Saturday, April 6, 2019

Article published in "Your Country Neighbor" in March

The Wildlife Are Watching
 by Janet Sobczyk, 2019

I’ve suspected that the birds and squirrels we enjoy watching, spy on us, too. Now I know it’s true! My recent encounters with the wildlife prove it to me.

In my new house, the kitchen window faces the bird-feeders situated beside an ash tree. It’s a popular spot for the squirrels, sparrows, cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers. The squirrels take turns stretching from the crotch of the tree to reach the black-oil sunflower seeds. In that spot they are at eye level with me watching from the window. Sometimes it becomes a stare-down contest as a squirrel nabs seed after seed, watching to see if I’ll chase it away. I simply watch and smile at the antics.

When the feeder is empty, the squirrel resorts to hanging upside down by back feet from a branch to reach the suet feeder dangling nearby. At those times I could swear the look on its face is telling me, “See what I have to go through when you forget to fill the seeds?!”

Sometimes when a squirrel comes and the feeder is empty it looks directly at the window, (is it glaring at me?) then turns tail in disgust and dashes off. I dutifully fill it, but more for the birds’ sake than the squirrels. The woodpeckers seem oblivious to me during their daily visits to the suet. They focus on the food, not caring if a squirrel is nearby or not. The sparrows, on the other hand, seem aware of everything around them. It must be their survival instinct to startle at every little movement; it’s fascinating to watch.

They fly in to pick at seeds on the ground that a squirrel is dropping, while waiting for their turn at the feeder. A flick of the tail sends them flocking to a nearby bush. They perch, watching for another safe moment, then return, and get scared off again. Back at the bush they hop from branch to branch nervously, hungrily. Watching their apparent anxiety gave me the idea to start throwing handfuls of tiny seed under the bush. Now the sparrows can feed in safety. And I have a close, clear view of them from the window above. It’s a winwin!

One day after I started tossing their food into the bushes, I was doing dishes at the sink by the window. I looked up to see eight sparrows lined up on the deck rail watching me. I had just enough time to quickly count them before they flew off, startled that I’d noticed them.

Then, one morning I left to run errands and returned at lunchtime. I noticed a lone set of bird tracks through the fresh snow on the deck that came right up to the sliding glass door. It appeared that the bird had hopped up to peek inside then flew away. The tracks served as a reminder to fill the feeders, so I headed to the back door. Right outside the door, again in fresh snow, were more tracks that looked like the bird had been pacing. I quickly filled the feeders and tossed some into the bush, hearing bird calls that sounded like, “She’s here! Dinnertime!” (Okay, I probably imagined that.) Then I headed back into the garage to grab a shovel and tackle the snow in the driveway. As the large door rose, I saw many more bird tracks right in front of the door. The poor things must have been frantic, waiting at every entrance.

Since that encounter, keeping the feeders full has become a higher priority. What used to be a cheap form of entertainment for me, now seems like a matter of life and death for them. As I sit in the warmth of my home, watching the wildlife endure this bitter winter, I feel good providing food for their survival. And it doesn’t bother me at all to be watched back.

See the March issue of "Your Country Neighbor".

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