12 Backyard Birdies

So I’ve been using this app to count the birds in my backyard, called BirdLog, because I figure while I’m watching the critters, I may as well also be counting them and doing my part for Citizen Science and all. It’s a really cool app. Nobody paid me to say that, btw. I just really like it.

I have this thing though where, when I am counting things, I can’t help but turn it into a version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” in my head. It is an affliction. I did it with the items found in Ed Gein’s house, too. (You know, “One the twelfth day of Christmas, Ed Gein gave to me 12 bones and fragments, 11 human skull bowls, 10 female heads,” and on and on.)

And so, I present to you, The Twelve Birds of My Yard

*A hem*

The Twelve Birds of My Yard

On the first day of this week

These birdies came to me

12 tough-guy starlings

11 common grackles

10 red-winged blackbirds

9 fighting cowbirds

8 dark-eyed juncos

7 little sparrows

6 tufted titmice

5 … bluuueeee… jays

4 mourning doves

3 chickadees

2 red-bellies

and a fat carolina wren

Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.

(As a aside, I tried to sing this to Jp, who protested loudly saying “No Christmas songs, please!” Well, excuse me, mister. This is not a Christmas song. This is a song about birds. Hrmph.)

Backyard Bird Dining Customs – Weird Facts!

Unlike the protagonist of my new story, Carolina (shameless plug, sorry), I did not watch birds as a child, or even a teenager. I grew up in a relatively well-wooded suburb, and I’m sure there were plenty of birds around, but I was busy with other things (like trying to will a pet unicorn into existence, but that’s another story.) I did have pet birds (cockatiels) but never really turned my gaze outward to the trees.

So now as an adult having just picked up this bird watching hobby, everything is new to me! Bird fights on the porch over a peanut? Most exciting thing to happen all day! Red-winged blackbirds hanging out with the starlings? FASCINATING. A pileated woodpecker on the neighbor’s tree? HOLD THE PHONE MY LIFE IS COMPLETE. It’s all brand new and exciting.

Even the way the birds eat is fascinating to me, and when I see a particular behavior (e.g. the chickadees lining up politely on our clothes line to wait for their turn at the feeder) I look it up in one of our bird feeder guides that we’ve acquired.

So what have I learned about bird behavior? What wisdom have I brought back from the North American Birdfeeder Handbook? Which facts absolutely BLEW MY MIND? Funny you should ask.

  1. Chickadees employ a strict hierarchy, meaning there is one chickadee who is the biggest, baddest chickadee in the
    I'm the baddest chickadee up in this yard!
    I’m the baddest chickadee up in this yard!

    flock. All the other chickadees give him the chance to eat first. Then the second biggest, baddest chickadee takes his turn, and so on. They all kind of look like cute little fluffy puffballs to me, so I’ll just trust the birds to determine who the most badass is.

  2. Male cardinals, while perfectly polite during breeding season, can be total douche nozzles during the winter, chasing the females away from the feeder. Hey, buddy! Just because you’re pretty doesn’t mean you get to boss your wife around, geez. (Though to be fair, this is pretty typical birdy behavior from what I can discern, and not that serious of an annoyance to the female.) Oh, another fun fact about cardinals is that they mate for life, which is not typically the case for a species where the male is so gorgeous. I guess I would feel kind of lucky as the mate of a particularly brilliant cardinal dude, knowing that his pretty feathers were just for my enjoyment. Suck it, other cardinal bitches!
  3. Doves and pigeons are basically the same kind of bird. They even both feed their nestlings a concoction called “pigeon milk” (aka crop milk,) which sounds vile but I’m sure is delicious to a baby pigeon/dove.
  4. Blue Jays are known to imitate the calls of hawks, a type of raptor known for their interest in munching on little tasty birdies. Scientists think the blue jays may be warning other blue jays that a hawk is near, or perhaps just trying to scare other birds away from the bird feeder so they can have all the sweet, sweet seed to themselves. This seems like a dickish move, but I understand. We can’t let that alpha chickadee and his gang get all the seed, now can we?

If you’d like to learn more about birds, let me recommend the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. They are amazing, and run several birdfeeder cams that my cat and I really enjoy watching. I think you will, too!

Cats + Babies

So today I asked my Facebook friends what to write about in my blog, since I want to start writing here again but was at a loss as to what to write.

I decided to take the first suggestion given to me (thank you Chris) and so, I present to you my topic for today:

Cats + Babies! 

Hoo boy. Ok. Here we go. I’m gonna go ahead and make a list here. A cat and baby list.

  1. Cats are a lot like babies in a few different ways.
    1. They lay on you and look so cute that you are afraid to get up and disturb them, so you end up laying there really really still until you fall asleep.
    2. They meow at you when they’re hungry and are (for the most part) incapable of feeding themselves.
    3. They are really, really soft.
    4. They like to attack small animals and play with them cruelly, sometimes killing them, sometimes only horribly maiming them before they escape.
  2. Here’s a little story: There is a teenager (let’s call her “E”) who comes to our library and who often babysits her little cousin. When E’s niece was really little, she would bring her in a stroller, with the top pulled down so the sleeping baby would not be disturbed. Sometimes, E would not bring her cousin, but instead bring three tiny kittens in the stroller, with the top pulled down so they couldn’t escape. We never knew, when she came with that stroller, whether there would be a baby or kittens inside. Then she’d pull the top back and WOOSH, there’d be a baby. Or WOOSH. There’d be kittens. It was kind of like Schrodinger’s Box, but nobody was ever dead.
  3. Fun Fact: In the past, cats were sometimes blamed for killing babies. If a baby died with a cat nearby, everyone rushed to blame the cat (or was it a witch) for sucking its breath out and suffocating it. That’s kind of unfair, don’t you think? Dogs get blamed for farts and cats get blamed for infanticide? Harsh. (Side note: When one starts typing “Do cats kill…” in Google, the first thing that pops up in autofill is “babies.” This is still literally a concern people have. COME ON, people! Really?)
  4. What do Cats + Babies = ?
    1. Cats + Babies = Kittens
    2. Cats + Babies = Toxoplasmosis (Don’t clean the litter box while you’re pregnant, ladies!)
    3. Cats + Babies = Angry cats in dresses
    4. Cats + Babies = Fun, adorable videos that will get a million billion views on YouTube!
    5. Cats + Babies = Some horrendous, terrifying, feline-human hybrid that can’t control its motor functions enough to lick its own butt clean.

Have your own thoughts about cats, babies, or any combination thereof? Leave them in the comments!