Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas bird count from my deer-hunting blind

Never try to elbow a slate-colored junco away from a suet block.

That is, if you happen to be another slate-colored junco. Ditto if you want to be king of the white-breasted nuthatch hill.

For that matter, cardinals can act pretty uppity, too. Throw in tufted titmice which often enough chew one another out over who is going to have first dibs on the suet block that's anchored inside a wire cage.

As for downy woodpeckers, well, they’ll dominate the suet with the best of them.

Black-capped chickadees are a different horse of the same avian color, however. Fearless and friendly, chickadees will patiently wait their turn, clinging upside down on the tree that supports the suet block and its wire support frame. If not there then the birds will take a seat on a nearby scrap of shrubbery.

All of this became an open book this Christmas evening, the view provided by the zippered-opened slit in my fabric deer-hunting ground blind.

Chased out of the house by Bev so she could troll with her Christmas-new electronic reader, I charted a course to my archery deer-hunting blind for the holiday’s last two hours of daylight. Just as I’ve done many other times this past archery deer-hunting season.

The hunting’s been slow but the nature watching has helped compensate for the general lack of deer activity. That slit has proven itself a voyeur's view of the woodlot where I hunt.

So much so that I’ve added a suet holder to a tree that stands well within the blind's purview. The fat-rich block of suet compliments the deer-attracting pile of corn that I maintain. Which, by the way, is occasionally supplemented by stoking it wit some black oil sunflower seeds.

It’s not that deer particularly relish sunflower seeds but my goal is to try and get the winged critters to back off the shelled corn and instead focus on the other food stuff. It hasn’t worked out all that well, though during this holiday season I'm sure it’s the thought that counts.

Especially now that it is winter, the harshest of seasons when collecting enough internal fuel becomes a daily life or death ritual for song birds.

Thing is, I’ve come to truly appreciate these little balls of feather that are supported by toothpick-thin sticks for legs. They are here - existing under grueling conditions - when supposed more robust bird species have taken the autumn express to more comfortable surroundings many miles south of our lake-effect winters.

So our cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers along with slate-colored juncos and tufted titmice tough it out. And occasionally spar when a member of their clan tries to muscle in on the suet block. That’s fair enough so long that at some point each gets a crack at the food dish.

Still, it would be nice if they all got along the way the chickadees do. Then there would be peace an earth, or at least in the bird world anyway.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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