Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In our garden

Spot the humming bird

I think it's likely that birds will feature prominently in this blog. As we planned the trip to Vermont, I was looking forward very much to seeing the local birds. During our stay in Michigan in 2007, I spent much happy time watching the cardinals and blue jays in our back yard, at the bird feeder. I studied a book about birds in New England with a sense of anticipation.

It was something of a disappointment, then, when we got here to find few birds in the garden. No cardinals, no blue jays. "Perhaps they'll come in the winter" said Bruce philosophically. However, I have never been one to just see what happens (why wait when you can make something happen??), so we decided to take matters into our own hands, and ventured into a hardware shop to buy bird feeders.

There were about 100 different kinds of bird feeders and racks of different varieties of bird food. What to choose? How to choose? I went to the young man at the counter and asked for help. It was an interesting interchange. He thought we were insanely stupid. 

"I was thinking we might put a table out on the lawn and put a feeder on it, so the cardinals can land," I said.

He gazed at me blankly. "But the squirrels will get in" he said.

There was silence. "You see, we come from New Zealand,' I explained, " and we don't have squirrels in New Zealand." An even longer silence. "So we don't know how to feed birds but not squirrels". More silence. Completely incredulous silence.

If he thought we'd led a strangely sheltered life, I privately thought he couldn't read. "So which feeders are appropriate for which birds?" I asked. "This is a feeder for squirrels" he said, pointing "No", I said, "it says "squirrel-proof feeder, which means it won't feed squirrels. So shall we get that one? Which birds would feed from that?" Silence.

In the end, we just assembled every kind of bird feeder - a tray to hang from a tree, a wire funnel, and a red syrup feeder that I had read was good for hummingbirds - and huge bags containing a range of feed. "Buy mealy worms," volunteered our young friend unexpectedly. "it's butter for birds". This time I provided the pause. I hate peanut butter. "They like it,' he translated.

When we had wrestled everything into the car, Bruce discovered he'd left something in the shop, and dashed back. He came out laughing. He said all the shop assistants were standing round and saying "they don't have squirrels? But they have koala bears, don't they - but they're not real bears, right?"

So, anyways, as they say here, we came home and made syrup and filled our feeders with a range of seed, and put the mealy worms on the tray. And the very next day, the tree was alive with birds.

The humming birds are entrancing - you hear them before you see them. And they're so tiny
The woodpeckers like to chew the tree before they get into the seeds

There are finches galore

And we've seen chickadees and goldfinches, and one beautiful cardinal, all alighting on our tree.

As I go on my morning walk each day I spot crows, turkey vultures, and Canada geese rising up in flocks on their migration to the south. Because Fall is coming.You can feel it.

ps you might like to click on the images to see the birds more clearly.


  1. How lovely! I would so love to see a humming-bird. Anyway. A koala just passed by the window, ha ha. Do you guys get mistaken for Australians a lot?

  2. Yeh....and English...and French (???)..... We are very exotic!

  3. Now I'm really envious...

    Wonderful story — I laughed out loud. :^D

    Have you found the online identification guide for the birds of Vermont (and elsewhere) yet?

  4. Hi Pete: thanks for the link - very helpful!