I’ve found a new distractor more powerful than the call of incoming emails and on-line news updates. It’s also a great boon to writers. It’s a bird feeder.
A few years ago, my husband and I bought and hung suet and seed dispensers and sat motionless at the window, until we gave up on the possibility that they would ever attract birds. Eventually we gave the feeders away, only to learn from a birder friend that we had probably chosen seeds most appreciated by Baltimore orioles or some other Eastern Seaboard fliers that don’t often visit the Pacific Northwest.
Last winter, in the middle of a snowstorm, softhearted liberals that we are, we felt a renewed obligation to take care of our avian neighbors, recognizing the obvious, namely, that they are too lazy to fly south and we are rewarding their indolence with a handout. The local hummingbirds have been on the dole for years, so we asked ourselves, Why not upgrade small perching birds to the list of recipients of our largesse?
When we brought the free-food dispensing equipment home we were too cold and wet to go outside and search for a place to hang it, so it stayed indoors with us for eleven months. So much for our commitment to wildlife.
However, on a cold but sunny day last week my husband hung the feeders, opting to suspend them from the tree branches before a snowstorm, and not after one. The right seeds and the approach of winter came together to bring multitudes of small birds — sparrows, finches, juncos– to the hanging troughs, leaving the larger ones — robins and jays — to scavenge the leftovers that spill to the ground.
The binoculars are standing by, ready if a new bird needs identifying. Also, they help us see the towhees kicking over leaves on the ground, attracted by the seeds but more interested in uncovering bugs. We comment on the bullying of the skinny birds by the chubby ones, and the agitation of those too impatient to wait their turns for a perch by the opening in the feeder.
One way this new distraction resembles owning a pet is the cost. These days, in addition to buying pills for our cat’s high blood pressure, pain medication for his elbow, and high-priced food for his kidneys, we are now running up bills for suet and seeds. Apart from the expense, though, the cat purrs all over us and keeps us warm, and the birds entertain us at a cost much cheaper than a movie.
And here’s how the feeder works for writers. I’ve rewritten one scene for four days. Hey, I just checked the feeder. Time to go out and buy more seeds.