The Art of Standing Still

As many of you know, we are birdwatchers. One of the reasons my husband was initially drawn to our new home was the aerial view online showed that it had a very wooded lot. To birdwatchers, the cover of trees often means bird life and that was exciting for us. Upon moving in, my husband took up the job of setting up feeders for the yard — one of his first jobs was at a store that specialized in wild bird feeders and food, so he’s our resident expert. Throughout the summer we had a lot of very cool visitors to the yard and the feeder situation evolved as different species would show up.

While we do fill feeders in summer we are on the go a lot and there is an abundance of food in nature, so I’m not always super on top of the job. I try to be a little more dependable in winter because food sources aren’t as secure. Our feeders change seasonally, too. We put away the Nyjer and set out more peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds in winter. img_9087I’ve started to leave a little trail of hulled sunflower seeds on the deck rail. The cardinals, juncos, chickadees, house finches and goldfinches, pine siskins, and mourning doves love it. At one point a couple days ago, I had something like 15 or 16 doves lined up in a little row out there.  I so enjoy seeing what shows up that I’ve been spending my morning work hours at the kitchen table where this is my view…

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I love keeping watch and observing the different bird behaviors as they visit and interact with each other. The ground feeder up on the deck is a new addition — we have one out at the edge of the yard under a tree that the blue jays and juncos and squirrels (not to mention the deer that clear it out at night) love for its cracked corn and “critter feed.” This one is just hulled sunflower seeds so it’ll cater more to the chickadees and finches and cardinals.

The other huge draw in the yard is this…

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I feel a little ridiculous saying we have a heated bird bath, but… we have a heated bird bath. It’s not like a bird jacuzzi or anything, it just keeps the water warm enough to not freeze. These days it almost always looks like it’s steaming, but it really doesn’t take a lot of heat for that when it’s 15 degrees outside. Anyways, liquid water is a hot commodity for wild birds in winter, so having a water source draws in a lot of bird life. I’ve wanted a heated birdbath for years, but the old house had no outdoor electric and we didn’t have a good spot for viewing it anyway, so I never went after getting it set-up. This fall we finally splurged and I’m so happy we did! I’ve seen every single species of bird we’ve had in the yard at the water at one time or another. It’s extra upkeep and a little extravagant, but it’s such a cool feature and I feel very lucky to have it.

So you get the point — I love this new yard and I love our yard birds. For those like-minded birdwatchers, here’s a list of what I see on a daily basis at our feeders:

  • Blue Jay (pair)
  • Down Woodpecker (pair)
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (very endearing first year)
  • Cardinals (at least 4 pairs)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (pair)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • House Finches
  • Gold Finches
  • Pine Siskins
  • Juncos
  • Chickadees
  • Mourning Doves (at least 16 individuals)

Nothing really out of the ordinary for where we live — I’m still hoping we will see some Purple Finches and Redpolls in the yard this winter as we’ve seen them out and about nearby, but we will see. You just never know and that is the beauty of birdwatching!

So I fill my feeders daily and I keep my eyes and ears open. And every time I go out to our feeders, I put a little seed in my hand and I stand very still for a few minutes. Usually there are anywhere from 1-4 chickadees hopping about, so I stand very quietly, occasionally chittering at them a little to let them know I’m standing there. I’ve had no takers yet and when I hear the blue jays coming in for the freshly filled peanuts I head for the hills, but one of these days these little guys are going to decide I’m ok and do this…

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I learned last year that chickadees are brave and sweet little souls and I’m convinced I can make friends with the ones here in our yard. Sure, my neighbors probably wonder what on Earth I’m doing standing out there like a statue in the 5 degree morning air, but it’s all good. Because as much as I do want the chickadees to learn they can eat from my hand, there’s something truly special about capturing those few moments in the crisp morning light. It’s a study in the art of standing still. To listen, to breath deep the ice cold air, to just be in the outdoors, to just be in that one moment, not thinking about the next task.

And really, that’s at the heart of much more than teaching a chickadee to eat out of your hand. It’s the heart of birdwatching. It’s at the core of knitting and spinning. Is it really any different than knitting on my hubby’s sock while I got the oil changed this morning?

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It’s the fine art of slowing down, of not thinking about the next task, of being the moment. Whether you talk to chickadees, watch the Downy woodpecker pair chase each other, spend 45minutes at the auto shop knitting — whatever the case, there is little more restorative than the fine art of standing still. So however you practice it, I encourage you to make time for it today even if your day is overscheduled. You won’t be sorry you did!

25 responses to “The Art of Standing Still

  1. Oh how true. It is wonderful to take time out, even five or ten minutes to ground ourselves in life around us. It really can make all the difference in an otherwise hectic life.

  2. We, too, have bird feeders in our backyard, and because we back up to a bayou, we get all kinds of birds and other critters. No deer, but the raccoons clean out the feeders every night. We’ve tried and tried to thwart them with weight-reactive closing mechanisms on the feeders and we watched one the other evening hang on it with his back feet and rake out the seed onto his stomach to snarf! Nevertheless, we make sure there is always enough for everyone.

    I applaud your heated water feature. In your area, it is SO very important. Ours have lots of access via the bayou, but we have bird baths too because they’re just so fun to watch!

    I’m glad you have such a wonderful yard!

    • The squirrels do the same thing on our peanut feeder. Thankfully, that feeder isn’t easy to break open, so they don’t get too much. We may have raccoons, too, but I haven’t seen any tracks for them yet, just deer. I do keep watch though! We had something stealing grape jelly from our oriole feeder in spring — that certainly could have been one!

      And I can only imagine what you get at your feeders — probably all exotics to me!

      • We get the usual, I think – doves, cardinals, sparrows, titmice, blue jays, house finches, chickadees, and more pigeons that I like (a neighbor used to raise them and I think they got abandoned to the wild). We get goldfinches – they love when I’m letting my basil go to seed. We see Cooper’s hawks and Red-tailed hawks – not sure they eat the seed, but hunt – I hate it, but it’s part of Nature’s circle. We see a lot of different herons that gracefully fly over the bayou, and all manner of other critters too. Nature is cool.

      • I actually love seeing the hawks. They land on our cars a lot. LOL! We are circle of life people and while we never want to see a songbird meet an untimely end, it is a part of life. The raptors are pretty amazing creatures!

      • Yes, we are circle of life people too – all part of it – and the raptors are such majestic creatures. I’m reminded of an old song lyric, “Cats will be cats, remember these words: Cats will be cats, and cats eat birds.” Our cats are too well fed to get too serious about the birds, but we lose the occasional loved lizard.

  3. What fun! I love feeding our birds but I don’t know them well enough to know all the kinds. I was surprised this fall when A told me she saw a green bird. Eventually I saw it too. A goldfinch changing into his winter clothing. We both laughed at her thinking it was an exotic green bird.

    • That’s awesome! I am a chronic mis-identifier, but I try to get really good at IDing one or two new birds a year. I figure by the end of my life I’ll be a pretty decent birder. XD

      • Lol one or two a year is excellent! I can do maybe four or five really common ones and that is it. When I spot something new it usually flues off long before I find it in my book. 😫

      • I am kind of lucky in that Mr TKS is really helpful when I’m being slow to ID. He’s been birding since he was young and actually took basic ornithology in college, so he’s a pretty good birder. I lean on his expertise a lot.

      • That’s pretty cool! I have a birder friend and an aunt but neither of them are around when there is anything but chickadees on the feeder, lol.

      • That is how it goes! I’ve been seeing “possible Purple Finches” (read: House Finches that I really want to be Purple Finches) for weeks now. Unfortunately the mister was here yesterday to remind me they are indeed not the bird I’m hoping for… yet.

  4. A heated bird bath! How cool! I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I love the idea of using the deck railing as a giant feeding station but…. I’d be worried about the mess here. We don’t get enough snow to keep it clean. Love the sock yarn, btw. Great colorway!

    • Yes! There are a lot of places you pick up a heated birdbath! It’s a huge draw in the winter! And trust me, if we didn’t have snow, I would NOT have bird seed on the railing. Not even a little chance!

  5. Great post. My Dad used to talk of feeding chickadees by hand in Vermont. We have a heater under the (very large) plant saucer that we use as a bird bath. It steams in the morning and the birds love coming in for a sip or two.

    • We found one spot in Door County on vacation last year where the chickadees were clearly used to being hand fed. I am 100% convinced I will teach the ones in my yard to love me. At the very least, I walk into birdfeeders and accidentally dump seeds on myself enough while filling them that I’m usually covered in seeds at least a bit. LOL! I don’t think that’ll hurt!

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