Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hitchcock Moments

by Pa Rock
Bird Watcher

It's still cold in the Ozarks.  Daytime temperatures are in the forties, and at night they dip below freezing.  It's not unmanageably cold, but it is uncomfortable - especially for someone who was living in the Arizona desert until a few short weeks ago.

I am concentrating on unpacking and getting the house in order when I would much rather be outside.  A couple of times a day I go outside to take empty boxes to the garage, or to pick up sticks and branches that have blown down from the numerous trees on the property.  I have two brush piles, an older one when has been on the back acreage for a long time, and a newer one that I started when I was back here doing yard work last fall.  The new one is closer to the house, and it already is home to some small birds who fly out each time I through more brush on their sanctuary.  They are nesting, one must suppose.

I'm a big believer in brush piles.  They provide shelter and places of safety for small creatures.

I have put out four squirrel feeders for the many gray squirrels who scamper about the yard, but the squirrels, two weeks on, have not found any of them.  I am driven to suspect that my neighborhood squirrels must be the dutmbest in Howell County.  (But, in their defense, the ground is covered with acorns and hickory nuts, so the ears of dried corn may not be all that appetizing - yet.)

(Local novelist Daniel Woodrell refers to this as "Howl" County.  I like that.)

I also have bird feeders in the front and back yards.  The one in the front yard hangs from a small tree that is just outside of the window where I type.  I have it filled with a mixture of "wild bird" feed.  So far it has attracted many small birds which appear to be some type of sparrows, a pair of mourning doves who visit daily, a pair of cardinals, a small woodpecker (not to be confused with the local - and far more numerous - peckerwoods) who comes every day and also wakes me up in the mornings, and a few common grackles who enjoy the sunflower seeds in the mixture.

Several robins have also been by looking for live food - bugs and worms.

The feeder in the back yard was put up by the previous owners so they could sit outside and enjoy the birds as they had their morning coffee - or evening beer.  I put sunflower seeds in it a week or so ago, and it was immediately swarmed by a small group of grackles.  Most days I feed them one large cup of sunflower seeds, but they have been known to eat two.

Today I took a break from unpacking and went to the back door to take a quick look at the grackles at the feeder.  Normally ten or fifteen congregate there, and then fly off whenever I open the door.  When I pulled the curtain back to look out today, I had quite a surprise.  The yard and beyond was blanketed in common grackles, and more were flying down every moment.  There had to have been several hundred of the shiny black birds scratching and pecking for food on the ground.  Soon they rose as a group and flew off.  I looked back out twenty minutes later, and they were there again.  Then when I sat down in front of the living room window to blog, they descended on the front yard.

What have I started?  How long before they begin bombarding the house demanding to be fed?

I think I'm beginning to identify with Tippi Hedren in the Hitchcock classic, "The Birds"!

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