By Erika Kar
It is always a treat when I see an email from my neighbor, Eric Burr, in my inbox. These emails always include a look into the natural world that is teeming with action all around us. While I love nature and am fairly aware, I don’t have the knowledge that he has. His emails put names and known cycles of the great outdoors to my casual observance.
According to Eric and Margrit Broennimann, their bird feeder at their upper Lost River home had been mostly unattended until after the first of the year, when two blackcapped chickadees showed up. Until the little chickadees arrived at the bird feeder, a hairy woodpecker had been the only patron.
This makes me think of an all-you-can-eat buffet at some all-inclusive resort where there is just one large man wearing a big Hawaiian shirt going back to the buffet over and over.
He probably has a stain on his shirt and his buttons are likely straining to keep his stomach contained. The buffet attendants are sighing and maybe a little tired of him eating all of the teriyaki meatballs. But finally some new patrons show up! Two petite little ladies, prim and proper arrive at the buffet. Their hair is impeccable, as are their manners. What a relief.
I am not sure, but I doubt this is how Eric and Margrit view their birds. Instead, they go on to say that their mountain ash had been mostly stripped of its berries by robins and rufous sided towhees early in the fall. They used to have a dozen or so chickadees with occasional siskins and Cassin’s finches. They were happy to just have recently seen two varied thrushes and a flicker come through to take the last of the mountain ash berries. The ravens and barred owls seem to be around in their normal numbers.
Eric sent his report to Dana Visalli, who replied that activity in his feeders down-valley had picked up after some earlier worries that there were fewer birds than usual. He mentioned that he has goldfinches draining his feeders daily. The annual Christmas Bird Count showed more species (80) and more individuals than average. In Dana’s own words, “So as usual, there’s no telling what’s going on.”
If we go back to the buffet analogy, it would seem as though perhaps another buffet elsewhere had some better food and maybe even better drinks, so the usual patrons were gorging themselves at the new hot buffet first, before going to their usual haunts. The goldfinches are the frat boys of the bird world and have an insatiable appetite for food and drink, as well as variety. Ravens and barred owls are the middle-aged parents that keep some sort of order and are always around the resort, but not necessarily at the buffet. None of this is scientific (obviously), but if Dana Visalli doesn’t know what exactly is going on, I’m happy to throw my joking theory into the mix. If we see the supermodels of the bird world, the flamingos, show up at a Lost River feeder, we’ll know we are in real trouble.