"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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The View From My Window
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres

I was having one of those times-of-a-life the other day--at least I thought I was--perched in an easy-to-sit swivel chair in front of a double glass door that led directly onto a large deck overlooking a beautiful stretch of White River’s West Fork.

There is this large wooden deck (I call it a back porch) the crawl space under which is called home by ‘possums, raccoons, chipmunks, and I suspect, a groundhog now and then. But they don’t figure in this adventure. You see, I also feed birds and squirrels on the south railing (about six inches wide), and I have a menagerie of friends, including squirrels (red and fox, old and young), ‘possums, ‘coons, and I don’t know what else

I have found, incidentally, that most of the birds and squirrels prefer black oil sunflower seed, but that several of the gang, or pride, or heard will eat the corn (whole kernel), especially the hearts (squirrels) and leave the rest for whomever will eat it.

The winter resident woodpeckers prefer the suet feeder, which hangs suspended from a wire between two redbud trees a few feet away. I was watching those four, of course, with much interest, and thinking that at one time I could see all four (pileated, our throwback to prehistoric days; the hairy; the downy, a miniature copy of the hairy, with white back stripe; and the red belly, whose claim to the name is seldom noted by man). Missing my muster was the red head, which now is in the southland, the bibbed northern flicker which spends more time on the ground than in trees, conspicuously absent though it sporadically spends some time in the South during the cold months here, and the machine-gun drilling sapsucker, also with us mostly in the warmer months.

Anyhow, here I am, treating my molars to a slab of home made gooseberry pie (vanilla ice cream yet), and learning some things about the behavior of the birds and critters, when for some strange reason the picture went blank. Not a small bird in sight, but the squirrels sat in an ash tree with jaundiced eyes surveying my back yard in the same tree with a sharp-shinned hawk. Later the Cooper’s hawk would drop around to see what was for lunch.

The winter resident sharp-shin was about, and he wanted to take a bird to lunch. The takers were mysteriously in hiding, though, so he just bided his time (never scored) in the redbud trees at close range, occasionally flitting to the earth to try for an English sparrows, slate-colored juncos, Carolina wrens, and other ground feeders. But no luck, and I didn’t want to make my presence known and spook him. The tiny notch in the end of the tail told me it was definitely a sharp-shin (much like the look-alike Cooper’s hawk in all respects). He had to eat, too. His presence made my day--some of the best viewing I have ever had of this bird--and in the pauses there were always the phalanx of the birds we take for granted--the covey of (12-15) old reliable English sparrows, the nuthatches, tufted titmice, chickadees, mourning doves, and brown creepers, not to mention a chipmunk or two even though they should have been in underground lairs for the winter.

Some things I realized:

To feed, or otherwise care for birds, one must accept the fact that this tends to “set-up” the birds for attacks of hawks and other enemies. This is the law of nature that is effective whether or not man is involved. It makes life easier for the raptors. In most cases the feeder should also provide shallow water.  

Bluejay--If you look closely you will note a small “rectangularish” white patch in the otherwise gray belly. Present only in adult birds, I think.

Red-bellied Woodpecker--In some birds (maybe adult males) you will see a quarter-inch red dot--his name feature--in the middle of the tummy. May be present only on adult males, I think. The red-bellied male, you will recall, has an orangish-red cap that overflows onto the nape of the neck. On the female the red is confined to the top of the head.

Brown Creeper--Most often skips lightly up a tree (bottom to top) while feeding, and flies down for an instant replay. 

Chickadees--We may have Carolina chickadees to go with our black capped. If so, you can separate the two by size. The Carolina is noticeably larger, it seems.

I need no lions or tigers jumping through hoops.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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