When the FeederWatch becomes your favorite channel

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This photo belongs to the Cornell Lab Bird Cams Facebook page

It started out as entertainment for my cat.

Zoe is 19+ and doesn’t get around much anymore.  She prefers to spend her days lounging on the bed with her arthritic legs toasting on a heating pad.  And even if she were able to get up on the back of the chair to look out the window, the action on the street isn’t very thrilling for a cat: a gang of two or three crows (an attempted murder), the occasional seagull, random pigeons.  If she took to the French door, she would likely come face to face with one of the gib-cats from the next door–Elvis, the muted orange, his twin Punkin, or Timothy Raisin, Jr., a very large and very ornery black and white.  She despises the “boys” from the days when they would sneak in and eat her food or wait along the fence to pounce on her.   So my poor beastie was stuck, and I needed to find some sort of entertainment to keep her occupied.

I tried one of those “cat sitter” dvds: seven hours of non-stop squeaking mice, chattering squirrels, and tweeting/twittering/cheeping/chirping birds.  For up close and personal entertainment, I inserted the dvd into the laptop next to the bed and set off for the day. When I returned home from work that evening, I found my cat wide-eyed and irritated.  Apparently the continuous stimulation was overwhelming for my beastie. Her whole body seemed to beg, “For the love of God, turn that thing off!”  Once I pushed the screen closed, she expelled a deep sigh and became visually relaxed.  The dvd was never shown again. Time for another alternative.

I don’t have a cable/dish tv, or else leaving it turned the National Geographic Channel may have been a choice.  Then I remembered the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  They have wonderful Bird Cams.  Since Zoe spent her early years in the Midwest, the 

As I get ready for work in the morning, I turn on the 32″ tv and switch to YouTube. Loading … loading … the wheel spins, and there it is: the platform feeder with a menagerie of hanging options and attachments  Because the cam is located on the other coast, it is already mid morning there, and birds are in full feasting.

Mornings may start with the crackling of common grackles and their banded redwing blackbird cousins.  Add a couple of vibrant blue jays, and the noisy scene wakes the room.  Later, as the chattering group moves on, the gentle mourning doves arrive in pairs to peck and gobble at the seed.  The doves are curious birds who will often step up to the camera to stare at their reflection. The result: a 32″ dove eye that rivals Sauron peering into our souls 3,000 miles away.  More than once it has given both Zoe and me a start!

I leave the channel on as I come and go about the day.  At mid morning, I look up from my work to see an influx of smaller birds. The downy woodpecker explores the suet above, while purple finches and black-capped chickadees hop and shuffle from hanging feeders to the platform. All the while, the pond in the distance gives glimpses of larger birds foraging in the water: a small flock of Canada geese, a pair of mallard ducks, the solitary great blue heron. And there are surprise appearances: the flash of orange from the Baltimore oriole, the delicate dance of the ruby-throated hummingbird, the dinosauresque stance of the pilated woodpecker. As I prepare dinner, the sun is setting on the other coast.  And the frequency of birds becomes less and less.   The pond grows still, and the croaking frogs join the insect orchestra to replace the early morning scuffle.

Last night, after a particularly blustery day at the office, I prepared to turn off the screen when a lone male cardinal settled on the far edge of the feeder.  I stood with the remote in my hand and watched as he carefully sorted through the remnants of the day, most likely searching for a coveted sunfllower seed.  His pace was slow, yet purposeful.  He was just stopping for an evening snack before bed.  Perhaps he would take a treat to his mate who waited in the tree.  I breathed deeply as I watched.  As he found his prize, stepped back, and flew away, I felt my worries of the day go with him.

Some of the best “television” I’ve had in a long time.

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