Although curiosity didn’t do much good for the proverbial cat, I have to confess it has always served me well, continually opening my world to delightful new discoveries. Most recently, this has come to include the joy of watching birds.

Straight up – I don’t know the first thing about birds. Well, back up a bit – I know they like to poop all over my truck, and I know they make such a fuss in the wee hours before dawn that sleeping with the windows open around here is pretty much impossible. But beyond that, where birds are concerned I remain at a complete loss.

My wife, Laura, doesn’t know much about birds either, so I’m not really sure how we wound up owners of a shiny new bird feeder for the yard. I honestly don’t remember buying it. Perhaps it was a housewarming gift? That’s a possibility, since its appearance seemed to coincide with our moving into the new house. In any case, it was a delightful brown stamped metal thing with clear plastic sides, adorned with a supportive wire cage that would slide down when too much weight was applied to it, a feature said to deter squirrels from eating all the bird seed. Fairly ornate, it was decorated on each side with numerous little oak leaves, each stamped out of the same thin brown metal and tacked into place on the wire cage covering. It had a lid that lifted vertically to open, and little perches for birds to sit on while they stuffed down their free lunch. It seemed quite high-tech at the time. So we duly hauled off to Canadian Tire, bought a steel Shepherd’s pole to hang it on, filled it up with bird seed and peered excitedly out the kitchen window to witness the results. That was it – we were now bird watchers.

To my surprise, and I think Laura’s too, there weren’t exactly a lot of birds to watch that first afternoon. As in, none at all – nada, zero, zip. In fact it was the next morning before the first curious house sparrows arrived to check it out this odd new addition to the garden. Our first customers!

The original feeder, with the sparrow gang.


Then there were more sparrows. And more. I may not know the first thing about birds, but even children can recognize a house sparrow. And we seemed to have clouds of them. Although our bird identification book suggested that all sorts of colourful little peeps lived in our area, none seemed remotely interested in our little enterprise. All we got day after day were swarms of the same little brown birds.

When we finally did succeed in attract something other than sparrows, we wound up getting a bit more than we bargained for. We were surprised to peer out the kitchen window one morning to find the feeder was gone, the steel shepherd’s hook standing alone in the yard, no longer vertical, but tilting drunkenly toward the fence at a 45 degree angle. Stepping outside to investigate, we soon located the feeder about 20 feet away, shattered. A telltale tuft of grey fur pinched in its crumpled metal frame, supported by some muddy paw prints clearly visible up and down the Shepherd’s pole, revealed the culprit to have been a raccoon.

That disappointing start led us to begin researching birds, and ultimately brought us to a birding specialty store. Soon enough our yard was adorned by a new feeder on a new pole, this one complete with a raccoon-proof baffle. The feeder now had the right kind of seeds in it, and while we still got our share of house sparrows, many other, much more interesting birds soon found our set-up to their liking. Success at last.

That was a few years ago and, while we still don’t know a whole lot about birds, every day continues to bring new fresh new discoveries and exciting new visitors to the feeders. It also brings us to this humble effort. We have come to enjoy reading other people’s blogs, and wanted to share our own experiences. Hopefully, you’ll find them to be as much fun as we have.

About Craig Ritchie

Craig Ritchie was born in Toronto and has always held a deep fascination with nature and wildlife. After an initial attempt at putting a bird feeder in the yard led to confrontations with gangs of house sparrows and mischievous raccoons, he set out to learn more about birds and birding, sharing those discoveries on his blog. Craig currently divides his time between southern Ontario and Prince Edward Island.
This entry was posted in Bird Canada. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Curiosity

  1. Gordon says:

    That was an excelent and entertaining read, and welcome to the world of birds, get out and about with a camera, and show us the rest of your area and birds.
    All the best Gordon.

  2. gilda blackmore says:

    I feel your past pain and look forward to your present pleasure.

  3. Tammie Hache says:

    What a fun read! Took me back to my beginning bird feeding days many moons ago. Looking forward to hearing more, Craig!

    Tammie, in NW Ont.

  4. Becky Racaniello (kittez) says:

    What a delightful story! Thanks for sharing – – – please do continue the tales of “I don’t know much about birds” – love it!