By Bruce Stambaugh
This time of year, especially when inches of snow cover the ground, birds flock to my backyard feeders. Please excuse the pun.
I hope you won’t mind me telling you that I get the best view of the various and sundry species of birds through the bathroom window of our modest country home. The kitchen window is good for observing birds, too, but it can’t match the wider view from the bathroom.I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this a bit odd. It’s not really. From the bathroom window, I get the best look at the several feeders stationed around the backyard.
The bathroom is on the main floor of the house and faces to the west, which is particularly advantageous on rare sunny winter days. The afternoon sun shines brightly on the birds, adding enhanced brilliance to their winter plumage.
From the restroom vantage point I can see most of the backyard, from the perennial wildflower patch at the south to the back porch at the north. In between and straight out from the window are the little garden pond and the mature sugar maple tree. Birds are attracted to both for different reasons, water and cover, respectively.An electric heater keeps the pond from freezing. The pump that creates the miniature waterfall runs year-round, serving as both an avian drinking and bathing station.
The maple tree, with its impressive crown, is king of the backyard. I can see all but the very top of the tree through the window. Songbirds and birds of prey perch on its welcoming outstretched branches. Its crinkled, exfoliating bark serves as a helpful tool for woodpeckers and nuthatches. They wedge sunflower seeds into the cracks and use their pointy beaks to hammer open the shiny black shells to reach the prized protein hearts.The platform feeder and hanging feeders are also visible from my unusual viewing spot. Like most birders, I keep a camera handy to record the antics of the many aviary visitors. I capture other critters, fox squirrels, opossums and groundhogs, at the pond and feeders, too. Please know that the ironic humor of keeping a camera in the bathroom doesn’t escape me.
The digital photos help me record the comings and goings of these valued visitors all year long. Wintertime is my favorite, however, especially when a good snowfall blankets the ground. I fill the feeders, and await the action, camera in hand. The birds seldom disappoint.
Occasionally I witness a special happening. A Sharp-shinned Hawk makes a sneak attack hoping for an afternoon snack. It zips bythe kitchen window and lands in the maple. I rush to the bathroom window in time to click away at the red-eyed accipiter.
Timing is often everything in bird watching. I have been able to photograph Red-headed Woodpeckers and Baltimore Orioles feeding simultaneously from the same suet feeder. From the bathroom window, I have had the perfect angle to catch brilliant Eastern Bluebirds chowing down on chipped sunflower hearts.
I have also seen a dozen or more deer munching in the shaded meadow far beyond our yard. I’ve been fortunate to see the neighbor’s horses romp on hillside pastures beneath the old windmill. I have snapped inspiring sunsets in every season. The list could go on and on.
Birding is a sport that can be enjoyed anytime, anyplace, even from the bathroom. For those who know me really, really well, that shouldn’t come as a real surprise.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2013