Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My eye is on the sparrow

Actually, that's all I'm seeing at my backyard birdfeeder. Sparrows.

Back in the summer I had quite a variety of birds: cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees, and a bird which I think was a type of woodpecker. Now? Sparrows. I know all the birds haven't flown to warmer climes. The question, then, is: where are they?

I posed this question to my friend, who looked at me with pity before asking me what I was using as feed.

"I don't know," I said. "Seed. I get it in bags at the grocery store."

My friend winced, and gave me the address of a nearby birdseed emporium. I found my way there, and was suddenly in bird wonderland.

There I found every birdfeeding and bird-watching accessory known to man. Ground feeders. Pole feeders. Squirrel baffles. Birdhouses of all sizes, even bird apartment-buildings for purple martens. High-powered optics for viewing birds. And a puzzling array of foods: nyjer seed, peanuts, corn, you name it. Plus several seed blends, in enormous 20-pound bags.

After browsing around in delirium, I hesitantly approached the woman at the counter. She was a friendly-looking type, a little older than I am, with a pleasantly outdoorsy outfit of flannel shirt and jeans. I explained that I needed new birdseed, because I was only attracting sparrows.

Her demeanor changed slightly. "Are you buying your seed at the grocery store?" As if this were a destination of ill repute.

Guilty as charged. "Well, um ..."

"Millet!" she snapped, as if leveling a curse at me.

"Excuse me?"

"Those blends are full of millet. That's garbage, filler. Only sparrows will eat that." She patted my hand. "Let's get you some real seed."

I trailed in her wake, ashamed to have been feedy garbagey food to those little, brown garbage-eaters. Twenty minutes later, I staggered out of the store with a 20-lb. bag of pricey mixed seeds. No filler here! Nothing but the best!

When the birdfeeders became empty again, I filled them with the new mix. How exciting! I waited for the birds, in their wondrous variety, to descend on my little buffet.

And waited.

And waited.

This morning, first thing, I heard the dogs barking by the window. This was a very good sign, as their mission in life seems to be making sure I am alerted every time a bird enters the yard.

And there they were, in throngs, at least twice as many as I'd ever had at my feeders before, and ... they were all brown.

They were sparrows!


Jan said...

Thanks for describing your saga of bird seen and sparrows. I would so be like you. Let us know if any other birds like the "quality" birdseed!

Carolyn said...

Ah, yes. In my neighborhood, squirrels and chipmunks have no natural predators and have become both merciless and creative in their attacks on bird feeders. This year I, too, went to a bird emporium and invested in a large bag of very expensive seed -- sunflower seeds, already shelled and coated with something that birds would love and squirrels would not. The squirrels do, indeed, hate the new seed. So do the birds. Back to the grocery store!