April 17, 2012

Becoming a bird-watching family. Yeah, we're dorky like that.

Cardinals in the back yard
When Bee was born, one of my aunts and uncles gifted him a bird feeder. Now, this aunt and uncle have a history of giving very unique and memorable gifts. Like when I was a kid in the 80's (crap, am I that old?!) and they would give us cooperative board games, like Save The Whales. No one else gave us cooperative board games, which is probably why I still remember laying on the floor with my sister moving our little silver whales around the board. When I was pregnant with Zippy, these were the only relatives that thought to buy us anything like "The Family Book" about how families come in many variations ("Some families are different colors...") and later gave Zippy "Mama Voted For Obama" (yes, she did!). Just last week, they mailed the boys a kit for Sea Monkeys. Fun stuff.

But I was like, a bird feeder? For a baby gift? Hmmm. Interesting. Please don't tell them, but it sat in our garage for a good year and a half.

Then last summer I decided to pull it out and feed the birds. It was one of those feeders that attaches to a window with suction cups, so I put it on the window right outside our breakfast nook. And then, then, I understood what an awesome gift it was. We had so much fun last summer watching the birds come to the window. Zippy, my little animal enthusiast, loved it. We went to the local bookstore and picked up a great little field guide about birds, so we could figure out what kind of birds we were seeing. We learned how to identify four different types of sparrows, which is what we saw the most, but also finches and grackles and mourning doves. We'd be eating breakfast and on other side of the window would be these little birds, enjoying their sunflower seeds. Yes, we became a dorky bird-watching family. We're dangerously close to learning bird-calls and wearing field vests. Someone stage an intervention, quick!

Zippy studied his little bird book. One day, while driving across town, he informed me he had seen a heron fly by. A what?  I promptly informed him we don't have herons around here. Aren't those ocean birds? Oh, but I was wrong. Score one for the kid. We also saw a lot of turkey vultures, but fortunately not in our yard. Those are some ugly birds. They have bald heads so they can stick them in carcasses to eat. Gross. Unless you are 5-years-old, in which case it is totally cool.

Zippy painting his birdhouse
As soon as we noticed birds coming around this spring we put out our bird feeder. I actually bought a different feeder, because as much as I loved having birds at our kitchen window, they made one heck of a mess. Instead I hung a feeder in one of the flowerbeds, which we can still see from the kitchen, although the birds aren't quite so up-close-and-personal. Maybe because we started attracting them earlier this year, we've gotten lots of birds we never saw last year, like cardinals and brown-headed cowbirds. Cardinals I recognized easily. Brown-headed cowbirds I had never heard of in my life. Good thing we've got our bird bible.

We're planning to put another flower bed at the far end of our yard this summer and have a couple of bird houses the boys painted that are ready to be hung out there. Zippy painted red flowers on his, in hopes of attracting hummingbirds. I'm not so sure they live in birdhouses, but I'm not gonna tell him that. And, as we've already seen, my 5-year-old knows more about birds than I do.

So, bottom-line: Totally fun to have a bird feeder in the yard. There is something peaceful about watching the birds, the shared experience of spotting them together with the kids, and then throw in the educational value of learning about them. Good stuff!

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