People sometimes ask me what I like best about living in the Southlands. Although there are many things that I enjoy about our adopted home, my answer is always the same: the wild birds. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of birds outside an aviary.
In summer, when their food is plentiful, we see dozens of small birds in our yard outside our tea room window. These are usually rooting around in the grass for bugs – and as our dog also likes to hunt bugs they often need to fly off quickly to get out of his way. Fortunately for them there are plenty of bugs to go around.
Every autumn after the killing frost, when the food supply starts to dwindle, we put out the bird feeders – one’s a big metal affair for black oil sunflower seeds, and the other’s a perforated sock-like device for thistle (nyjer) seeds. The pole that holds the feeders is located about twenty feet in front of the house so we can watch the birds – and, naturally, the squirrels – while we’re having our morning or afternoon tea on the balcony.
It’s a most pleasant way to spend our tea time. My husband or I will point out the bright yellow finches as they cling to the nyjer seed socks, the brilliant red cardinals perching on the sunflower seed feeder, and the gently-coloured doves scarfing up whatever falls to the ground. Not to mention all the beautiful birds we haven’t yet learned to identify.
Every so often a delightful hummingbird will fly up towards the balcony and hover for a few moments. At other times one or more magnificent turkey vultures swoop down past the balcony. Meanwhile, telephone pole wires are covered with various birds – sometimes small ones, sometimes larger black ones, and at still other times a variety of hawks nonchalantly peering down at birds at the feeders.
There are many other birds: turkeys that we pass by as we’re driving and whip-poor-wills who come out at night, amongst others. Then there are the birds we know by their songs but don’t know that we’ve ever seen. One has a song that sounds like Germany-Germany-Germany, another sings of Brit-Hume-Brit-Hume-Brit-Hume. I’ve named the first one the Germany bird, and the other the Brit Hume bird, but I’m sure that’s not their real names!
Fortunately the best times of year around here for watching birds are also the best times for having our tea outside: mid-autumn and early spring, when the birds are migrating. Whether we’re relaxing on the balcony or the on the backyard swing with our dog and our teacups, huge flocks serenade us with their songs. It’s hard to imagine a more pleasant tea time entertainment.
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