The Birdfeeder

            For a number of years a birdfeeder brightened the winter snow-scape outside my kitchen window. It was a simple, rudimentary plastic feeder perched atop a pole much in the shape of a hog or cattle feeder, an elongated box with inwardly sloping sides that spilled out onto a shallow trough. Along this the designers had placed a parallel rail for the birds to perch while feeding. The sides were clear plastic, not only serving to attract but to alert when conditions warranted a refill. It was that old hard, brittle plastic, tough but prone to irreparable damage in a catastrophe. The seed flowed out at whatever rate the clear sides were adjusted to. The birds swarmed it, both on the feeder and below as its design did nothing to prevent spillage. Blue jays and flickers would come and dig furiously for choice morsels, scattering what they didn’t want on the ground for the doves, juncos and sparrows who never ventured onto the structure itself. The seed flowed out unencumbered for all that cared to land, such as the chickadees and titmice that darted in and out. Once I counted almost 20 cardinals on the surrounding pines and feeder, red and pale orange amidst the green. Occasionally a sharp shinned hawk would swoop in and dine on the diners. Truly an equal opportunity feeder!

            The winter of 2010-11 was continuously long, cold, and snow covered. Near the end, the feeder was raided at night by marauding raccoons, eventually being totally destroyed. No biggy, I’ll replace it with a new one next year.

            Winter was reluctant to arrive in Ohio at the end of 2011. My normal procrastination ceased with the year’s ending and my purchasing a new feeder to perch on the pole along with new bags of birdseed. Wow. I was impressed by the molded plastic design, same durable material as commercial trash cans. Raccoons will find this one to be a challenge. Made in the US of A, good, double bonus. Initially I liked it though it barely fit on the pole, the filler opening was smaller than the old one (rough on cold windy days) and it had this funny tub/recessed wall design where the seed slowly and evenly trickled out well underneath the retaining structure. The bottoms of the tub were slotted to release water, but practice showed it to freeze up into a congealed mass of seed after a rain/freeze cycle. It is a high maintenance feeder, with only a small window to show when it is low on supply. The increasing cold and some sporadic snows finally persuaded the birds to forego their natural reticence of new structures. The new economy finds them with nowhere to perch. They now literally stand in the troughs of seed like goats on a hay bale placed in their bin. Seed doesn’t get scattered to the humble ground scavengers. The feeder is very miserly in its dispensation of choice morsels. The jays, flickers and cardinals really have to work hard at getting the slow release sustenance; nothing leftover for the chipping sparrows to scratch for. No free lunch here. High energy chickadees, titmice and nuthatches remain undaunted by this efficient, exacting and meticulous dispensary. It goes without saying that there has been a marked decrease of not only the number of birds able to access this island of winter nutrition, but also the joy I get at witnessing their number and diversity. I am concerned about those not seen. Much to my chagrin I discovered that I missed the old, sloppy, inefficient, and delightfully generous feeder of years past. I have replaced it with an austere, conservative machine!

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