Backyard Bird TV
A celebration of our feathered friends by Christopher Kent, with photographs by Lynn Yost
I once lived in the city, with its crowded neighborhoods;
These days we have a little house that’s backed up to the woods.
Out front we look at mountain ridges, maybe six or seven;
It gives new meaning to the phrase “a little piece of heaven.”
Of course, we still are city folk at heart, there’s no denying;
But here we’ve found some different pleasures, all of them worth trying.
Our dining table sits beside two clear glass doors that slide
So we can sit and eat and watch what’s happening outside.
We’ve always thought that birds are cool, they have a lot of soul;
And so we put a birdfeeder out back atop a pole.
We put out seed and thistle, and a cage that’s filled with suet
So birds can stop and have a bite, and sure enough, they do it!
A wise man said the best of entertainment comes for free;
And so it does; we love to watch our Backyard Bird TV.
We don’t need satellite or cable; ain’t no ads to hate
We only get one channel, but the show is always great!
The audio’s especially nice, ‘cause birds, they love to sing;
They really crank it up when they’re recruiting mates in Spring.
There’s quite a cast of characters who join in on the action;
They come for lunch; we watch them munch. There’s lots of satisfaction!
One bird we love’s the nuthatch, he’s an acrobatic bird;
He operates in all positions, standard and absurd.
He’ll look around while upside down and sometimes on his side;
In flight, he’s like a rollercoaster; other birds just glide.
He makes a funny little chirp, to say “hello,” no doubt,
And taps the feeder loudly when the seed inside runs out.
We always have some cardinals, bright red (at least the guys);
They make a splash of color in a bush or in the sky.
They seem to like to eat at dusk; the other birds leave sooner.
We hear owls, but don’t see them, ‘cause their schedule is lunar.
(In fact, one night we heard a sound like some melodic mutter;
An owl was sitting outside up above us on the gutter.)
The other birds go flying when the mourning doves alight.
They’re rather large and mottled gray; they don’t seem very bright.
Their name comes from their song, a kind of sad and lonely sound;
We often see them sitting half asleep down on the ground.
Despite their name, goldfinches only turn gold in the summer,
And then it’s just the males (which for the females seems a bummer).
They’re quite obsessed with thistle seed; they fight for it like crazy.
(Compared to them the mourning doves seem positively lazy.)
We rarely see a bluebird; but whenever they pass through
They make us feel quite honored (and they sure as heck are blue.)
We also hang a feeder so that hummingbirds will come
And sure enough they come to sip, and we can hear their hum.
Before the blue jay visits, he cries out to let us know
That he’s about to have his luncheon. Look out below!
Another bird who’s very blue is the bright indigo bunting;
Like many birds, he feeds on insects. I say, happy hunting.
A bunch of different woodpeckers drop by to have a bite;
The sweet “red-bellied” woodpecker (whose belly seems quite white),
Along with downy woodpeckers and hairy woodpecks, too;
They make a racket pecking nearby trees (it’s what they do).
The wildest of the woodpeckers’s the pileated ‘pecker;
If sandwiches were birds, this one would be a triple-decker.
They’re colorful and very big—they give some folks the jitters
(The cartoon Woody Woodpecker was based upon these critters)
We hear them crying loudly from the top of nearby trees
They swoop and grab the suet cage, which swings like a trapeze.
They look around quite carefully before they take a bite;
They’re big and gaudy, hard to miss—a predator’s delight.
One bird is very friendly; he’s a black-capped chickadee
He doesn’t care how close I get—he’s not afraid of me.
When I go out to fill the feeder, he just hangs around
The moment food’s available he’s right there chowing down.
I might just be a foot away; he doesn’t seem to mind;
He knows that I’m a friend, so he stays put until he’s dined.
We have a lot of robins, but they eat on their own terms
They hop around upon the ground and yank up juicy worms.
On two occasions robins built a nest outside our door
Attempts to talk them out of this were met with “bird ignore.”
They seemed to say, “Hey! It’s OK! We know where our eggs should be laid.”
They’d always fly when we walked by, but in the end they stayed.
One day we saw an Oriole; he sat high in a tree
And sang a most unbirdlike song, as strange as strange could be.
And speaking of unbirdlike songs, the catbird needs no coaching;
He meows just like a cat whenever real cats are approaching.
Once or twice we’ve seen a hawk out sitting in a tree;
The other birds go crazy (he’s a predator, you see).
Now when it comes to cowbirds, we do not have kind words;
They substitute their eggs for those of much more pleasant birds.
You’d think that birds could tell the eggs apart, but that’s the catch;
They just know they’re supposed to keep them warm until they hatch.
And even after hatching, all those uninvited guests
Are fed just like the birds’ own babies, peeping in the nests.
Sometimes crows come passing through. They’re big and black and smart;
They fill the trees and make a racket. (But is it art?)
They can’t fit on our feeder, but they scavenge like a winner;
A bag of garbage on the street’s a perfect source for dinner.
I still recall a mockingbird that sang in our backyard
When I was young; he’d sing all night and really make it hard
For me to sleep, until I’d go outside and throw rocks at the tree.
The ones we see these days sing elsewhere; that’s just fine with me.
In spring and fall great flocks of geese fly past,
up in the sky;
They travel in formation, and they honk as they go by.
I’m sure it would be fun if they stopped by to take a break;
But they’re too big for the feeder, and we don’t live by a lake.
Every story needs some bad guys, the thieves who steal the pearls;
The bad guys in our story are a bunch of local squirrels.
For years they found ingenious ways to get atop the feeder
And gorge themselves on birdseed (we consider them a cheater).
Now squirrels are pretty hard to fool when food is on their mind;
But in the end we found a feeder cleverly designed
That keeps them from the food, which they can’t seem to work around;
So now they settle for the seed that’s knocked onto the ground.
And furthermore, to raise the stakes and add some spice to things
We have an extra special villain waiting in the wings.
In this case it’s a big black bear, about 400 pounds;
He shows up every spring one night and tears our feeder down.
The worst thing is, we have to leave it empty for a while;
We can’t enjoy the friendly birds that always make us smile
‘Cause once he’s in the neighborhood, he knows where birdseed beckons;
As soon as we refill it, he’ll be coming back for seconds.
Some birds we’ve seen just once or twice and then they’re gone again;
We’ve seen some red-winged blackbirds, and a Carolina wren
Some birds are rather plain, like starlings, others are quite showy;
We’ll see rose-breasted grosbeaks, and a house finch or a towhee.
We’ll see a purple finch or juncos, now and then a sparrow;
We’ll often spot a titmouse on a bench or a wheelbarrow.
Sometimes a flock of birds will fill a bush out in our yard;
They all start chirping loudly (sounding very avant-garde).
I’m not sure what they’re saying; if it’s code, then I can’t crack it.
They chirp like crazy, all together, making quite a racket!
A pair of peacocks even showed up in our yard one day;
We figured they were lost, but they seemed happy either way.
We truly do enjoy the birds who come and share this space;
They help keep our perspective ‘bout the crazy human race
Reminding us we’re just a part of nature’s lovely dance;
We thoroughly enjoy this happy, feathered circumstance.
We share our food, they share their joy, it’s quite a sight to see;
It’s one of life’s great pleasures, watching Backyard Bird TV!
Copyright 2017 by Christopher Kent and Lynn Yost. All rights reserved.