated birdbaths running this time of year. One bath is at ground level for the raccoon, possum, squirrels, and turkeys, The other is on a pedestal for the birds. My bird spa was a very popular place to be during that cold snap of below zero weather a few weeks ago:
Feeding the birds is a spiritual practice for me.
Each morning after a brief meditation, I head into the kitchen and start the teapot, grab a block of food for the woodpeckers, and a scoop each of finch food, sunflower seeds and dried mealworms for the bluebirds who have overwintered with me. I bundle up a bit this time of year and head outside.
After tending to the feeders and scattering some seed on the ground for the juncos and doves, I whistle the birds in like my mentor Ray taught me, and head back inside the house. Brrrr…
By the time I start fixing my tea, the birds are already at the feeders jockeying for their breakfast.
The nature of a practice is something that you do when you feel like doing it, and something that you do when you do not feel like doing it. In fact, it may be even more important to do when you are not feeling like doing it.
On the deep dark cold winter mornings, and the wet soggy mornings of Spring, I’ll be out there before I make my own breakfast. When I feel resistance or hesitation, I take note of it, and head out anyway. It’s important to me, and probably the most disciplined area of my life.
I was so glad to hear that February is National Bird Feeding Month.
It has been since 1994 when John Porter addressed Congress and said “During this month, individuals are encouraged to provide food, water, and shelter to help wild birds survive. This assistance benefits the environment by supplementing wild bird’s natural diet of weed seeds and insects. Currently, one third of the U.S. adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards.” …Backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults.”
…“Bird feeding provides a needed break from today’s frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds — nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one’s day going on a tranquil note.”
But feeding the birds goes back to at least Henry David Thoreau’s time where he describes lining up kernels of dried corn on his doorstep and sketching the birds that would come for a nibble.
The first commercial bird feeders started showing up around 1911, though it didn’t really catch on until the 1920’s which was when my Italian Grandmother Nona was coming of age and was a Flapper.
Nona had a lifelong love of the birds and feeding the birds, I think I get my love for them from her. Remind me to tell you about her cardinal door harp sometime.
Now days a bit more than one third of Americans feed the birds, and I hope the practice continues to grow, and that our native birds continue to survive our relentless encroachment on nature.
I’ve got lots and lots more to share about my relationships with the individual birds that come for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but will close here for now.
Happy Bird Feeding Month, and if you came to class this past week and took home one of the bags of seed that I offered, thank you so much. We went through over 100 bags. The thought of birdseed spreading out from the studio in all directions makes me very happy.
P.S. if you’re interested in a heated birdbath for your yard, it is very easy to hookup and inexpensive to run. The good ones only turn on when it’s below freezing. Here’s a link to some popular birdbath heaters (the 50 watt ones work pretty well), and a link to the large planter saucer that I use for the ground based bath. You’ll need a grounded, three prong extension cord as well