Blue Jay at my feeder

Cardinal in the feeder tree

    As the sun rose today, I had already read the paper and was sitting on the couch watching the birds at the feeding stations outside my french doors. I have eight stations, with different food and suet to attract different species.  This morning, it was the fifth morning in a row that the thermometer in my backyard registered 20 below zero or colder. The birds are very active feeding to fuel their little furnaces.

   At these cold temperatures they must eat to stay warm. I have four varieties of suet for them. Animal fat is a very good source for fuel to keep these little guys going in the extreme cold. My family has been very entertained and intrigued by the activity around the feeders. We wonder if birds of different species communicate, or do they just have an understanding.  One time on the platform feeder, there might be two or three varieties of finches, chickadees, and cardinals! They seem to get along, and they don’t really pay much attention to each other. Do you think this is because it’s too damn cold to squabble? Maybe.

    Speaking of our feeding visitors, so far this winter season we have seen, purple, yellow, and common finches. They are fun to watch because they are usually here in what appears to be a flock, sometimes too many to count. The chickadees are the first to arrive in the morning and the last to eat in the evening. They usually are solo, dive in take a seed or two, then fly back to a tree branch to crack and eat the seed. They also eat almost anything I put out there. The one feeder I haven’t seen them at is the thistle seed feeder.  Thistle seed was almost to be exclusive to the finches but, the dark-eyed junkos spend time on that one as well. Speaking of the junkos, they will eat from all the feeders as well as being my area janitors. They spend a lot of time on the ground cleaning up after the messier chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches. Since adding the big block suet feeder with corn, peanuts and black sunflower seeds, the big noisy blue jays have come onto the scene. They are truly a hoot to watch. We have three nesting pairs from our own yard that stay and eat here all winter. They are two pairs of beautiful and healthy cardinals. Not only are the males a very vivid red against the mostly white winter background, but the females are a very pretty tint of green, with maroon tips and yellow beak. The other pair is my funny downy woodpeckers. They thrive on the suet cakes with blueberries and the suet bell with sunflower seeds. These guys can be a small nuisance in the warmer months as they like to occasionally pound on my cedar house siding! We had a huge pileated woodpecker earlier, but I think they are too skittish around the house and all the other birds. Another sighting bonus was a robin showing up Thanksgiving weekend. He was solo, very big, and didn’t stay long! What was strange was that all the robins headed south weeks before we saw this guy! I guess watching bird feeder activity can be very gratifying and educational.

   Having the feeders to watch and care for this winter has been a tonic of sorts for me to try to survive in this God-awful place on the planet to reside. With each passing fall and winter in Minnesota, my chronic Seasonal Affected Disorder(SAD) gets worse. The birds have helped this year though. My brother Chris, a resident of the frigid climes of Stafford, Virginia, asks me frequently how close I come to suicide every winter from living here. A rhetorical question perhaps, but there probably is something in there somewhere!  Oh well, relish the thoughts of pitchers and catchers reporting to camp in about thirty days. The Masters is only four months away, and I’m about six months until I can get out in the yard and start working the soil after the frost has gone out! I’m pretty sure I can make it to Masters time thanks to my little feathered visitors every day. I think I’ll reward them for helping me get through the winter by continuing to feed them year round. They bring a real sense of peace, solace, and self-satisfaction for me during this trying time of the year in Minnesota. Try it yourselves, it really is fun and not too costly. Thank you.

Cam Obert



  1. mary b Says:

    Hey Cam–loved reading this. i enjoy this better than the politix. i tried making suet myself one year. that was hysterical…stinks to high heaven. only thing worse smell wise was when my dad use to cook beef kidneys…

    …hope the weather cooperates a tad…when we left missouri on the 6th it was 2 degrees below zero and the poor 15 year old dog had his tears all frozen. can’t even imagine your temps. i think feb. is suppose to have another bad round of cold.

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