Al Batt: It’s the dances with birds or the jays of our lives

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

My wife got me a nifty bird feeder for Christmas.

Al Batt

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It holds sunflower seeds. Now I won’t have to do any cooking when she’s away.

I situated the feeder in a fine place for me to watch birds.

My neighbor Crandall stopped by. “You’re putting up a new bird feeder,” was his greeting to me.

“You got me there. Guilty as charged,” I said.

“Does that make an even 100 feeders?”

I laughed, but in my lifetime, it’s likely over 100. A dizzying array of feeders offers a buffet for birds. I want to make sure they get my money’s worth. A tree fell on some feeders, several succumbed to time, squirrels, raccoons and storms. A deer got one. Some feeders didn’t work out and were pink-slipped. Others were coveted by friends and became gifts. If birds punch “feeders near me” on their smartphones, they come to my place because I have an ample supply. I blame that on my reading of Kurt Vonnegut during my formative years. In “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” Vonnegut wrote, “Grab much too much, or you’ll get nothing at all.” 

“You should put up a feeder,” I said.

“Why? You feed the neighborhood birds as if you’re fattening them for market,” said Crandall.

I asked him what he’d do if a spaceship landed in his yard and a gigantic bird, a cross between the meanest middle linebacker and a woodpecker the size of a T-Rex stepped out, and demanded, “Take me to your feeder.” It’d claim it came in peace, but you know how that goes. Crandall could save the world by putting up a single bird feeder. He had no answer for that.

If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s because you have bird feeders. That’s true if the something you love is a wild bird or a squirrel. Squirrels think bird feeders are squirrel feeders. There are squirrel-proof feeders, but they cost $1 million each.

Feeding birds is an easy way to become one who notices things. Filling the feeders is a “but first” thing. I’d like to eat breakfast, but first I need to fill the feeders. I know some of you aren’t fond of repetitious chores done when it’s a kajillion degrees below zero. Keeping feeders filled is like Sisyphus pushing that rock up a hill. I like to think that made Sisyphus happy. Feeding birds causes me to vibrate at a high frequency. Watching birds feed with zeal adds joy to a winter’s day. A bird table becomes a magical place.

Years ago, I found myself in a hotel room with a dead cellphone and no charging cord. The cord had failed to check out of a previous hotel. I hiked down to the desk of the posh hotel striving to put their best guests between the ice machine and the elevator on the 14th floor, which is really the 13th floor. I told the desk clerk my tale of woe and he produced a giant box of cables, including one that fit my phone.

A friend picked me up at the Denver airport. He drove a Tesla and, like my phone, that car needs to be charged. Fish got to swim, birds got to fly and electric cars got to charge. How sweet it’d be if a mere human like me could charge my battery that way. Some people rely on coffee, which I’ve never learned to drink. My mother made coffee so strong, it poured into a cup as if the oil was being changed in a truck. Feeding birds gives me a charge. I need birds more than they need me.

Hummingbirds have an instinct to protect food sources, so they have a dominance hierarchy (pecking order). This leads to constant battles at feeders. If you know someone who enjoys movies featuring car chases, tell them to watch hummingbirds at nectar feeders. Hummingbirds decline all offers to winter here.

Fill a feeder, then relax with a hot beverage, a book, this newspaper, knitting or by juggling chainsaws, and watch the birds. It’s grand entertainment, it’s good for you and will make you look cool.

The weather is out of the ordinary here. The birds are extraordinary.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.