poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘bird feeder

at the bird feeder #6 – Purple Finch

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On Thursday, we had a Hairy Woodpecker and a large flock of male and female Purple Finches at the bird feeder.  The Peterson Field Guide describes the Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) as ‘… a Sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.’   I can’t improve on that description!  The other particularly noticeable feature is its large sturdy beak.  My husband took a few photos since I was not home, just enough to give me one to draw.

I miss most of the feeder birds since I leave in the early light and come home after dark. Nevertheless, the Chickadees and Goldfinches are usually there to see me off.   We have one Chickadee who always has his ‘hair’ ruffed up, like a rock star with a ‘do’.



Purple Finch

                (Carpodacus purpureus)


sunflower seed and millet

purple finch posed in the maple

sullen brow

blunt beak

metallic tick


he knows my eye

at the edge of the glass

my struggle for stamina


he is immobile as a post

a vermillion bird stuffed

with husks of sunflower seed


he sees me sidle to the chair

watches me settle


he is still

as a post card


seedless husks of sunflower



©  Jane Tims  2012

©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

March 2, 2012 at 6:26 am

at the bird feeder #5 – Hairy Woodpecker

with 3 comments

Our Hairy Woodpecker was back today.  She was determined to get to the feeder, so we got a very good look at her in all her black and white splendor. 

This time the identification was not a problem.  This woodpecker is a noticably large bird, compared to the smaller Downy Woodpeckers we have seen at the feeder before.  Also, the outer tail feathers are white, not marked in black as they are with the Downy Woodpecker.

I like to compare illustrations in the various bird books.  Have a look at these two sets of Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, both drawn by Roger Tory Peterson, first in his ‘A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies’ (1980)…

Roger Tory Peterson, 1980, 'A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies', Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

… and second, from his illustration in ‘The Birds of Nova Scotia’ by Robie W. Tufts (1973).  In the ‘Field Guide’ , the markings on the white tail feathers of the Downy Woodpecker are clearer.

Robie W. Tufts, 'The Birds of Nova Scotia', 1973, Nova Scotia Museum, Halifax. Color illustrations in this book are by Roger Tory Peterson.

Both Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are cavity nesters.  They stay through the winter and are frequent visitors at feeding stations… they love suet and black sunflower seeds.

Written by jane tims

January 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

Zoë, watching

with 7 comments

Our feeding of the birds has given our cat, Zoë, a new form of entertainment.  She sits in the chair in front of the glass of the door leading to the deck and watches.  Her head swivels as each new arrival lands and selects its seed.  All evening, the pupils in her eyes are as black as those of the little Flying Squirrels she sees outside the window.

The birds and squirrels know they are being watched but have decided the sphinx behind the window glass cannot harm them.  For her part, Zoe knows she can only observe the antics around the feeder.  She contents herself with the pantomime of predation.



strategic hyphenation


patience nestles into space

between edge-wise foliage

strategic paw-placement where

no dry-leaf crackle, dry-twig snap

disturbs the nothingness downwind

of furred-or-feathered prey

no tattling breeze

can carry scent-anticipation


to be pounced-upon

all muscle-twitch contained

in nervous, horizontal




©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

January 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

at the bird feeder #4 – Woodpeckers

with 6 comments

The bird feeder had a new visitor last Thursday, a woodpecker.  My husband saw it at the feeder, but by the time he had the camera ready, it was gone.  Undaunted, he went outside and chased the little lady through the woods until he had several photos.

We identified the bird from the photos.  There were two possibilities, a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) and a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus).  Both have a white stripe on the back.  The males of both species have a red patch on the back of the head (the one at our feeder was a female).  The differences between the two are body size (the Hairy Woodpecker is the larger of the two) and the size of the beak (the Hairy Woodpecker has a much longer beak, about 3/4 of the depth of the head).

We are reasonably certain our bird was a Hairy Woodpecker.  Its beak is noticeably long.  Also, the round cut branch on the tree in the photo (in front of the bird’s feet) is at least an inch in diameter, making the length of this bird about nine and a half inches.




Downy Woodpecker  (Picoides pubescens)


daft little bird

propped, pubescent, plump

bang your silly

head against the tree

eat a bug


your sculptor used

deft fingers

to point your beak

solidify your tail

paint feathers

foam on black water

snow on dark woods

night sky with planets


your downy crown



©  Jane Tims 2012

Written by jane tims

January 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

at the bird feeder #3

with 6 comments

I am amazed at the volume of seeds these little visitors eat.

The deer, racoons and squirrels take their unfair share, of course.  Last year, I watched a deer attack the feeder with its tongue, scooping up every bit of seed in a matter of minutes.  Even without the deer and racoons and squirrels, the birds descend in a flock and the food is soon reduced to a scattering of seed-husks.

We have come to a conclusion – next year we will put up a mammal-proof feeder.  My brother-in-law has it figured out.  He has installed a large cedar post in an open area and encased it in aluminum pipe and flashing. Enough seed falls on the ground to give a treat to the squirrels and other marauders, and the birds are the focus of the money-drain.



feeding the birds


I wait, no patience to speak of

for the next bird to find


this food more delicious than seed offered

by my neighbour, swears


he had cardinals, mine the left-over

chickadees and nuthatches, flocks of redpoll


litter the feeder, red-dotted heads, their toes

grip courtesy branches, a perch


impossible to find, after the freezing rain, branches

encased in slip-and-slide, candy-coated nutrition


won by complication, every kernel harder than stone

seed in a casing of black, sunflower


and pencil draw the finches, grosbeaks smash seed-coats

with deliberate jaws, shards of sunflower husk and ice-coat


fall as rubble



©  Jane Tims  2012

Written by jane tims

January 13, 2012 at 10:18 am

at the bird feeder #2

with 4 comments

We had snow during the night and I can see clearly who has been at the feeder this morning…  so far, only a few chickadees and nuthatches, and , of course, the pesky grey squirrel. 

Do you have a bird feeder and what birds do you see?




birds at the feeder


feeder fill

seeds spill

nuthatch and chickadee


crowds of goldfinch, redpoll

branch to branch

to ground



©   Jane Tims   2011


Written by jane tims

January 7, 2012 at 8:30 am

at the bird feeder #1

with 4 comments

Today our bird feeders are a mess.  Racoons and grey squirrels don’t keep neat houses.  However, the seeds scattered across the deck are attracting a delightful array of birds.  The last few mornings we have had:

a few chickadees (Black-capped Chickadee, Parus atricapillus)… they grab a seed and swoop to the nearest low branch to break the seed open… they seem to travel in small groups, but bicker with one another at the feeder…

a few nuthatches (Red-breasted Nuthatch, Sitta canadensis)… they are acrobats, grabbing to the feeder and then flipping inside to get the seed… they are solitary, sometimes in small groups of two or three… they leave one another alone, each taking their turn…

a flock of goldfinches (American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis)… gregarious, they are all a-flutter and feed together side by side… they hang around to break open the seed and tolerate other species beside them…





bright feathers distil

yellow from atmosphere

essence of sunflower

tipple and sip champagne

make small talk at parties

gesture with hands

paint scallops on air, animated discussion


the gregarious obtain information

best feeder in the neighbourhood

best seed

least squirrel



© Jane Tims  2011


spacemen in our feeder

with 6 comments

Our feeder has attracted some little space aliens!

In one of my recent posts, I talked about the Grey Squirrel and its marauding ways.  Now I have two more mammals to add to my list of bird-feeder pirates.

During the weekend, we went to the Co-Op and puchased a new squirrel-proof feeder.  It consists of a slim tube enclosed within a cage with the squares too small for the squirrels to squeeze through.  Raccoons can’t fit through those small holes either, but they can take the new feeder off its hook and just toss it off the deck!  Once they had cleaned out the spilled food, they began an assault on the older wooden feeder with its hoard of black sunflower seeds.

Just before I went to bed, I switched on the outer lights to see if the raccoons had returned and got a wild surprise.  Two little spacemen were cleaning the rest of the sunflower seeds from the feeder!  They looked like Red Squirrels, but were golden-brown in color, and had white undersides, a lot of extra folds of skin and big black ‘wombat’ eyes. 

Flying Squirrels!! 

We know the Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)  lives in our grey woods, but we haven’t seen them for a while.  They not only look different, but move very differently from the Red Squirrels.  They are very, very fast and sort of flow and fold themselves across the surfaces they are on, a little like those ‘parkour’ urban acrobats who move fluidly over obstacles.  

 The two Flying Squirrels argued and bickered with one another and paid no attention to me as I opened the door to snap their photo.  



spacemen in the bird feeder


I missed the flash

the revolving light show

and high-pitched whine

just before the spacemen

(the Flying Squirrel Squadron)

set their coordinates on the feeder


bickered and folded over landscape

fired lasers from their eyes

took a moment for a black  stare

at the earthling watching

and turned to complete the harvest

the sunflower seeds

craved by their planet



©  Jane Tims  2011

one of the usual visitors to our feeder ... the Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus)

Written by jane tims

December 23, 2011 at 6:51 am

feeding the neighborhood

with 7 comments

I have started up the bird feeder and already the mammals are nudging out the birds. 

Our first visitor to the feeder was a fat grey squirrel who performed some amusing acrobatics to enjoy ‘his’ sunflower seeds.

This year, I think I’ll keep a list of the marauders, who may outnumber the birds.


apples in the snow

she pauses, one foot poised

a lever beneath her, one hoof ready

to push off and fly

tail to flag her departure

tucked, ears up


everything still

the snow, the trees, the feeder

not caught in chickadee momentum, land

and shove away  


three  apples

at the edge of deep-freeze

draw her forward


©  Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

December 19, 2011 at 6:29 am

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