We put our bird feeder back up last week right after Thanksgiving. After enjoying watching and sketching the birds all last winter, we took it down in the spring so they wouldn’t get too fat and lazy. It’s fun having it back up again, especially on these days of seemingly relentless rain. (Lucky for me, birds don’t have a problem with wet-weather dining.)
I keep a pocket-size Stillman & Birn sketchbook and a few water-soluble colored pencils on the kitchen counter next to the window that looks out on the corner of our backyard where the feeder hangs. Whenever I pass through or get a hankering to sketch something live (and lively), the tiny birds are endlessly entertaining. Most of my sketches are small, unfinished and in varying poses. After viewing the birds repeatedly over the course of a few minutes, I add details a little at a time. Eventually some sketches start to look complete. Shown here are two of the most finished sketches from the past few days.
Though the smallest, the chestnut-backed chickadees are the most aggressive (and fastest!), chasing away any other birds that perch nearby. The dark-eyed juncos seem the most reticent, waiting on the nearby fence for the chickadees to move out before they go in. The juncos also like to drop down to the ground and peck the seeds that have spilled out. A newcomer we hadn’t noticed before is a pine siskin. The only reason I can identify any of these birds is because we bought a book on Seattle and Puget Sound birds from our local Audubon Society office.
That’s also where we bought the feeder, which is a Brome Squirrel Buster. Recommended by my friend Alex, a birder and urban sketcher, the feeder is designed to keep squirrels and large birds out. We’ve enjoyed highly comical entertainment when a squirrel tried to maneuver his way onto the perches, but his weight caused the feeder to close access to the food. A Steller’s jay and a flicker each tried to feast from the feeder too, but both were too big to use it. I would have loved to have had the chance to sketch those larger birds, but I guess we’d have to get a separate feeder for them.
Even as it is, those tiny birds are going through quite a bit of feed each day – a small price to pay for our winter entertainment.