A Joyful Experience

...from Hooghly to Hyderabad and beyond.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feathered Friends

It started when Poulami thought of sprinkling some grains of rice for the sparrows on our balcony in Virginia. It was early summer and the sparrows had started visiting our little balcony. So we gave them some rice and lentils on a plate and watched them eat it up.

Singing sparrow

Then the number of birds started growing. We noticed there were two different types of sparrows. They were gobbling up our costly basmati fast, and that's when we decided to get some wild bird feed from the grocery store. We also got a nice-looking plate so that we could restrict the birds to one spot and take better photos.

Cardinal
Dove

The bird feed mix attracted the cardinals. The red angry-bird-like couple were cautious visitors at first, flying away as soon as we moved inside the apartment behind the glass door. But soon they were as comfortable as the sparrows. We also had visits from starlings and robins, but they didn't stay long. They eat insects, and probably they had come only to see whether we offered a non-veg menu as well. We also saw a dove from time to time.

Catbird

One morning Poulami threw out half a strawberry on the feeding plate. Soon, she heard a sweet mewing sound from the balcony and discovered that a new bird was making it while eating the strawberry. We later asked the Internet and found it was called a catbird. Among the other visitors was a tufted titmouse and a group of grackles. The titmouse looks like a blue-grey version of the cardinal. The grackles look like little crows with yellow eyes and long tails. They are quarrelsome territorial birds that pick fights with other birds and chase them away from feeders. However, the number of sparrows visiting our balcony at any given time had increased to over twenty by this time, and the grackles couldn't do much harm. They stopped coming after a few days.


Tufted titmouse
Grackles
Sparrows. Lots of sparrows.

The birds were finishing sacks of bird feed faster than we were finishing our rice. They would arrive with the first light of the day and they would leave when it was almost dark. Poulami had first decided to ration their food, but she felt bad seeing them dance around the empty plate, so she had to put out food for them several times each day. The sparrows had a baby and she started visiting our balcony as soon as she was old enough to fly. It was easy to spot her - she could fly, but could not eat by herself. So she looked at her parents with an open beak and fluttered her wings pitifully until one of them fed her. She continued this practice well into adulthood. Whenever the parents got tired of her antics and refused to feed her, she would eat by herself from the plate.

Feeding time

Then, at the end of July, we left our apartment, left Virginia and moved to Lake Forest, Illinois. As we unpacked and settled down into our new house after a tiring move and an even more tiring week long honeymoon, we discovered half a sack of bird feed in one of our boxes. We wanted to feed birds here as well, but we realized that we would need a proper hanging feeder now since this was a house with a garden and no balcony, and the neighbour's cat would be too happy to find a feeder attracting birds on the ground. But as it turned out, just getting one bird feeder wasn't enough. As soon as we hung the shiny red feeder, a pair of hummingbirds started visiting it every hour to investigate. We were forced to buy a hummingbird feeder as well. Although the bird feeding didn't go too well here due to constant feeder-raiding by squirrels, the hummingbirds enjoyed their feeder very much and I could get some good photos. Among other birds, a white-breasted nuthatch often visited our feeder, but I could not take photos.

Hummingbird


Now as I sit down to write this blog post, Thanksgiving approaches and we have already received our first snowfall of the season. The hummingbirds have gone south long ago, and most other birds have vanished. Only the squirrels, now fattened, can still be seen running around the garden. We have removed our bird feeder and put it away. Once the cold subsides in spring, we'll put it up again. We hope to make the acquaintance of many more bird species next year. We'll only have to work out a squirrel-proof plan for feeding them before then.

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