Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday at the BirdFeeder (and a Paris TV series for good measure)

Okay, that was a rather horrid week. And the month before it wasn't so great either. But I'm going to hope that I've got the year's worth of viruses done with in one convenient, concentrated bundle, and I'm going to be grateful that that bundle happened during the year's yuckiest weather, so that once we get some sunshine and a modicum of warmth back, I'll be ready to take advantage, in much better health.

Meanwhile, some Friday random...

1. You might remember that we put up a suet feeder and a seed feeder in our terrace garden, right by the windows so that indoors, we have a ringside seat. To put the word out in the avian community, I began, as advised, by sprinkling seed on the ground. And far too quickly we attracted a bevy of opportunistic sparrows. Song sparrows would have been fine, but these were common sparrows, aka house sparrows, aka English sparrows. If you've ever had them hopping on your picnic table watching you eat a sandwich, you know these are probably not a bird to encourage. I worried I'd created a pest problem. Thankfully, the solution was surprisingly simple -- a bit of research revealed that these sparrows are only comfortable feeding on a fairly open, solid surface (the ground, a picnic table....),  so I immediately stopped scattering the seed and instead waited for the right candidates to find the hanging dinner bell feeder whose two-inch sides would apparently deter the sparrows.

Meanwhile, the suet feeder had several visits from Common/Northern flickers, which was exciting because of their size and their colouring, and just because woodpeckers are always cool. We used to host many of them on the island, but I'd never expected to have them on an urban terrace garden.

And the seed feeder occasionally drew chickadees, which I was happy to see because I've been told other birds tend to watch chickadees, following them to food sources. If chickadees arrive at your feeder, apparently, word will get out and your bird lists will lengthen... Of course, chickadees are completely delightful in themselves (else why would they have been named so charmingly?!)

But so far, my favourite visitors are the bush tits that swarm in, a roiling bundle of tiny moving parts, constant activity, tails forking and wagging and tiny heads leaning in through the cage-grid of the feeder, their wee claws gripping them steady, their puffy breasts shifting to effect the best angle. Eight, nine, ten of them will vie for spots on the feeder's face, jostling each other as they push beaks into the block of seed-and-berry-stuffed fat. A few food grabs and then a dart over to play on a nearby wisteria vine, a fake tumble down from the maple nearby. I won't swear to cartwheels, but they've definitely mastered somersaults, and I'm sure I've seen the odd headstand. It's all motion, all the time, with these guys, and when they deign to drop by, we stop everything to watch. They rarely stay more than three, perhaps five, minutes before they take the show elsewhere -- like one of those magic rainbow moments when the sun shines briefly through a crazy rainstorm. although perhaps I should reverse that analogy, 'cause while they make us feel pretty rainbow-sunshine-happy, their antics get closer to the rainstorm's energy. . .

Interestingly, although we were told that the tits (pause to giggle) would only eat at the suet feeder (a major reason for buying that device and filling it with the (slightly pricey) block of fat for the avian gourmands), our little flock has at least four or five birds who are omnivorous enough to dabble in seed occasionally. Or perhaps they just love the acrobatic possibilities of the hanging tray's pendulum game...

Whichever, it's hard not to feel a bit sympathetic when the sparrows come by and try, yet again, to see if they can manage to eat from their wary perch on its apparently uncomfortably high sides.  We hadn't paid much attention to the feeding habits of the common sparrow before, and given their ability to fly,  to flit from branch to branch at will, we'd never considered they'd be rendered somehow vertiginous, incapable of leaning in to peck the food they desperately wanted, by a surrounding edge of half their body length. Why not simply hop down into the feeder? In fact, there is one among them who gets himself off the lip and onto the floor of the dish, even grabs a few seeds. But given how quickly he leaves, after such a meagre feed,  I'm wondering if he enjoys those seeds about as much as I would like anything I tried to eat on a roller coaster. (You're right, I've never been on a roller coaster. I don't think that negates my point.)

And some days I swear we could add a new "call" to the bushtit's known repertoire: it goes something like "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah."

2. Having begun this with the intention of a Five Things Friday, I now see that Number One might perhaps stand on its own. What say you? I'm thinking I might conserve my returning energy and health by saving the other items for posts-to-come. And speaking of posts-to-come, yes, I'm still thinking about the post on the stage of life I find myself in as mother, grandmother, wife, and the way my/our friends' image of us can be a helpful complement to the way family
does sees us. . . right now, though, personal circumstances dictate I tread very carefully through that terrain. It's best I wait a bit before writing. I know you'll understand.

3. Oh, alright, just to move back to upbeat before we head off for the weekend. . . . one more Not-Quite-Five-on-Friday. For the francophiles and Paris-lovers among us, my sister-in-law texted the other day to ask if I'd been watching Call My Agent on Netflix. I hadn't even heard of it, but quickly checked it out. It's set in Paris in a talent agency -- so yes, beautiful people dressed in some pretty good clothes in amusing and dramatic situations against some pretty glamorous backdrops. We've been watching it with French audio and French subtitles (I use subtitles even in English shows, thanks to my hearing impairment -- having them available in French is a treat that really helps me develop aural comprehension) -- but there are English translations as well.

There you go. Three on Friday. Sans photos. Hoping to do better next week. Now off you go to get your weekend started. Leave me a comment first, though, if you can spare a minute -- I always appreciate them.  Any weekend plans? And if there are any backyard birders out there, perhaps you can offer me some tips or anecdotes? Favourite birds? Birds to keep away?


38 comments:

  1. Welcome to your tentative return to health. Ugh, you have had such a hard time. Does impact on spirt, she said, from the vantage point of 11 weeks of viral stuff that would not let go.
    On to SPRING. Feeling so inspired by your photos over on Instagram-especially 1. the "found lace", 2.the snow-lovers (sans the dog's contribution)AND 3.your condo. Home décor/design is my passion(and often, work). Find the spot you have landed is gorgeously lit with all your windows. The vignettes you've shown reveal such wonderful taste in art and color and placement. Never have I been a fan of a wall of books, but your fantastic arrangement of sofa in front of them (plus knowing that you curl up there to read and knit and watch TV) has changed my mind, plus, found me pea-green with "envy" of that alluring cozy spot in your home. Just beautiful. Have always been drawn to the colors of your walls and art in your other homes and have no doubt you will create that all again.

    London is gloom-city at the moment, just a day of brilliant Winter sunshine would set this girl doing a happy dance. Never tire of the river, though,no matter the weather and football, no matter the weather. We will go tomorrow in the damp and gloom and all will be alright with the world.

    Looked at your daughter-in Italy's Instagram last night and found a video of her daughter taunting the cat-so cleverly set to absolutely perfect music. Showed it to my husband and we had a real laugh-twice! Have forwarded it to two cat-loving friends. So adorable.

    Moving & retirement are huge stressors-even if some of it is for the good. Give yourself time, Frances; you seem so hard on yourself. You are doing just fine-we all are. Ease will grow as you begin to view those adjustments in the rear-view mirror.
    P.S. don't worry, know how hard won the tranquility you are creating in your condo is...and all too well know that chaos can reign in sections of the house at times. Makes me nuts, but as I often say to design-clients, "chaos before beauty".
    A. in London

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    1. Thanks, A. Glad you've been enjoying my IG. Amused by the comment re the "wall of books." I can see it seeming a tiresome cliché a designer might want to void, but among a certain of my tribes, it's generally avoidable simply because we have so many books and what else are we to do with them?
      Sympathy re London gloom, except yes, there you are in London, the antidote of the National Portrait Gallery easily at hand. . .
      As for antidotes, yes, I do love that particular video, especially now that she's edited it with the music.
      Thanks for the reminder and reassurance that this disorder will lead to possible tranquility, perhaps even beauty. I'm crossing my fingers.

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  2. We have Call My Agent on our Netflix list, along with I-don't-know-how-many other shows, but now that I have a personal recommendation, I'll try to take a look soon. We watched the first 2 episodes of Santa Clarita Diet last weekend - it was funny but I'm not sure if we'll watch more. Although, Timothy Olyphant is certainly as good a reason as any for continuing, for me anyway!

    Glad you are feeling a bit better, but you should definitely take it easy. Watching the birds on the terrace is a good thing.

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    1. There does seem to be an embarrassment of riches available for viewing these days, doesn't there? And yet I'm still wishing I could find a way to continue viewing Un Village Français, which we were so engrossed in while in Bordeaux.... (and while you're not watching Netflix, let me ask if you're getting your new boots out for a walk now and then -- do you love them?)

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  3. Those fat balls are going down well with the feathered fraternity in these parts too, but what has been a delight is the popularity of the bumper crop of not really edible apples which we let fall last autumn. I had intended to take them all up once the tree was bare but then we saw how many birds were coming to peck their way through them. They are surely turning alcoholic by now so we anticipate drunken avian antics any day soon.

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    1. Ha! Somehow your description makes me think of the Roald Dahl scene of drunk peasants falling out of trees. . . .was that in Danny, Champion of the World? Danny's father's a poacher with ingenious methods... Amusing for me to imagine the word's getting out in your neighbourhood, all the birds twittering on the fence, "Party at Ceri's -- free booze!"

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  4. I love birds in general, but love robins the best. I think it is partly because they are bright and cheerful, partly because they are wonderful parents, and partly because I love the Emily Dickinson poem about one fainting robin. - Murphy

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    1. I didn't know the poem, Murphy, but I now love it as well. Thanks for pointing me in its direction. Interestingly, robins (and I'm quite sure you're N. American and speaking of our robins, not the European bird) used to be considered a marker of spring having arrived here, but they're pretty much a year-round bird now. Saw one hopping over the snow-covered ground the other day, trying to get to the bare ground under a hedge....

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  5. So glad that you're feeling better. I'd love to have a bird feeder to attract them here, but we have rat problems. Perhaps the fat balls that wouldn't drop so many seeds would be a good option.
    I'm loving the rounds of robins that are visiting these days.
    Thanks for the Netflix advert - will definitely look it up.

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    1. We buy blocks of suet with seeds and berries stuck well in, and then place the block inside a "cage" that we suspend -- so access can be managed that way, and it requires the diner to grip the wire bars of the cage, while the whole unit swings a bit, and get their mouth to the inside for a bite -- works much better if you have a beak. Having dealt with rats in the past, however, I know that given long enough, they'd probably have their resident engineers work out a solution. . . .
      You'll enjoy Call My Agent, I think, and perhaps some of your more ambitious French students might as well... ;-)

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  6. Glad to see that you are well enough to post a Three on Friday. Continued health to you.
    We had outdoor cats so no bird feeders for us. Seemed cruel. My new cats are indoor critters so maybe we will put up some feeders in retirement, when we get there...
    My young adult daughter inherited my mother's love of birds and carefully attends her feeders more than she attends to her dishes! She will faithfully buy seed for the birds even if it means she eats canned pasta & soup that week. She brings the feeders in at night during the spring and fall so as not to encourage wandering bears. She knows the habits of the different species, the goldfinches are her favorite and the personality quirks of the "robber" chipmunks and squirrels! I have heard the bird tales on many a phone call and it makes me happy to hear the delight in her voice-an echo of a previous generation. Thanks for reminding me (during this cold & snowy week-an 8-12" event coming Sunday night) of spring and summer days. Carol

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    1. We used to have outdoor cats as well, and so similarly avoided bird baths and feeders.
      So sweet that your daughter cares so well for and about birds and that she comes by that caring via a family legacy-- our avian friends do need their champions these days!

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  7. Glad you're feeling better...gastro is nasty.

    Not many birds around the yard this year but oh boy the rabbits! The biggest one suns her/himself on a snow-covered Muskoka chair. They are quite indiscreet in their toileting so I was glad of a recent light snowfall.

    I'm meeting a friend for a walk tomorrow; weather permitting we are going to have a look at these: www.warminghuts.com...should be fun!

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    1. I first read your opening sentence as Gastro is Nastro. ;-) (and it is!)
      Ah yes, rabbits....I don't see them here in the city, but the campus I worked at was a favourite dumping-off spot for abandoned pets, and I'm quite sure there was a veritable warren underneath my office building. Their "indiscretions" piled up generously on the lawn, but I can imagine that in snow country, they'd be close to offensively manifest.
      Oh my goodness, those "warming huts" are quite wonderful, even in the photographs. Worth making a special visit to, but I know you'll have to bundle right up. Stay warm!

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  8. How nice that the local birds are homing in so quickly . We have a very handsome spotted woodpecker who calls every morning but I think our prettiest resident is the bullfinch . Most of our birds here are black or brown . That is , apart from our neighbour's white cockerel who comes to monopolise the bird table & won't leave unless he's chased with a floor mop . You'll not have that problem .
    Wendy in York

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    1. That bullfinch is a very good-looking bird (didn't know it before; had to look it up -- we don't see it here). And if you have a spotted woodpecker coming to say hello as well every day, you're very lucky. The cockerel I'm not as sure about ;-) (but now, we're not likely to share that problem!

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  9. So glad you are feeling better.
    For two winters we were without a cat and my bird feeders had a lot of visitors, mostly great and blue tits, as well as blackbirds. Now that there are two new cats, most of the birds keep away (althoug some of the blackbirds take their chance when the cats are napping inside.)
    I felt a bis sorry for your sparrows. In these parts, we take a different view of them, at least since it became generally known that the sparrow population in Western Europa is diminishing fast. Changes in agricluture (insecticides, machinery which does not leave a single grain after havesting) reduce their food supply, and modern building techniques do not offer them the niches or holes they neeed for building their nests. I am already thinking of putting up a nesting box for sparrows.

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    1. Oh my, that blue tit is a very pretty little bird -- I'm rather envious. . .
      As for the sparrows, I'll admit that I felt a tug myself, and I had to resist the urge to feed these guys. But for us in North America, these are an introduced species which seem to be more adaptable to city life than others. I guess I'm trying to maintain some diversity, and as soon as I begin feeding the sparrows, I suspect I'll lose that... We'll see, though, my thinking on the matter may evolve.

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  10. Hopefully you are now on the road to recovery. Poor you! I've been enjoying several blogs about birds at feeders and learning such a lot about different varieties around the world. I think I need to be a bit more adventurous what I put out to attract more unusual varieties. Mostly magpies and pigeons in these parts at the moment :) B x

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    1. It's a delightful pastime, isn't it? Would you perhaps post on the blogs you've been looking at? I'd love some links....

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    2. CT at http://countrysidetales.blogspot.com. Is particularly knowledgeable about wild life. I'm sure you would love her blog. She loves her running too :)

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    3. Thanks B, I'm following her now.

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  11. So glad that you are feeling much better
    First-I had to check all of your little feather visitors (ok,beside the sparrows),their songs on you tube and their outfits-sooo beautiful! I do the same with Steve Burrows,just for the record!
    I'm going to the cinema tonight (The Lion.
    Manchester by the Sea was really overwhelming,I saw it last week-great film. C. Affleck is maybe my Oscar favourite so far-and his nephew,the young actor, did great job,too)and some drinks afterwards
    Hope that your weekend would be nice
    Dottoressa

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    1. I really had hoped to get to a movie this weekend -- so many good ones and so far we've only managed Manchester by the Sea. But little people came calling and afterwards I was too tired (again!). . . .At least these days if one misses seeing a film at the cinema, there are easy ways to see it (although on a much smaller screen) afterward.

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  12. Thanks for the reccie for "Call My Agent"- just what I need, too. BTW have you seen "Engrenages" (Spiral)? You can get the English version through the BBC site, and the French one, uh, elsewhere. Excellent procedural (set in Paris, too) and six seasons!

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    1. Thanks for the reminder. We did start Engrenages at one point, and then haven't got back to it.

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  13. I am glad to hear you are on the mend. We have an enormous amount of snow here, and the poor little chickadees and robins are very fluffed up. Our neighbour feeds them, and they twitter around in the trees behind our house. I have spotted a few woodpeckers and some hummingbirds. I am hoping a little pair of finches we enjoyed last year will be back soon.

    Curl up, wait out the snow and cold. It will be spring very soon. Brenda

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    1. I've seen photos, Brenda! So much snow, especially up your end of town. . . Somehow your comment immediately had me reciting "The north wind shall blow / And we shall have snow / And what will poor robin do then / Poor thing. . . .
      I hope your finches do come back -- they're so pretty with such a sweet song.

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  14. Glad to hear you are perhaps started on the road to recovery from your illnesses. I am just home from a short visit to a friend who is being treated for a very serious thing; lucky me to be retired and able to drop everything and go hang out, chauffeur, dog walk, etc etc. I was a help for the time I was there anyway. I enjoyed watching the very different birds there (way north, almost to Canada!) and it was interesting to experience the bitter cold and snow. I'm glad to be home to my familiar house/dog/birds and especially husband!

    Take it easy this week!

    ceci

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    1. You're a good friend -- and yes, I think that's such a good aspect of being retired. Much as we might have wanted to do these things in the past, we were also honour-bound to conserve much of our strength to do the job we were paid for.... I've never been in cold and snow much bitterer than 10 below (Celsius), and I think that's about as "interesting" as I want to explore ;-) We're so spoiled over here on the very moderate southwest coast of Canada.

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  15. I'll have to look up "Call My Agent". Hope you continue to feel better.

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    1. Thanks Mardel. It's been a very odd winter, not quite caught any rhythm yet.

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  16. I'm glad the birds have been attracted to your patio so quickly. A small but welcome distraction from your season of crud. No bird feeders here so I don't usually have the up close and personal experience that you have, but do enjoy my more distant views. I confess to a fondness for the clever, wickedly unrepentant crows. I fed a pair for a season, and was rewarded by their bringing their offspring to me. So I did have an intimate daily view of young crows learning flight skills, and parent crows trying to ignore the feigned helplessness of their young. Quite a lot like humankind. Hope you're continuing your return to health. Spring can't come soon enough!

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    1. I so admire crows -- all the wily corvids, in fact. Raven is the Trickster figure in First Nations stories here, and the Creation story involves him bringing the first humans out of a clamshell....
      Lucky you, to have a pair bring their youngsters along to meet you.

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  17. When I was little, I used to envision popcorn popping when I watched the bushtits moving from tree to tree. Such charming birds! They also happen to create the most interesting nests, like long narrow socks.

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    1. Yes! That's a perfect description, that constant explosion of stored energy. And thanks for telling me about the nests -- oh, what a treat it would be to find one of those in the wild.

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  18. We love seeing the bush tits at the suet feeder too....they are so tiny.
    Our garden has many birds... the great blue heron, robins, house sparrows, flickers, cedar waxwings, our local humming birds...and more...
    I will check out The Paris Agent as I need to keep myself entertained in between reading chapters of my book and knitting while this pesky cold hangs around.
    Everyone seems to have it...good news that you are feeling better.

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    1. You're so lucky to have all those visitors to your garden. I hope they'll keep you entertained as you rest up and get rid of this bug. Take care!

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