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

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Continuous Snow and Bird-Feeding:
Ten Inches of Snow Shutting Down Bella Vista.
Snow Plows Called Back

Inside Looking Out, by Norma Boeckler

Yesterday we knew a storm was coming to our area, so we went to the Walmart in Jane, Missouri, across the line, for supplies. We bought another 25 pounds of black oil sunflower seeds and three more suet cakes, plus two bags of salt. We heard the main store in town, across from WM headquarters, was sold out of salt.

Sassy Sue and I filled the main bird feeder and refilled two suet feeders. A 92 cent suet cake lasts a month or so. The $13 bag of sunflower seed lasted several months.

We also filled the squirrel feeder and spread seed around the area near the front door. The deep chill was descending, and almost no birds stopped at the feeder the rest of the day.

We awoke to at least five inches of snow on the ground, and snowfall so dense we could not see past the yard. The birds were lined up like Packer fans who just heard season tickets were on sale. We never had so many feeding at once: about four male cardinals, three females, house finches, chickadees, sparrows, and woodpeckers. The woodpeckers always favor the suet, while chickadees will eat both foods. The bushes and sills were loaded with birds eating or waiting for some food.

A squirrel finished the corn immediately.

Suddenly all the birds flew away, not from anything I did. A blue jay sounded in the distance. I have heard of them scattering the birds from a feeder. I did not see him appear, but they have nested in that spot. The jays may have landed on the ground after they cleared the area. I have seen them picking up corn from the ground and eating it in the safety of the tree branches.

I looked at the area in front of the garage where I normally scatter some sunflower seeds. Bird tracks told me that my dependents were there, wondering about my generosity. I left a large amount before the snowfall yesterday. I thought, "If they don't come into the garage to remind me, they leave a message in the snow." So I cleared an area and gave them more.

The area around the front door was also alive with birds and a squirrel. They all feed together well. Fresh suet attracted a woodpecker there, too.

When people express astonishment at bird-feeding and watering, I share my surprise that they do not enjoy this inexpensive and edifying hobby. I spend about $2 a month on food by sticking to sunflower seeds and suet. Corn is extravagant but our grandson wanted it on the feeder again, so I was happy to indulge the tree rats. About $14 covers the winter corn supplies; after that, they are on their own. No more bail-outs.

Sassy enjoys bird feeding because it gives her a chance to charge the bushes and flush out some game. Snow has become boring to her. She wants to return to the dog park. Today even the snow plows were recalled from Little Switzerland - too dangerous for them to operate.

Bird-feeding in winter makes a difference, because they need more calories to stay warm and their normal food supplies are harder to reach. I read that our feeding is only 15% of their diet, so they depend on the Creator rather than us.

One reader buys grain and uses that. Any seed-bearing plant is also going to be enjoyed by most birds. They like bushes and the stalks of dead plants for perching while they look for food. My mother once asked, looking at the winter garden, with sunflower stalks still standing above the snow, "Why did you leave those up?" I said, "Two reasons. One is the birds love to perch there for preening and searching for food. Secondly, the plants rot into the soil and feed the worms all winter." She loved feeding the birds and photographing them, so that made sense.

We fed so many birds in Arizona that we scared a number of workmen. When they went outside, the white-winged dove population took off at once. They have a way of cheeping and noisily beating their wings. More than one man jumped back in shock at the commotion, especially when rounding the corner of the yard. The visual shock of 50 birds launching, combined with drumming wings and alarmed cheeping, did them in.

One reward was seeing them stacked up together, after a very cold night, like little toys, along the bay window. Rows and rows of them were tucked into the window ledges, several deep until the sun warmed them.
Hell, Michigan

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sassy Sue Does the Superbowl

Sassy Sue would make an ideal mascot for the Green Bay Packers. Her owners should get season tickets for sharing her.

Just before the bad weather we were enjoying 60 degree days at the dog park. One day featured about 15 dogs and their owners, a mix of people who knew Sassy and strangers. I enjoy hearing the gasps as Sassy catches the ball running away from me, brings it back, and drops it in my hand. She enjoys having an audience and does especially well when everyone comments.

No one can figure how she snags a ball out of the air when she is running away from me. Part of it is guessing from my arm movement, but she can catch about 90% of the tosses. The throws pass over her back as she runs, and she reaches them just in time.

Lately she has been supervising my show-shoveling. I had four days in a row of shoveling, quite rare here. Yesterday it got so tedious for her that she stopped hunting for animals in the snow and sat down to watch from the garage.

She shared kettle corn with us on the bed, along with Precious and Treasure. She stayed for the game and the Shelties took naps.

Sassy is now in charge of watching out of one window. She listens for anything on the circle and raises various levels of alarms, from guttural growls to "They've come to kill us all!" She is especially loud for UPS trucks, because they are clearly trying to break in the front door when they ring the bell. That gets the Shelties barking, their eyes popping with urgency.

My Home Town Area Gave President Reagan His First Job

Reagan came back as president to post at the WOC mike and broadcast.
Dave Coopman wrote about this event in his book on WOC Radio.

Dutch Reagan was born not too far from Moline - Tampico, Illinois, only 45 miles away. On this day, 100 years ago, it was also snowing furiously.

Reagan grew up in Dixon, Illinois and graduated from Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, 1932.

WOC Radio, started by the Palmer (School of Chiropractic) family, hired him as an announcer. We take radio for granted now, but the Palmers were pioneers in introducing radio to the area.

Facebook is the technological rage now, and Moline High graduate John Getz plays the lawyer in the new movie about Facebook.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sassy Sue Feeds the Birds

Norma Boeckler created this male cardinal picture, which is just what they look like outside my window.

We are in the middle of the Sno-pocalypse. At dawn we had almost nothing on the ground. A few hours later we had inches on the ground, more falling, and the roads closed. The state highway may be open, but we cannot see it through the snow.

Nevertheless, Sassy Sue and I went out to feed the birds. She was moping, because she loves going out about this time every day. Sassy pranced through the snow and chased some birds out of the bushes. By the time we were done, she was beaming, with snow on her face and back.

Snow and sleet bring out the birds, especially if they have long-term feeding stations. The blue jays were screeching near the backyard squirrel feeder, so I put another ear of corn on the spike. Some corn was left, which told me the squirrels slept in rather than brave the storm. Blue jays like the corn kernels and treat them as nuts, pecking at them while held in their claws.

Sassy and I took sunflower seeds and loose corn to the area under the front porch. Later, plenty of birds were eating from the planter-feeder and also among the rocks.

Near the window, where I work, the cardinals, titmice, and woodpeckers were feeding. Yesterday I filled up the Duncraft feeder and put in another block of suet. The basket lasted about three months, so it is the least expensive feeder. Suet baskets are also handy for those who go away on trips. The suet keeps a number of birds coming at all times. Birds, like people, enjoy plenty of company and stay wary of new or quiet feeding areas.

The ear of corn was eaten to the cob, so Sassy and I replaced it. We also scattered extra seed around the ground and behind the bushes. Birds can navigate the sides of the house with ease, so I often see them around the windows, clinging to the wood with the claws. I wonder if they are looking in to thank me or to remind me.

By coincidence, a small bird came into the garage while I was getting out seed. I had already done some feeding at that point, but neglected the snow covered spot near the garage door. I swept an area clear and put down some fresh seed. It never lasts long.

I noticed before the storm how much bird singing we hear now. One reason for singing is the male bird establishing his territory, but it is still early for that. Male cardinals are feeding together, not competing for females yet. Birds are naturally cheerful and make us feel happy with them. They have no savings, no retirement. Few of them store food, so they start the day hungry but optimistic, singing Matins, praising the Creator.

Everyone knows Sassy at the dog park. She is famous for retrieving and for catching high pop flyballs.
She loves the applause and the praise.