Woodpecker Wars

My homemade bird feeder is providing me with hours of free entertainment, thanks to the local bird population. It’s really just a plastic water jug with the side cut out, and poked full of those disposable chopsticks for perches. I’ve duct taped it to the trellis out on the balcony, the one that’s half off the wall but held upright by a very large honeysuckle vine.

For the longest while that stash of seed was the exclusive domain of a family of Blue Tits. They’re brave little creatures, and not at all discouraged by my presence at a table four feet away, with Jake at my feet. An entire family visits regularly, and I get a kick out of the teenagers, who jump in front of their parents with their mouths open and wings quivering, demanding that the food at their feet be placed directly in their mouths. Mom and Dad comply, but I don’t know how long that’s going to go on. They look old enough to drive a car by now.

However it is that word gets around in the avian kingdom, the Blue Tits are now sharing the balcony with a number of different species that are new to my North American eyes. There’s one that looks something like a black-capped chickadee, but bigger. I think it’s a Great Tit.  There’s a greenish yellow bird that I’m pretty sure is a Greenfinch, and something that looks like a Nuthatch with the long beak and eye stripe, but not the pretty colours. It was just kind of brown. A female, maybe?

The woodpeckers are the most fun. I’m pretty sure they’re Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and there are a dozen of them in the trees outside my balcony. Lately, a few of them have taken to visiting the birdfeeder. The first time I saw one sitting in the middle of the feeder, pecking away with that familiar rat-tat-tat, I was sure he’d go right through the plastic bottom. Who knew that woodpeckers ate seeds? I thought they ate bugs. Anyway, this morning there were three of them out there, one inside the feeder and two on the railing bickering at each other. They’re three times the size of any of the other birds, and everyone scatters when they show up. Then they all reappear just as quickly once the Woodpeckers are gone.

After much pushing and pulling, the giant Benjamina Fig tree has been relocated from the corner of our living room to a corner of the balcony, near the feeder. This might sound silly, but the first time I looked out the window and saw birds flitting around on its branches, I got a bit of a lump in my throat. Birds need to be free, and trees need birds to perch in them. It’s the natural order of things, and it feels good to make that right.  The tree seems happy about it, too. Benjamina figs usually protest at the smallest amount of handling, and drop a batch of leaves. Not this guy. Baby leaflets are busting out all over that thing.