Several years ago I wrote a review for Neena Schwartz’s A Lab of My Own in which I praised her book as a valuable read for any budding scientist and an important chronicling of the advancement of women in science. At least, that’s the gist of my public review. Privately to my friends and colleagues, I lamented that it is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read that I almost didn’t finish because I was so bored by the first chapter’s detailed accounts of her love of bird watching. How could someone possibly be so obsessed with birdwatching? As it turns out, I owe Dr. Schwartz a profound apology.
I recently have become a crazy bird lady.
When I first looked at my new place in new MRU town I noticed that the woman who was living here had several bird feeders on the outside deck. When I went outside, a flock of birds fled from the deck en masse. I thought it might be cool to get a bird feeder or bird nest or some other such bird bullshittery for the kids to look at. I mentioned this to a friend who later brought me a single bag of bird seed as a housewarming gift. This friend has doomed me to my current fate, which I cannot easily forgive him for.
Given that at my core I am a bitch on a budget, it pained me to see the bag of bird seed sitting idle on my kitchen counter. Also, the day after I received the seed a bird starting banging into the window every day and I was convinced he was organizing an assault to try to capture the bag of seed. I took Tiny Diva to a local establishment and we purchased a bird feeder. We filled the little feeder with what I have now discovered is basically ditch seed to those in the birding community. On the first day two birds came. On the second day, five or six birds came. On the third day, I saw 10 throughout the day. On the fourth day, the feeder was empty.
My children were interested in the bird feeder for about three days. I, however, have developed an obsession.
Tiny Diva and I went back to the market and bought a bag of slightly higher end bird seed. The next day, the feeder was covered in birds all day long. They emptied the feeder in about 36 hours. I’ve kept the feeder filled since the arrival of my original bird seed gift about a month ago and the birds keep emptying it. I have become increasingly obsessed with watching them eat and fight each other for prime feeding position. Some of these birds are hilariously rude.
I’ve also found myself researching bird feeding in the middle of the night and trying different things in the feeder – sunflower seed blends, peanuts, and fruit based feeds. Organic, gluten free, and songbird feeds. I’ve read the online debates on shelled versus no-mess blends. I have yet to come down on a side, but I now know the importance of added grit and calcium in your feeder. I am considering adding a suet feeder in order to attract more woodpeckers, jays and cardinals on the deck. I’ve considered starting to raise meal worms and on Sunday when a friend told me that her sister-in-law had a heated bird bath, I damned near lost my shit.
However, my new bird obsession has also left me frequently fraught with anxiety. Initially, I was concerned that my more expensive bird seed purchases were going to cut into the family budget for staples like electricity. I thought about cutting back on the frequency with which I fill the feeder, but it has started to get cold here. Late one night, past a polite hour of the evening, I found myself calling on the original feed gifter in a panic. I had committed to feeding these little bastards. What if they failed to migrate because I give good seed and then I stop feeding them and they starve and died? I could be responsible for an ecological disaster in my neighborhood. I’m a physiologist. Not a bird-knower-abouter. What had I done? He suggested that I switch to half ditch seed/half high end feed in order to keep my costs reasonable, but I felt guilty. I realized that sacrifices may have to be made. We have a gas fireplace to cook over and stay warm by. Electricity is a luxury item when the birds gotta eat.
Then this weekend I noticed a new disturbing trend. The adorable little titmice that visit my feeder had gone from being delightful little titnuggets to big, bloated bird balls. I again called my friend, with more than a smidge of anxiety, and wondered aloud if I had doomed the titmice to extinction. It seems like they are having a little more trouble getting off the deck railing in their currently obese state and I was worried that they would be more easier for predators to snatch. He suggested that I get a fucking grip. Also…
That basically tells me that I am going to need another feeder.