Blue Jay in window bird feeder

Rob Hedelt likes to watch avian antics as birds visit feeders outside his kitchen window each morning.

WHILE I’m typically the only one in our breakfast nook, I don’t eat breakfast alone anymore.

I can't get through a bowl of cereal without being joined by a big blue jay, a red robin, a fat and slow-moving dove or a handful of frenetic hummingbirds.

While this may be old hat for many, it’s a relatively new thing at our house. My wife deserves all the credit for buying the feeders, setting them up and keeping them stocked.

And while there are some slack days, there are other times when it seems all the feathered friends in the area are flocking to our feeders.

They’re set conveniently outside the kitchen window—some actually attached to it—because the windows are one thing the accursed squirrels haven’t figured out a way to climb.

Longtime readers will remember that I’ve had a long-running battle with squirrels, one that escalated when they began eating their way through siding, roofing and gutters to make themselves at home in the attic. And there was the time they ate through the rubber propane hose in our grill. Only quick action by my wife saved a bigger conflagration there on the back deck.

So it didn’t surprise me at all when most of the bird feeders that claimed to be “squirrel proof” really weren’t. At least they aren’t wherever there are railings or anything else for the squirrels to climb up on, dangle from or use as a launching platform.

For a while, we tried putting an ear of feed corn into a container just off from where the bird feeders were, thinking it would distract the squirrels from the bird feed. Epic fail. They just tried to eat both.

Recently, my ever-strategizing wife shifted to using just the window-mounted feeders. As an ancillary strategy, she moved the feeder with the ear of feed corn to a tree in the backyard. For some reason, the squirrels deign to eat from it there. Go figure.

As I watch the birds each morning during breakfast, I've developed a habit of anthropomorphizing each bird by the way it behaves, seeing them as all too human.

The blue jays are the schoolyard bullies, using their bulk and aggressive behavior to scare away smaller and less-aggressive birds.

I’ve come to see robins as the same sort of bullies, sometimes flying to perches more intent on scaring away other birds than actually eating anything.

The big doves that drop by are like the dopey second cousin you can’t stand. They plop down on the railings and even on the bird feeders themselves and just turn their heads this way and that, seemingly oblivious to everything around them.

The little sparrows and other backyard birds I can’t identify yet are the frenetic younger siblings you remember your high school friends having.

I watched one little brown-coated flapper take several passes at the window-mounted feeder where the small seeds are. It would land, look around and leave. And then do it again, never getting settled enough to actually lean down and snag some seeds.

And while they can be just as frenetic, the hummingbirds that are slowly discovering the feeder we recently added to the kitchen-window array are like the cool pilots from “The Right Stuff.”

While some of the larger birds, and even the smaller, misjudge takeoffs and landings at times, the little hummers can go any direction seemingly at the speed of sound, never missing their marks.

They do like to fly at each other now and then, and scare away a rival for the sweet nectar. But the way they go from zero to goodness-knows-what in the blink of an eye makes them the coolest operators out there.

How great would it be if I could get them to buzz the invading squirrels whenever they tried to raid the feeders intended for the birds? Nothing lasting or fatal, just a stinging stab with that long beak to send the message that they should think twice before invading the birds-only zone.

That would truly be the right stuff.

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Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

rhedelt@freelancestar.com

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