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“Creating Abundance”

Jan 8th, 2010 by Mary | 0

From dawn to dusk, the porch right outside my picture window is literally filled with birds. At latest count, I have recorded nine species, but it wasn’t always like this. When we moved here to Glenwood, Iowa at the end of September, I just saw an occasional bird from a distance. There was an old bird feeder stuck in the weeds on the far side of the house, so I rescued it and placed it on our front lawn for loose seed, then bought a suet feeder which I hung outside the window. Then, I waited. And waited some more. There was nothing at first, except the admonition in a bird book that the birds would discover the feeders after an undetermined “awhile.” Still, after two weeks, I was about to give up. Yet, I kept the uneaten seeds in the feeder and would glance out the window whenever I went past to see if a bird – any bird – had discovered the largess I had provided.

And, slowly at first, the “word” spread among the avian crowd. Each time one or two showed up, I rushed to my bird ID book, hopefully looking for a picture that was EXACTLY like the bird on display on my front porch. A solitary downy woodpecker became a regular, followed by a male cardinal, then days later, his more demure mate. Then a large bird with a red crest: a red-bellied woodpecker, became a regular. Then a house sparrow, two or three juncos, chickadees, bluejays coming by occasionally.

It is hard to say that I have a “favorite” bird. Every time I fall in love with one– the tidy little round juncos with gray backs and breasts with white bellies; the slightly suspicious looking almost cross-eyed little female downy woodpecker, with black and white wing bars, who sits on the edge of the feeder and tries to stare me down – another one shows up to fight for a center place in my heart.

Probably the most colorful daily visitor is the male Northern cardinal, whose flashy red-orange body is visible from the corner of my eye, although I must admit a soft spot for his mate, a light chestnut version of her partner, with just a dusting of red on her wings and crest, her tail feathers brown from above, showing their bright red underside only when she flies upwards into the yew tree.

The bird book said that they were very territorial in the spring and summer, when they had their two broods of eggs. After the first nest was built and the female laid her eggs in it, she would set out to build another one, leaving her partner to incubate the first bunch. But in winter, the book said, they were less territorial and would congregate in flocks of up to 20 birds. So my ideas of abundance expanded, so I could hold a place for more.

Each day I tried to do a head count, complicated both by the speed with which the birds moved from branch to feeders and back again and by the visually impenetrable evergreen yew tree that had become their favorite roost. So, it became sort of like one of the “Find Waldo” books. Each day I would sit there very quietly, with my cup of coffee and my hopes, trying to get an accurate count their silhouettes camouflaged by the tree’s branches or of constantly moving targets.

A week or so ago, I thought I saw two male cardinals, then two females, then each day the count rose. Two days ago I managed to count eight female cardinals, who were all visible at the same time. Who knows how many others might be out of sight? And today, on my way to the mailbox with four reluctant dogs following me dejectedly on the snow-covered driveway, I looked up and saw six male cardinals, their beauty yet again piercing my heart with joy.

No, I can’t claim that I created this flock. But from the first sighting of my first Northern cardinal the exact moment I sat down for the first time in my brand-new recliner, I affirmed this as a place that would harbor them. So, now the head count for the day: 14 cardinals (at least), 5 downy woodpeckers, two red-bellied woodpeckers, a flock of around a dozen juncos, smaller numbers of both house and chippy sparrows and chickadees, the occasional bluejay, one-time-only mourning dove.

What I DID do, and do every day, is to affirm this as a sanctuary for them, make sure the feeders are filled to overflowing, and keep expanding my heart to be open to welcome all the birds that choose to make this their winter home. Whoever said that “Seeing is believing” was wrong. We actually see WHAT we believe, so it behooves us to believe in all that is good, bountiful, beautiful. THEN, and only then, will we see it. A lesson worth noting.

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