The best guests don’t want you to go to any trouble on their account. Our local birds are terrific in that regard. They don’t want any fuss made over them, gosh no. The moment I see the first hummingbird of the season, I roar inside and excavate my hummingbird feeder from the back of the closet, scrub it good, boil up the sugar water, cool it, pour it, and hang the feeder up, and the hummers eye it suspiciously from the next yard over and watch it fill up with ants. After a couple weeks I pour out the ant syrup and put the feeder away until next year. It’s sort of a routine.
We have about four kinds of birds. We have scrub jays, who like to take mice up to the roof and bash their heads against the gutter. It’s unnerving. We have crows, every one of them, I think, deaf. We have starlings. And we have little brown jobs.
Dave went to some trouble to build in a chickadee house in the decorative top to the raspberry posts. He looked it up in the internets and drilled the right hole size and measured the right drop to the floor and put in a clean-out door in the back and everything. The crows across the street yowled “Whaat? Whaat? Whaat?” The chickadees lined up on a branch in the neighbor’s yard and had themselves a bitchfest. “As if,” the first one said. “Warbler hole,” sneered the second. “Totally,” sniped the third, and the fourth one was all, “Whatever.” The house has been available for six years now. It’s still pristine.
We bought a small coral-bark maple, twigs aflame, that came with a hummingbird nest already in it. I put up a tiny sign, facing the sky, “AVAILABLE. Alberta Arts District Cutie. Move-in Ready.” No takers. I planted a host of flowers said to be irresistible to birds of various sorts. They perched in the neighbors’ yards and admired the hell out of them from there. I got a really good pair of binoculars. Most people are better birders than I am. It’s hard to get a good look at them when they’re flapping away that fast. When I finally draw a bead, I commit it to memory: four inches. White eye stripe. Gray breast. Pointy beak. Got it! This is what my friends in Maine call a “wobbla!” I run inside for the field guide, and although there are five hundred wobblas therein, my carefully observed bird is not among them. Now, did it have buffy yellow feet? Whitish undertail coverts? I have absolutely no recollection. There are only about four things you can even notice on a four-inch bird, and I’ve missed three of them. I will the next time, too.
I’ve set up a little room upstairs just for writing. The main attraction is Dave has agreed not to go in it. But also there is a tree right outside the windows, its branches nearly scraping the house. It’s full of birds. We went to the bird store and bought a nice thistle sock and some nice thistle seeds and a nice block of suet and we hung them up nice and close so I could get a good look. It wasn’t that much trouble. Word got out instantly. I haven’t seen bird one in that tree since.