Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fill It, and They Will Come


My apartment is surrounded by large, birdy trees and has its own tiny courtyard, so one of the first things I did after settling in was invest in a bird feeder. After some serious browsing at Wild Birds Unlimited, I settled on a cheap but sturdy squirrel-proof model, filled it with a black sunflower seed mix that looks tastier than a lot of trail mix I've eaten, and waited.

And waited.

After two weeks, I figured something must be wrong. I'd seen birds there twice--a single House Finch, and a Tufted Titmouse—but nobody seemed to be coming there regularly. The owner of Wild Birds Unlimited told me that small birds tend to avoid enclosed courtyards, since such places are often just big snack bowls for accipiters. But—he said—it wasn't a lost cause: create a welcoming and protective enough environment, and the birds would come. Other birders suggested that I put in some plants for the birds to perch on and hide in, or put in a bird bath.

I haven't had time to follow up on these suggestions, but his week, I started noticing the level of seed dropping visibly every day--but I never saw anyone at the feeder. Whatever was taking the seed was doing so only while I was at work.

And this afternoon, I came home from work, still dripping from one of Gainesville's habitually random thunderstorms (I've come to the conclusion that "50% chance of rain today" in Gainesville-speak translates into normal English as "It's raining buckets right now!"). As I approached my unit, I saw something shoot into the air from out of my courtyard—a Carolina Chickadee!

I crept into the courtyard as quietly as I could. The unoccupied feeder was still swinging from its hook. And another Chickadee swooped in just as I put my key in the door.

For the next hour or so, I watched in delight as a constant parade of Chickadees and Tufted Titmice—and even a female Northern Cardinal—swarmed the feeder.

If this photo makes you think my courtyard looks like the exercise yard of a maximum-security prison, you'd be right—I do plan on getting some tasteful native vegetation (and yes, maybe a bird bath) in there soon. But for now, I'm happy that my new place is now officially suitable for visitors.

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