The long clear tube with the red plastic ends and handle is a simple version of a birdfeeder. It’s cheap and basic. The owner only fills it two times a week in the summer time for two reasons. First, she can only afford so much bird food. She sacrifices quite a bit out of her small pension to buy a small bag of seed every other month. Secondly, she knows that all creatures should retain a level of independence. There are other feeders in the neighborhood. There are black berry bushes and fruit trees, thistle and worms and bugs in the yard.
She hung the feeder in this overgrown Camilla bush that sits outside her bedroom. Her desk sits underneath the window overlooking this side yard. The bush provides privacy so the neighbors don’t think she’s being nosy, watching them. She spends a lot of time at her desk on the two feeder days every week. This week is no exception.
Around five thirty in the morning after she fills the feeder a flock of black capped chickadees converge, with a handful of sparrows joining in the fun. They fill the Camilla bush and the bushes across the yard. Two at a time, they take turns over breakfast. There’s a bird bath around the corner, which some of them make use of. The yard fills with birds and noise and joy for an hour. The owner sits and watches, smiling. Then the flock moves on to their next stop for the day.
After the yard has settled into silence one of the neighborhood cats creeps through the fence and stretches out underneath the feeder. He dozes in the sun on the concrete path for a while. Black and white spotted, his thick soft fur glistens in the sun. The woman has nicknamed him Alex in her mind, though she doesn’t know why. In the meantime another cat paces through, stopping to inspect his neighbor. They know and respect each other and separate amicably. Both of them meanders away to check out sunnier spots as the shade moves into the quiet yard. The woman had cats all her life, but now she doesn’t think she could take good care of one. She misses the warmth of a furry bundle laying in her lap. The feeder swings temptingly in the breeze.
The Anna’s hummingbird isn’t attracted to it, though. Instead, the tiny bird flits to the rose bush across the way to inspect it’s pretty pink petals. It hovers for a moment, trying to determine if there’s anything good to check out. Then the hummingbird swiftly moves away. Inside, the woman realizes she’s been holding her breath in admiration. The feeder swings again, with the branches of the bush.
Sunlight floods this yard in the afternoon. The owner of the home dozes in the heat. She misses watching the flock of starlings that check out the feeder with loud exclamations and little arguments over turns.
She also misses the neighbor that cut through her yard. This man is just trying to get some coffee from down the street and saving a few steps by taking a shortcut through private property. Others in the past have stolen yard decorations and tools. One took the owners all time favorite little statue of a little girl skipping. It’d been made of a cheap material but it was so lifelike. Ten years later she mourned the loss of that little girl. The bum that took it probably sold it for five dollars and bought booze or drugs.
When the woman wakes she sees the house finches with their pretty red breasts and heads bobbing around on the feeder. There are four of the, one female and three males. The males are brighter and more colorful. The female is more circumspect. Her companions practically crawl into the feeder in their eagerness for food. It’s amusing that they would probably almost fit inside. But they don’t get stuck. After dining they fly off, but not too far. This is a good place to hang out and they’ve enjoyed it all summer.
A squirrel shimmies up the bush next. He’s exploring as he does almost every day. Maybe there will be nuts in this bush. After several almost falls he decides there aren’t. So he wanders on the ground below. More chickadees, sparrows and finches visit. They’re all chased off by the scrub jays. These jays aren’t mean, just hungry and insistent on respect. Little birds sneak in and grab a bite opposite a jay without trouble.
The neighborhood cats are the trouble. One of this morning’s visitors has returned and is eyeing the feeder with delight. He’s caught a bird there before, so he knows it’s a possibility. “Cat! Cat! Cat! ” All the birds join in to screech at him and the property owner joins in the cries, though she isn’t sure he can hear her through the closed window. She likes cats. She understands their nature. But she doesn’t plan on another bird losing it’s life at her feeder. The loss of one broke her heart. The cat trots away briskly, feeling very abused.
Daylight is fading. The day is almost over. The feeder describes the time perfectly. It started full and slowly the seed disappeared like sands in an hourglass. Families and friends have gathered and dispersed. The owner of the property has been entertained and amused by her visitors. But all of that is ending now as night falls, and darkness with it, on the mostly feeder. Inside, the woman is alone but not lonely. She is not bored, though silence has fallen. The feeder had kept her entertained and given her companions all day long. In a few days she can do it all again.