Thursday, February 5, 2009

Feed the Birds

Where I live we have had a hard winter. Yes, I know much of the United States had a hard winter. Where I grew up in the Midwest, we expected hard winters. Now I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we seldom have snow, and almost never have snow feet deep and lasting for more than a day or two. In the small town where I live the main street is the only one plowed. I haven't asked, but I suspect it is actually the state that plows that street - it is the end of a state highway and also leads right to a border crossing between the States and Canada.

After the snow, there were floods. My apartment was an island in the midst of water varying from 2 inches to 2 - 3 feet. Thankfully, nothing in our building was harmed.

However, I was thinking about the birds. I had put out a bird feeder before all the weather came on. But I decided I would add some suet. At the beginning, the birds were Juncos and Swallows eating seed. Then I saw Finches. Next there were two Flickers, pecking away at the suet. Soon after that, the Starlings found the feeders and descended in droves. And then today, I saw a Steller's Jay.

I love watching them, and so does my cat friend Bowser. He sits in the window a lot, sometimes making Akkk-aakkkk noises - you know, those sounds cat make when stalking prey. At first the birds would leave when he was visible, but by now they just ignore him.

There is one bird I have not been able to identify, despite looking not only through my two books (Sibley's and Audubon), but several others that friends had and a search on the internet. This was fairly early on. When I saw the bird, I thought "That is an odd duck!" Well, it didn't look like a duck, or any other bird I have ever seen. I had the uncomfortable feeling it was out of time and space.

This bird was slender, about two feet tip to tail, with a long dark decurved (downward arching) bill and a longish tail. I first saw it sideways to me and it was looking right at me - directly into my eyes. I saw its head and back, which were dark with greenish iridescence. Then it turned and showed me its whitish speckled breast. And flew away.

The only birds I saw in my research that looked at all like this bird were birds that do not live in the part of the world where I live: like the Little Black Cormorant, which wouldn't be perching in a tree anyway! None really looked quite like this bird. I am stumped. If you have an idea, let me know. I still think it was an odd duck - perhaps sending me a message that I have not yet decoded.

Please remember your feathered and furred friends. If we have had a hard winter, remember they had less shelter and more challenge in finding food.

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