Enjoying the bluejay brunch

Published 10:37 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

By Biff and Susan Andrews

We’re deep into our winter bird-feeding and observing pattern. Yesterday with just casual observations at our little lake-front cottage in the trees we saw 18 species we know — and one or two we don’t.

The suet cakes bring in all the woodpeckers and nuthatches. The black oil seed feeders attract the passerine (perching) species — especially finches, chickadees, titmice, grosbeaks and so on. The pressed seed rings are meant to attract finches but also bring in downies, nuthatches, titmice and others. But the big draw in the dead of winter is the wildlife nuts.

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We don’t go out to eat much, to movies or shows, so we don’t feel bad about spending $7 every three weeks or so for some second-rate peanuts to attract first-class birds. Next year we’ll get the 50-pound bag on Dec. 1. Our hanging feeders are great, but we rarely see ground feeding birds.

So at 7:30 or so each morning we brew tea and coffee and spread three small scoops of nuts on the 2-foot-wide bench that surrounds the deck outside our living room windows and get ready for the show.

Naturally, half of the nuts go to the local squirrels. But it rarely takes five minutes for the first bluejays to arrive — in numbers, usually six to eight a day. Dark blue, light blue, bright white patches mixed with black markings — no rhyme or reason to the markings. Then the other “horizontal feeders” arrive (since our deck seating is 10 feet above the ground.) Brown thrashers. Mockingbirds. Cardinals. Juncos.

So we sit and sip and watch the show. The squirrels come and go. The bluejays battle each other for choice morsels. Occasionally other ground birds visit briefly. For 50 cents worth of nuts, we get an hour’s relaxed visit with our friends. And if we ever have some stale salted-in-the-shell nuts, they go first. The show lasts into the second cup of coffee.

Not to mention the fact that because our tiny house has a good view of our small arm of Lake Meade, we daily see geese, cormorants, mergansers, great blue herons and great egrets, mallards and more. Yesterday we had eight canvasbacks; today we had four ring-necked ducks. And an occasional eagle thrown in.

Cheap thrills!


Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.