Sheltered Islander: On the Island, Birds of a Feather Flock Together

I miss birdsong desperately in winter. Fortunately, I have a CD, Bird Song, by Shelter Island’s own naturalist, Tom Damiani, that includes 20 minutes of birds singing in Mashomack Preserve. It’s so soothing, you can hear your blood pressure lowering one click at a time. I checked, and the CD is available through Amazon for anyone interested.

So my morning cup of coffee, Tom’s CD and I were sitting at the table, looking out the window, watching birds. They were mostly barn swallows and cardinals. As I watched them, I wondered if there was any protocol, any pecking order involved in who gets to eat first. At one point, a barn swallow and a cardinal sat side by side on the back of a deck chair and stared at me through the window. I couldn’t help but wonder what they might be thinking….

“I can’t believe it, Kevin, she’s staring at us again. Look at her, sitting there drinking hot coffee, probably wondering what we’re thinking.”

“Yeah, Maxie. You’d think she’d realize that we would love some of that hot coffee, and maybe a couple of Kaiser rolls. All she gives us is that bland wild bird mix.”

“That bird mix gives me terrible gas, that’s why I’m sitting here all puffed up. It’s not that I’m cold, it’s that damn mix, my system just can’t take it anymore.”

“Relax pal. Spring will be here soon, and she’ll break out the song bird mix. I am nuts for those little flax seeds. You know what? I was watching Dr. Oz last week through a bedroom window, and flax seeds are natural bowel cleansers. Who knew?”

“Wait a minute, Kevin, she’s getting up and going to the pantry. Probably going to get us more seed. Who’s working the kitchen window this morning?”

“Let’s see… Tuesday. That would make it Lucky. He’d be on kitchen window today.”

“Lucky. Is he the swallow with one leg?”

“Yeah, that’s the guy.”

“Can you speak to him in swallow and ask him to read the label on the bag of bird seed? I just want to know which mix is giving me this indigestion.”

“Okay, Maxie. Lucky says it is wild bird mix, but he saw a bag of song bird mix in there. She’s been holding out on us. She’s keeping the good stuff for the chickadees and doves. Damn, they always get the good stuff.”

“I love song bird mix. It has fruit in it. It’s the crack cocaine of bird seed! We gotta get her to throw some of that out. Let’s do that thing where we tap on the window. Remember when we did it last week and she tossed out buttered toast? Soooo good.”

“Okay, we got you and me, and Lucky can look pathetic with his one leg.”

“We can ask him to limp, too. That’ll kill her. Who’s the guy with one eye? Is he around?”

“Yeah. Lefty. Ever since he lost that eye, he veers to the left when he flies. He applied for a Seeing Eye finch. Got approved. It should be here in April. He’s coming over now.”

“Okay, on my signal. Everybody tap on the window and look pathetic.”

I went to my pantry to get more seed for my friends when I heard tapping on the
window. There sat four birds—a puffed-up cardinal, a sad little fellow with one leg and a limp, a third bird with only one eye, and one little swallow all puffed up from the terrible cold. I had a bag of wild bird mix, song bird mix and small bird mix.

What the heck, I got a big scoop of each and tossed it on the deck. The sweet little darlings descended upon the seeds like they were soldiers hitting the beaches on Normandy.

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