Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Sharing Rare Birds at Feeders Can Be Rewarding
January 11, 2020
By Steve Grinley
It is surprising how many rare or unusual birds show up at bird feeders. This month alone, a Painted Bunting is visiting a feeder in Plymouth and Western Tanagers are visiting feeders in Sandwich on Cape Cod, Plaistow, NH and North Hampton, NH. Bullocks orioles are visiting feeders in Stratham, NH and New Castle, NH. Closer to home, an Orange-crowned Warbler is partaking of suet in Gloucester and a Baltimore Oriole is visiting a feeder in Merrimac. Over the years, we have hosted such uncommon birds as Dickissel, Clay-colored Sparrow, and White-winged Dove at our store feeders.
If you are lucky enough to have an unusual bird show up in your yard, you then have to make the decision whether or not share that bird with others. Depending on the rarity of the bird, you could have tens of birders stopping by to view it. That can be a problem, particularly if you live in a crowded neighborhood or have less than understanding neighbors. In most cases though, it becomes a rewarding experience for the homeowner.
Dana Fox, and her husband Bob, hosted a Cape May Warbler in North Andover in the winter of 2013. I thought it would be appropriate to share with you again some of the sentiments that Dana shared with us about the experience:
“On Friday, January 4th at 9:30 am a “special” bird arrived at our feeders. It was only a few days earlier that I had speculated with a good birding friend about what I would do if a “special” bird arrived in my yard. As I recall now, I voiced a reluctance to have a raft of folks coming into my yard – both Bob and I are avid gardeners and are quite particular about our garden.
“Well, if you have been watching Massbird recently, it wasn’t more than a few minutes later (my email record says 9:34 am!!!) that I posted the arrival of the bird and began to make a few phone calls to near-by birding friends. Soon, she who along the way became he and then back to she, even had a name “Matilda”.
“What has transpired since then is quite remarkable and should be noted – in three weeks 85 guests of all ages came to see her and none went away disappointed. The birding community was gracious, thoughtful, generous and encouraging.
“The only “ground rules” that I set up were that people call to set up an appointment and that they take off their boots. We decided that viewing the bird from our kitchen window since the feeders are right out the window and there are no other real first floor options was the best idea – besides it was warm!! A white (yes, white !!!! ) tile kitchen floor would survive if boots were removed.
“Being encouraged to be especially tidy in my kitchen and breezeway wasn’t such a bad idea either. I decided folks would have to adjust to us eating breakfast or lunch and me in my bathrobe (never Bob!) if circumstances prevailed. Somehow Christmas decorations got put away.
“My vivid memories include:
· generous visitors coming, some bearing meal worms, peanut butter, or leaving funds for her care
· exchanging so many wonderful birding memories with our visitors
· observing her plumage in infinite detail and her distinctive behavior while far from her normal Caribbean wintering home
· phone calls – ideas on how best to care for her – even a Godmother
· emails of encouragement and interest
· showing our array of feeders and log rolling plastic bottles to all assembled
· finding other good birds in the yard with our guests while they waited
· pictures shared – trying to track her progress, comparing her to last year’s Odione, NH male
· sharing recipes – even serving soup and drinks
· international gatherings some days
· old friends coming – meeting so many birders – some new to birding, some old hands – and some young birders so enthusiastic and bright
· being totally overwhelmed by how many people have read my posts and have been tracking her progress
· fretting over how she would survive in the bitter cold, and
· watching how I, the Jewish mother with no qualifications, and Bob, the much more reserved of the two of us, adapted to a very different life.
“Yes, hosting a “special” bird can be a positive experience. I know, and hope that it can be for all who choose to share those special moments.”