It started out harmlessly enough. When I found myself with an abundance of leftover black sesame seeds from a failed baking experiment, I figured why not share, and tossed them out onto the back deck.
I chanced to walk by later that day and was delightfully surprised at the trio of delicate feathered creatures assembled there enjoying their meager repast, each seemingly with its own personality.
I watched for a time as they and others came and went. I was hooked! When the seeds ran out, so did my entertainment. Woe!
How to get them back? At $1/oz, a similarly devout offering was out of the question, so that evening I traipsed down to the local supermarket and found some all-purpose wildlife seeds with plenty of variety.
I got the biggest bag. Not knowing what I was doing, I figured it would bring a variety of birds.
Oh, it did. And families of possums… and skunks… and racoons. In my naivete (I now know), I had thrown the seed medley by the handful on the ground, so that by the time the birds got around to visiting the next morning, the food was mostly gone.
With plenty of seed remaining in the big bag, I got to thinking that maybe the shell-on sunflower seeds were the problem. Small game probably weren't interested the tiny round seeds, so I reasoned that they were likely coming for the slightly-larger sunflower treats. I decided to simply filter those out of the mix, which took a half a day BY HAND after I discovered that the holes in my colander weren’t equal to the task.
I threw all of the sunflower seeds out into the yard that very night and let the nocturnals have at it! The whole pile was gone by morning, and I was ready to start fresh.
Into the yard with handfuls of "bird-only" seeds I went, flinging them like a candy elf at Christmas. It was Saturday, and I was determined to have a good flocking time. By the time the backyard looked like a tickertape parade and I was settled indoors with a cup of tea to enjoy the show, the birds were just beginning to land. Ahh, bliss…
I hadn’t counted on the cats.
My visage - formerly beaming contentedly at the idyllic scene - turned into a facsimile of “The Scream” as three cats suddenly bulldozed their way through my group of new friends. Tweets turned into shrieks of horror and I sat frozen, having personally served up the smörgåsbord, wondering just HOW people ever managed this particular joy. I knew people watched birds, had birds, enjoyed lawn birds… how in God’s name did they keep from sacrificing them to demon felines from hell?
Shakily, I placed my cup down on the console table and slowly backed down the hallway to my bedroom, averting my eyes from the carnage, then proceeded to hide under the covers for the rest of the afternoon in shame and revulsion. I had blood on my hands now. I feared they would never come back… either that, or I was due for a scene out of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” the next time I left the house. Well due, at that.
What to do, what to do. I still wanted birds, wanted to befriend and possibly eventually cavort à la Disney princess style with them. Dare I say, I might even like to have a crow bring me shinies one day, but that was a far-off pipe dream. How to regain the magic without wholesale slaughter?
Bear in mind, I was very new at this. I live in a semi-rural neighborhood (what gave it away?) that isn’t like suburbia, where people must entice creatures with heated plastic lodgings and fancy food bowls. Thus, it hadn’t occurred to me yet to go that route. I soldiered on.
If people enjoyed birds regularly, I reasoned they must not have cats around. Several hundred dollars worth of anti-cat measures, traps, sprays, etc. later -- I will spare you the details, as that is for another story -- I had finally amused Frank enough for him to deign to help.
Frank is my next door neighbor. You have to understand that, out here, “next door” isn’t proximate like you get in the city and ‘burbs, but he is close enough that he was getting more enjoyment out of my missteps than I will probably ever get out of the birds. He meandered by one day and, after the normal greetings about the weather, he inquired about the recent live-trap activity around my homestead. Yes, I admitted, I had been trying to relocate some cats.
“In the country? You might as well try to nail Jell-o to a wall. Why you tryin’ to get rid of them?”
“Birds, Frank. I want birds in my yard.”
“Well you have birds in your yard. Everyone does.”
“Yes but I want more of them. And I want them to live.”
“Ahh.” A pause. “You ever thought of gettin’ a feeder?”
“Naw, like the thing you put the seed in. You get them at the feed store down yonder.” (That meant in town.)
“Oh. No, I didn’t know. I will have to check that out. Thanks, Frank!”
I couldn’t wait, and so the moment he shambled off, I was in the car on my mission. Sure enough, they had them. What I hadn’t counted on were different sizes, so I bought several, just to make sure that I wouldn’t be thwarted, this time. I bought tree-hanging ones, ones you hang on a fence, several that you stake with a pole in the ground so that you can sprinkle them around the yard... it was going to be awesome!
Fortunately, the seed fit in all of them! I was beside myself, and filled up every single one of them. My yard looked like a junkyard aviary, and I couldn’t have been more proud.
These days, I have a new obsession. Washing and waxing my car. These feathered freaks still remember months ago when it was a 24/7 buffet here, and now they won’t go away. I have to wash the car probably three times per week. I have power-scrubbers, Turtle Wax, special headlight polish, tarps, a carport that is utterly useless, stock in the parent company of Windex... it is a nightmare.
I’m thinking of adopting some cats.