Wednesday, August 24, 2016

That movie where the birds attack

Yes, I’m still alive and kicking. It’s been so long since my last post, that I’ve had a dickens of a time figuring out my password. I had to uninstall and reinstall programs, for goodness sake. The formatting looks strange to me, too. Anyhoo, we’re still gardening here in the Greatland. I’m not bragging about where I live, that’s really a nickname for Alaska.

Last year we were given, with no prior notice, some live animals. Yes, this paragraph can only get more horrifying, so buckle up. A car drove up the to the house. A car trunk was opened. Most unfortunately, in an unguarded moment, my garage door was open. Into this garage (and from the car in the driveway) were placed 4 chicks, a handful of feed, and a water dish. They were in a small cardboard box. Since people have been killed on slighter provocation than a drive by insta-pet dump, you’d think this person (a relative) would know better, but you have relatives like that too, don’t you?

So we have three chickens now in our garden. Those are the first, and most important birds of note in my garden, according to time and money spent, worry accorded, and noisy racket generated. We do get eggs, so I suppose that’s a consolation of sorts. Our brown chicken, Duck, eats slugs as well, so that’s nice. P.S. A child decided on the name for our chicken named Duck, so don’t judge me.


The second birds of note this summer are the “Charlies,” a slightly less technical but more affectionate term for the Stellar’s jays, Cyanocitta stelleri, that case our joint about once a day. My grandmother, Ruth, called every Blue jay in her Portland, Oregon backyard “Charlie,” so it has become a tradition for me with the Blue jay’s Alaska dwelling cousin. When I was a child, she told me jays always came in threes, Charlie and his two girlfriends. I have found that to be very often true. Sometimes just one jay, sometimes four, but most often three.

Jays are noisy and capable of making sounds that defy imitation, so instead of trying to talk to them in faux bird-talk, like I do the chickadees, I just holler, “Here Charlie!” That seems to work, as Charlie will take an unshelled peanut from my hand. The other three Charlies (fledglings, I suspect, or maybe they don’t like the look of me) are too shy to do more than land on my deck railing and look wistfully at the peanut in my hand, and make popping or scratching noises to the brave Charlie. 

A note to those interested in taming a Charlie: they have trained me and my two children to run to the bag of peanuts any time we hear their squawk or see them sitting on the rail. Sometimes they will fly up to the window if they see me inside and brush the window with their wings to get my attention. They’re pushy like that.

The third bird of note is the giant buzzard that has been hanging around the swing set, a good perching place for checking out the chickens. “Giant Buzzard” is the lazy person’s Latin for Bubo virginianus, or the Great Horned Owl. He showed up with much fanfare in the form of shouted alerts from my kids about chicken safety, or lack thereof. He also showed up with much poo. On my roof namely, but also my wooden decking. Never fear, the chicken pen was hastily (much in the manner of grave robbers working through the rainy night) covered in netting, and the owl was foiled. The poo was removed by scrubbing. Fooey.


I know you’re thinking, that’s a lot of bird adventures for one garden, but wait, there’s more. Other than the hawks scoping out the chickens in the form of dive bombing, which we will not mention, because they are never still long enough for a photo, we had one other cool sighting this summer (yeah, I say that like summer is over because, Anchorage, it is) of a hummingbird. Which is no biggie for you California or Oregon gardeners, but a cool and unusual sight for most Alaskans. It is so unusual for me (as a lifelong southcentral Alaskan, I’ve only seen two other sightings) to see one, that I didn’t know what I was looking at, at first glance. I thought the wind was moving some Lamium stems unusually fast. Nope, it was the first sighting of the little tyke, which hung around for about a week in late June, justifying all that red, pink, and purple Penstemon I planted everywhere. See if you can spot it perched on my tree cage (stupid moose, grumble, grumble).


So the bird season here is winding down, at least in this garden. Chicks fledged, robins mostly gone, feeder birds gearing up for the big vamoose back to warmer climes. It will be interesting to see what birds show up next year if we have another warm summer (please, oh please, yes).

What birds were hanging around your garden? Any unusual avian visitors?


  1. I would be delighted with an Owl of any sort in my garden. We get Cooper's Hawks thrumming by the feeders. They love to eat mourning doves, Northern Cardinals and an occasional house sparrow. All of which visit our feeders. I have never had any bird eat from my hand. I guess I am too busy to work on that. We do get an occasional Blue Jay. They really don't like me even watching them grabbing peanuts or sunflower seeds. We had House Wrens, Carolina Wrens, White-breasted nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse and Ruby=throated Hummingbirds. The humminbirds will be leaving soon if they haven't already departed. I haven't seen one today. Hmmmmm....

  2. Glad you are still out there! What adventures you have had. This year I had a hummingbird with a drinking problem. She only showed up when my feeders had fermented. I wish I was patient enough to get abird to eat out of my hands. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Glad to see you back. We've moved from Missy's garden which was always full of a variety of birds to a much smaller yard with only the occasional visitor. I miss them and I'm trying to encourage a few. Our most constant visitor is a crested pigeon who's fallen in love with his own reflection so spends the day cooing at our window and pooing on the window ledge.

  4. The type of jays thar we get here in the UK are very shy birds. We do get quite a variety of birds all year round in our garden which we enjoy.

  5. @Lisa GreenbowHi Lisa,

    I mostly hear the owls, so the visual was pretty cool, other than sweating the chicken situation.

    The nuthatches and chickadees are some of the most amusing visitors during the winter, especially since almost every other feeder bird has left. Sometimes we get a woodpecker, but not often.

    Jays are very patient and can tame you in no time at all, provided you have peanuts available (sly wink).


  6. @Bonnie KHi Bonnie,

    A tipsy hummingbird? I am wondering what the flight pattern looked like when it flew away, or did it just fall to the ground afterwards?

    Trying to find a hummingbird feeder in this town is no fun at all. Still looking....


  7. @Sue Garrett
    Hi Sue,

    We have a shy jay here as well, the gray jay, but I almost never see them around, more of a country jay/city jay situation, I think.

    I am quite envious of year 'round variety. It's pretty slim pickings in winter here.



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