Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Is for the Birds

The main bird feeder, from Duncraft, is only a few feet from my desk - outside the window. The squirrel is already enjoying his corn feeder, nearby on the sill. I added another suet basket, hanging from the first one. My plan is to have a comfortable view of various creatures feeding at once. The multiple feeding arrangement generates noise, and more birds will come because of the noise.

The squirrel does not even try the Duncraft feeder, because his weight on the bar shuts off the supply of seed, which is now pure black oil sunflower.

For your amusement and edification, I compared the price of seed at a store. Blended seed (cardinal on the front) was $2 a pound, while sunflower seed was around 50 cents. Thistle (for finches) and safflower (hated by squirrels) were both higher priced than sunflower. As Bruce Church said, all the blended seed sacks featured various song birds. Sunflower seed is loved by 42 species of birds and costs less than all the other seeds.

The backyard corn feeder attracted a pair of blue jays, the most majestic of all the colorful birds. The jays rested above the feeder, looked around, and landed on the ground to pick up corn. They pecked away at it in the security of the branches above. I noticed them harvesting corn from the ground last year, too.

We probably have many jays living behind our house. We are surrounded by oaks, a favorite habitat for jays. A pair nested in the bush near the Duncraft feeder, so I wonder if they will nest there in the spring and notice the equivalent of a McDonald's outside their door.

"Jay, the nestlings need more food, dear."

"I'll just hop over to the feeder."

"So convenient, Jay. I hope we always nest here at the Jackson's. Grab a few seeds for me, too."

We now have one main feeding station (sunflowers, suet, corn and water). I can be inches away from a chickadee enjoying his suet - a foot away from cardinals, finches, titmice, and chickadees eating sunflower seeds. The squirrel is closest of all, because tree-rats are shameless food hustlers. They cannot be frightened through glass.

Three other places provide seed, corn, and suet. Now I will look for extra nuts for the jays and squirrels.

Some people think it is strange to feed the creatures, but the Lord of Creation shared His nursery with them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Donkey

The Donkey

When forests walked and fishes flew
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood,
Then, surely, I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening bray
And ears like errant wings—
The devil's walking parody
Of all four-footed things:

The battered outlaw of the earth
Of ancient crooked will;
Scourge, beat, deride me—I am dumb—
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour—
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout around my head
And palms about my feet.

G. K. Chesterton

Giotto di Bondone, Scenes from the Life of Christ 10.
Entry into Jerusalem, 1304-6,
Cappella Scrovegni, Padova

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Rescue Pets: Sassy, Precious, and Treasure

Sassy is unusually solemn for once.
Normally she is grinning her assumptive close - "You are taking me to the Bark Park soon?"

Precious found Sassy's large bone and helped herself to the rest, an early Christmas gift for herself.

Treasure has cornered the cute market by hopping on the bed and raising her front paw to say, "You may pet me now."


Sassy's foster mother wrote:

"I love you guys. I smile every time I come to your blog. Thank you for being such wonderful people!"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sassy Friends the Squirrels

Sassy, the wonder-dog, went along with me on errands yesterday. We often stop at the recycling center, which supports veterans and is run by veterans. That gets us near the Bella Vista post office, which has a waiting line of two people on a busy day.

Just before the recycling center is a neat little hardware store. When I walk in the door, someone meets me and helps me find whatever I want. This time I wanted a garbage can for bird seed and a squirrel feeder. The employee showed me the $10 feeder and found one for even less - "This one looks better too."

Sassy waited outside in the limousine, the Icha-boat. I always roll down the window for air, so she leans out and gives me a big yelp on my way into the store or post office. In spite of her missing back leg, she spends the whole trip watching me drive from between the seats, perched with that back leg on the rear seat, her powerful front legs on the arm rests.

Heading south on 71B means we are aiming at the Bentonville Bark Park, her favorite place. The barking begins early, because she would explode if she had to contain her joy. She is now quite famous as the ball snagger. The other owners depend on us to bring a spare ball, because Sassy gets the other dogs obsessed with her purple one. Tennis balls are always left in the grass, but Sassy is a fashion trend-setter with her special toy.

When we got home and finished our Dairy Queen, it was time to take care of the birds and squirrels.

The squirrel feeder is simple. Two cedar boards are joined, and a large screw comes up from the bottom for impaling an ear of field corn. I wanted to feed a squirrel close up, and this was easy to attach to the window sill. It came with two extra screws and holes in the right place. I actually found my cordless drill and got the job done in a few seconds. Sassy, who supervises all my outside work, was next door with Maynard and Homer, two enormous guard dogs with electronic collars.

Norma Boeckler

Sassy and I also trimmed back the bush near the inexpensive bird squirrel feeder. With some luck the small birds will get more of the food and the squirrels less. I expect to head to the kitchen and see the squirrel defeating my latest effort. The blue jay appearing there was enough to encourage me, and squirrel maneuvers are interesting anyway.

Sassy and I put the new ear of field corn on the feeder and added sunflower seeds to various feeding stations. I am sticking to sunflower seeds alone, because they are the best priced seed and they flow from the feeders better.

Sassy never stops grinning at her ball, knowing I will have to toss it.
Chris enjoys talking to the other dog owners when we go together.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sassy and I Feed the Birds

St. Francis was known for communing with Creation.
My wife has noticed a resemblance.

Sassy and I do bird-feeding chores every day now. First of all, we want to keep the corn feeder full for Mr. Squirrel and his extended family. Watching them swirl around the tree trunk for the chance to eat is worth the effort.

Second, we take the mixed seed bag around to all the feeding areas. Outside the garage is one zone. The front door planter is another one. Mixed seed is not a bargain, so I am scattering it where birds can pick out what they want. Some goes among the dry rocks. Several handfuls are thrown in the planter. I also have very cheap feeder up front which tiny birds use because the perch fell off into the holly bushes. I am not looking for that perch until I have a Hazmat suit on.

The bedroom window sill is quite low, but surrounded by holly bushes. The birds love all the protection they have. Cardinals enjoy the window sill and also the main feeder.

We have chickadees, cardinals, woodpeckers, red polls, titmice, and nuthatches feeding. Blue jays have been absent, but they are plentiful in the summer.

The result of spending a little money and a little time is a constant flow of birds around the house. The front of our home looks like O'Hare Airport during fair weather.

Birds will stay under cover during a storm but feed immediately before and after the low pressure zone moves through. We have no snow or ice, so the larvae are still easily accessed on trees and among bushes. However, cold weather requires more fuel, so birds are happy to have extra food to supplement their diet.

When one of the worst storms was bearing down on Minnesota, the weather was unusually warm, 60 degree weather. Hunters noticed enormous flocks of birds heading away from it. Many men were trapped in the woods because they did not realize the birds were fleeing a deadly blizzard. Here is the video about the Armistice Day Blizzard, 1940. Around 50 died from the sudden weather change.
Sassy inspires people at the dog park with her ability to chase down balls and snag them from the air,
even though she is missing one hind leg.
Photo by Norma Boeckler

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cardinals and Sassy

Cardinals got me to purchase a serious bird-feeder, a squirrel proof bird-feeder from Duncraft. Bruce Church had a pair of cardinals feeding at his home in Michigan. I thought that was ideal. Cameras never capture the amused look of a male cardinal feeding. They cock their heads and seem quite pleased with themselves.

Two factors have increased business at the feeder, which is a few feet from my computer, just outside the window.

The first is cold weather, reducing easy access to the bug population while increasing energy needs.

The second is using single variety of seed. All the blended seeds promise a lot, but they use a lot of filler like millet. I threw the blend on the ground where it was eaten, sunflower seeds first. When I replaced the blend with safflower seeds alone, the feeding soon became constant.

Many use safflower because squirrels are not keen about raiding a feeder for that particular seed. The seed is rather expensive, so I was looking for a large bag of black oil sunflower seed. Walmart in Jane, Missouri had a 25 pound bag. Another bird watcher was looking over prices when I was. Safflower was over $1 a pound in seven-pound bags. Black oil sunflower was about 28 cents a pound in the large bag.

I am using the rest of my mixed seed for the planter near the front door and the window sills of the bedroom. The squirrels are welcome there, and the small birds alternate with them. When I scatter seed in the sheltered, dry rocks near the front door, small birds glean whatever they find.

Conversion to 100% Sunflower Seed
The least expensive and most popular option is sunflower seed. No other seed has so much nutrition, a combination of protein, oil, and minerals. I will use that for all locations soon, with the assumption that squirrels will stop by the low security zones (window sills, flower box, rocks). The bird-feeder has a bad reputation in the squirrel community. They do not even try it now.

Our three-legged Sassy watches out of one bedroom window, where I put the seed on the sill. She goes on full alert when the squirrel is inches away, eating seed. She is blase about birds. We are regulars at the doggy bark park, where she is famous for shagging balls while alleged retrievers sit around and look dumb. Some retrievers wait several seconds to start and amble toward the ball, but Sassy tears off immediately, her back bent with the effort.

Sassy is quite the hero now. Everyone loves to watch her catch high pop fly-balls. The strangest trick is pulling it out of the air as she runs to catch the ball falling away from me. Planting herself under it and catching like a pro is impressive enough, but no one can figure out the running catch, since she cannot watch the arc of the ball. When the ball is deflected off a tree branch in our yard, she adjusts and catches it.

Sassy relishes her fame and munches on the ball extra times. She hands it back into my hands or rolls it to the feet of her latest friend. That is one of her signs of approval, letting someone else throw her ball. Recently we were ready to go home when a little girl showed up with her dog and mom. Little Annabelle threw the ball for Sassy until our wonder-dog was trying to rest on the way to the car.

The evolutionists like to say certain traits are bred into dogs like German shepherds and Australian cattle dogs - she is both. But Who instilled those traits in the original DNA?

One moment Sassy will sing the cattle dog blues with me. The next she will bay like a German shepherd. It is as if she is taking books out of the Sterling Library at Yale.

Sassy was looking at her favorite throwing and chewing ball at the bark park. Chris is in the middle.
Norma Boeckler, our artist-in-residence is on the right.