Monday, January 24, 2011

THE BREAKFAST CONTINGENT


The breakfast contingent. Feathered freeloaders. Baggers with beaks. Whatever you call them, I consider them welcome dependents. Part of my riverbank family. Hungry habitués I willingly feed in exchange for their company.

I take their needs seriously. Theirs are usually the first mouths that get fed each morning—before Moon the Dog's, before Myladylove's, before my own. Usually…because most of the time I toss out a few scoops of cracked corn when I step onto the deck to check on the river and whatever world beyond that's visible in the pre-dawn darkness. The hanging basket of sunflower seeds and the wire cadge with the suet block seldom need changing first thing.  

However, this morning I noticed both gallon-sized seed feeders were all but empty, and that not a crumb of the pressed suet blocks remained in the cadges. Given Myladylove's work schedule, I decided to wait until after we'd breakfasted to take care of things. And I because I didn't wan't to trample the scattered corn into the fresh snow, I held off on that, too.

Not a popular decision. Even though it was still pre-sunrise when I went back out, it was light enough to see. And what I saw were droves of impatient and doubtless famished birds, perched and salivating on nearby limbs. Cardinals, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, wren, woodpeckers, finches, sparrows. Not to mention the pair of mallards paddling about in the pool below the cottage riffle, trying to act as if they were not watching for the measure of corn I toss on the bank whenever they're around. More than a few of my avian wards looked to be giving me the evil eye. 

What did I do? Well, nobody likes to be rushed by birds…but you can't reason with them, either. So I apologized and promised I'd try and do a better job of keeping ahead of things. I also informed anyone listening that yesterday afternoon, Myladylove and I made the short trek to the farm supply store, where we purchased an additional 100 pounds of sunflower seeds, 50 pounds of cracked corn, and 24 blocks of suet.

Then I hustled back indoors before I got pecked, flogged, or trampled. I wonder if Saint Francis had to put up with such cheekiness?
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33 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh yes, Grizz, those little fellows know exactly how to make one feel guilty - love that last little chap - don't know it at all.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

The bird you wondered about is a white-breasted nuthatch, one of my favorite dooryard visitors. They are stoutly built tree-climbers, typically go headfirst down trees, walk along the bottom side of horizontal limbs, and in similar ways defy gravity. They're quite tame and seemingly inquisitive, and will sit on the side of a tree six feet away—making eye-to-contact with their black shoe-button eyes—and watch you work or fill their feeder. Their call is a nasal "yank, yank, yank," repeated almost continually as they ratchet up and down the tree.

Scott said...

My birds always get fed before we do; after all, it's 65 degrees in the house, and it's 0 degrees outside--at least today it was.

Arija said...

You poor sod beset by a bunch of beggars. You were lucky they weren't nesting or they would have pulled your hair out as well.

I love all your feathered friends,particularly the little cheeky ones and of course your great shots of them.

The Solitary Walker said...

St Francis did not!

And, Grizz, you are far too flawed and human to be a St Francis of the Riverbank. Thank God!

Great post!

Grizz………… said...

Scott…

My birds do, too…except it takes about 15-20 minutes to attend to each and every feeder. Which meant my biggest bird (Myladylove) would have been pushed in getting ready to leave for work.

A man hast'a do what a man hast'a do….

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

They're all cheeky! And voracious. Yeah, and cute. It's not like I kept them waiting more that fifteen minutes beyond their usual feed time. I think they were just surly because it's Monday.

Grizz………… said...

Solitary…

Yeah, I kinda figured St. Francis received more respect.

BTW, I'm aghast you'd consider me a flawed human being! Those discrepancies you see are merely quirks, some no more than distorted perceptions. My foibles are few and far between, my vagaries…uh…vague. I'm weak to temptation, peculiar in habits, and given to frivolousness and irresponsibility only when compared to normal people. I'll grant you my likeness is not apt to appear on a bill of U.S. currency anytime soon…but neither is it likely to find its way onto a wanted poster—at least so long as a youthful tenure with the Monkey Wrench Gang remains a secret.

No sir! I think "flawed" is too harsh. A little "scratched-and-dented" maybe, or "slightly bent," perhaps even "remaindered,"…but not flawed.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'll accept your ingratiating excuses, my longtime riverbank friend, as they were so beautifully and heart-meltingly wrought!

'Flawed' was indeed too harsh an indictment - 'human' was indeed nearer the mark. A membership of the Monkey Wrench Gang is a saintly badge of honour to me. Your whole blog is a divine blessing to us all - but, thankfully, of the scratched, dented and, yes, even slightly bent, kind.

(Pity there's no hope for the US dollar bill, though. Your image there would rout the other incumbents hands-down!)

Linda said...

Or maybe they were just worried that you weren't feeling well today and wondering what they could do for you. :)

George said...

Rest assured that St. Francis would be quite pleased with you, Grizz. I know of no other human being who does more to attend to the needs of the birds than you. St. Francis might argue, however, that you have not been really tested until you are giving equal attention to the wolves. But surely you do not have wolves on your Ohio riverbank.

Hilary said...

They sure can eat a lot, can't they? And those sparrows are really messy eaters. They've got you well trained. :) Beautiful pics as always.

Grizz………… said...

Solitary…

I appreciate your willingness to revise the original evaluation, and accede to the more modest charge of faltering humanness. Moreover, I'm gratified that you view my early support of clandestine Hayduke-style eco-anarchy with respect—though honesty compels me to confess I have since somewhat modified my ways.

My image on the dollar bill would indeed have an impact on national solvency—I'm afraid we as nation would tank about as quickly as those flagging banana republics who have not yet joined their neighbors and switched to a drug-producing economy.

Grizz………… said...

Linda…

I don't think so…I saw the looks in their beady little eyes—demanding rather than sympathetic.

Grizz………… said...

George…

My friend, if only I were half as unfailingly noble as you say…

Should St Francis insist wolves be required to complete my novitiate duties, I'm doomed, since the best I can do hereabouts are coyotes and the occasional feral hound.

Grizz………… said...

Hilary…

Combining the various feeders, I go through about a gallon-and-a-half of sunflower seeds, maybe two-thirds of that in cracked corn, and half block of suet per day…unless the pileateds get to whacking the suet cakes. Not very expensive if you shop, which I do—but a surprising pile of food per month. But when the weather is bad, they can keep you busy keeping them supplied.

Kelly said...

Hahaha! I LOVED this post. You are so right and described the looks the birds give you when the feeders are empty perfectly. Our birds get fed first too...they have me trained so well. This weekend it was cold. My hands nearly froze as I tried to open up the suet blocks...

Kelly said...

p.s. I don't think St. Francis had to put up with it!! :-)

Arija said...

The ratio of mounds of food, the getting thereof and expense against the pleasure it is to see your neighbours flocking to your porch is definitely weighted on the pleasure side, even when you get cold going out in slippers and pyjamas to feed the staving masses.

Grizz………… said...

Kelly x2…

I go out and have a nuthatch clamped upside-down on the trunk of a tree four feet from where I'm standing fiddling with the feeder—all the while staring me right in the eye and going, "yank, yank, yank." Chickadees on limbs even closer, also staring. A red-bellied woodpecker over there wanting me to get to the suet holder. And song sparrows waiting for corn. While a wren is puffing around like a feathered teakettle. Yup, those are impatient, demanding birds—and I get a real kick out of being their servant. Weird, huh?

Hey, I'm with you on those suet blocks. I swear there are mornings—always when it's sleeting, raining, or freezing cold—when I can't get the blasted packages open in less than ten minutes of fumbling. I get more than a bit frustrated sometimes.

I suspect you're right re. St. Francis not having the same bird issues…otherwise he's be the saint of bird stews.

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

You're quite right—I see my modest cash outlay for bird feed as a real bargain for the daily pleasure derived—even when you add in the early-morning discomfort and demand factor.

Anonymous said...

I live in Georgia and was thinking only our birds were the hungry one's. Love your site.

Gail said...

I love how you 'know' what is best and right for your natural neighbors - wow. And that they communicate with you and you with them. Our birds let us know when the feeders are low - I swear they swing hard on them so they bang in to the house, I swear. They gather and wait and not too patiently, I might add, and for that matter, neither do I when I am anticipating a nice meal. :-)

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Grizz………… said...

Anonymous…

I don't think location makes much difference to a bird's seeming attitude—when they're hungry and maybe impatient (though many would claim the latter crosses the line into anthropomorphism) they act different. If you're a keen observer, it's pretty easy to see. Besides, you Georgia folks have had some serious winter down there! Enough to make any bird hungry and impatient.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Birds, squirrels, and other critters are just like kids…hang around them long enough and even their most bizarre behavior is easily deciphered. My old dog, Moon, can read me like a book…and I can do the same with her—while Myladylove has both our numbers down pat.

When you hear the feeder banging, feed your birds!

Stay warm, take care…

ellen abbott said...

we are measured by how we treat the least of us. down here, it's water I have to make sure they have plenty of especially in our hot dry summers. beautiful bird pics.

Grizz………… said...

Ellen…

Water's always critical, of course—though here we have plenty available, even in winter. I watch birds every day stand on the edge of the ice and drink.

Yes, I do believe we are judged and measured by how were treat other creatures. Which isn't to say ranching and farming and hunting are wrong or evil, just that all such interactions must incorporate a measure of honor and notion of dignity.

Wanda..... said...

:)

Grizz………… said...

Wanda…

Thank you…hope everything is okay.

Jayne said...

LOL..... I often imagine them actually "scolding" me as they chitter up in the trees waiting for me to get done refilling the feeders!

Grizz………… said...

Jayne…

Scolding, impatience, anticipation, or just pre-breakfast muttering…I'm not always sure what the chittering means, but believe it means something.

Freda said...

But worth it for the pictures and the fun they give. We have to ration ours to one feeder of seed a day - they get the fat balls and peanuts etc., but they seem to go for the marigold hearts first.

Grizz………… said...

Freda…

You bet. A 50-lb bag of sunflower seeds costs me $12-14; 50-lbs of cracked corn, $8, and suet cakes, 45¢ each. Call it $5 per week, maybe a bit more. A real bargain for the pleasure received.