Monday, September 22, 2003

September 22, 2003

Everybody is migrating or has already left. The white wings disappeared without my noticing, and the hummer population is definitely dwindling. The black chins seem to be gone, too, but a very small bird that has been feeding frequently at my office window feeder is possibly an immature black chin. He wags his tail when he feeds, and has a very faint circle around his throat. I can almost make out purplish.feathers in that band. There’s a broad bill who is so fat--presumably preparing to move on--that he looks like a blue and green feathered ping pong ball.

The activity around the seed feeder has also diminished--I am seeing far fewer cardinals of any age or sex. This may be because of the feeder itself. The only birds that ever mastered it were the finch and the genius young male cardinal. I left it open for a while, but the finch just perched up there and pulled out seed after seed, tossing them on the ground till he found one he liked. He would have emptied the whole thing several times a day if I let him. So I closed it, and now it can only be opened by cardinals (it works on a balance, so only birds of a certain weight can cause the door to open). Unfortunately, only Genius Boy ever figured it out--and he has gotten very good at it. First he hops onto the perch, facing to the right. Then he reverses position, facing left, and sticks his head way inside the opening. When he has a seed, he hops on top of the feeder to open and eat it. Then back to the perch, to repeat the whole operation. It actually looks kind of difficult, but he of all cardinals can have sunflower seeds now at any time of the day, no matter what the weather, with no competition.

When I go outside now to throw a few seeds on the ground for the less intelligent birds, I can always see that Genius Boy has been there, by the sunflower shells on top of the feeder.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

September 9, 2003
Well, I had to lower the feeder to a couple of inches above the big flower pot I feed seeds in. Then I had to tape it open. A finch caught on very quickly, and even learned to use the perch. Then a woodpecker learned it, though didn’t get on the perch. The cardinals just kept looking around for seeds, occasionally pecking on the clear plastic sides of the feeder.

Finally, one of the young male cardinals put two and two together and figured it out. He has even learned to hop on the perch when the thing isn’t taped open. So far he’s the only one, though, and the finch seems very disappointed that his former trick no longer works.

Two male cardinals, including (I think) the young genius who knows how to use the feeder, have been traveling together. One is a full adult, the other still sort of splotchy and with his bill just starting to lighten. The weird thing is that the young one constantly begs to be fed when in the company of the adult, even using the baby whistling-teakettle whine. The even weirder thing is that the adult sometimes feeds him, and never drives him away. What an indulgent papa, and what a lucky young bird!