by Lee Juslin
One of the nicest things about the arrival of spring and warm weather is the return of the birds. Step outside in the morning and you are greeted by a chorus of bird song instead of the silence of winter early mornings.
I especially enjoy the Hummingbirds, tiny, sleek helicopters that are such fun to watch. I have a hummingbird feeder in the front and another in the back, and I place my living room lounge chair so that I can gaze out the windows to keep an eye on both.
Here in coastal North Carolina, we put out Hummingbird feeders in early April so by late March I am chomping at the bit, preparing a large jar of sugar water to keep in my refrigerator, and washing and assembling both feeders for a fresh start.
This year I had a Hummer come to my backyard feeder the second day, a record in Hummingbird attraction. I was excited. But, the third day something unexpected happened. When I looked out, there were two larger, chubbier birds at the feeder. Purple Finch. These two marauders had figured out how to stand upside down on the plastic flowers, stick their beaks into the center and suck. And, it was definitely working, because I could see their fat bodies shaking and every once in a while they would raise their heads to swallow. I tried chasing them away, especially after I saw the hummingbird chased off by them. It didn’t work. They kept coming back.
The level of the syrup in the feeder was going down quite rapidly, and I had to wash and refill the feeders every day. Finally, I decided to take down the backyard feeder, which was the one they were attacking. It was as hard as starting a diet, but I hoped the two Finch would get discouraged and give up. I held out for two days and then put the feeder back. That evening my little hummer was back but no sign of the Finch.
On the afternoon of the third day, I was sitting on my neighbor’s back porch, and we were talking about the weather and our gardens. She was the newbie in the neighborhood, though she had been there now for over a year. She had done quite a bit of landscaping and had birdfeeders up including a couple for hummingbirds. She was bragging about her bluebird houses and how the bluebirds came in the evening to be fed when she called them. I gnashed my teeth. We’d never had bluebirds. I’d never even seen one in the neighborhood. Then, she turned to me and said, “But I don’t understand what’s happening with my Hummingbird feeder. In the last day or so some other kind of bird has been coming to them. There are two of them. Then, she pointed. Look, there they are now.”
I looked at her hummer feeder and there they were. Two Purple Finch who were no doubt once my Purple Finch.
“What do you think they are?” she asked me. I smiled innocently and said, “They look like Purple Finch.”
“Well, I wish they’d go away,” she said. “They scare off my hummingbirds.”
Later, as I crossed my patio to the back door, I looked over at my Hummer feeder. A Hummingbird was just flitting away, but no fat Finch came to take his place. Mean, you say? Perhaps if she hadn’t bragged about those bluebirds.