Gardening and feeding the birds are two things that provide me with a greater sense of “home.” Home for me is a feeling of connection. In the past, this has meant feeling connected to people–my family and the small community where I grew up. Since I don’t always have access to that community anymore, I’ve had to find a sense of home in other ways. This winter, it means feeding the birds. I’ve kept a bird feeder at one of my “homes” that is really messy. I always fill it with black oil sunflower seeds because that’s what the birds seem to like the most. (I also like the volunteer sunflowers that grow under the feeder, although those never seem to last.)
This year, on the solstice, I decided to mark the wintry occasion by putting out new bird feeders. I bought two small suet cages and a couple of suet blocks with seeds in them. It’s cold, and so a high-fat food seemed appropriate. The pictures on the packages showed finches and woodpeckers and orioles and all kinds of beautiful birds.
I immediately traipsed through the knee-deep snow and hung one feeder in the front yard (in front of the window where I work) and one in the backyard.
Within 48 hours, the magpies found the suet cages and have been working on the feeders alone and in teams ever since. I briefly saw a flicker and a small bird that came and went before I could get an ID. A crow also did a flyby, but mostly it has been magpies. I grew up believing these birds were mostly pests. They are plentiful, and they eat the eggs of smaller, less common birds–not ideal.
In the days that have followed, I’ve resigned myself to feeding the magpies. They’re not the rarer birds I had in mind, but they are birds, and they found the feeders right away, and they are enjoying the suet, and I’m glad they are here.