Monday, 24 February 2014

Redbirds in the garden

I can never see a red bird without thinking of my grandmother. Cardinals were her favourite bird. Her yard was full of feeders and she enjoyed watching their antics from her window, and kept the feeders full to ensure they’d come back again and again.

I don’t know this from experience, as I never saw her place in winter, at least not when she lived in Ohio. Our trips back home, usually once a year, were our summer family vacation. It was never a trip we made in winter, not to my recollection.

I do remember, as an adult, visiting after she moved to Florida, in winter of course. She said then that she missed her redbirds, as they were not as common in Florida, not one of the birds that migrate south for the winter.

I do remember that every Christmas card my grandmother sent had a beautiful winter scene, with a red bird the only dash of colour.

As the years passed, my Baba, as we called her, became older and frailer. She moved from the big house in a regular neighbourhood, to a smaller, manufactured home in a gated community, and finally to a retirement home.
I made Cardinals my theme for Christmas gifts. One year I made her a ceramic Christmas tree, complete with lights, and little red birds sitting on the branches.

I gave her a stained glass cardinal for her window and a mug for her morning coffee.

I found a ceramic switch plate with a painted winter scene, and of course, a redbird.
And I think, one year, there was a fleece jacket with redbirds embroidered on the front.

The Christmas cards I sent her had redbirds depicted in some form or another.

These are the gifts that stick out in my mind, there were probably others. I don’t know what happened to most of those gifts, but I do know after she died I brought that switch plate cover home and always had it as a reminder of a very special woman.

In the years since I’ve quit work, I’ve maintained bird feeders outside my window. I’m not a birder, so any birds that visit seem to come by chance. I’ve done a bit of reading, I am a research junkie after all, and even made my own suet mix one year.

The squirrels loved it so much they practically ate the plastic container it was in.

This year, my birding has been a dismal failure. I have my feeder, with a suet cake, hanging outside my window. It’s still full, and has been for a good month.

I blame it 1) on the weather. The ice storm knocked all those branches down right at the base of the hook holding my feeder, and 2) the feeder is in the wrong location.

I finally did some research and found out that cardinals prefer a stationary feeder to a hanging one. And the big mistake I made, I placed the feeder in front of my window, facing the road, where there are no trees, no shrubs even, to give the birds a sense of safety, and a place to fly to should danger present.

And maybe it’s due to the cat that I have never seen, but hear roams the area. I have seen tracks so it must be real.

I can’t get to the feeder right now, two feet of snow and broken branches are a good enough deterrent. Next year I’ll have to plan this out better, see where I can put a feeder that will be more attractive, more welcoming, and still accessible all winter.

I see some research in my future. Sorry Baba, I tried.

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