Saturday, January 24, 2009

Here Today. But Tomorrow?

     Where'd all these pine siskins come from?  From what I've read, they're common winter visitors to backyard feeders, but in all the 40-plus years I've been feeding birds, they've never visited mine.  Until about two weeks ago.  Then this squabbling mob arrived by the dozen, driving off most of the milder-mannered goldfinches and emptying the nyjer-seed feeder in a single day.

     Who knows why certain birds come to others' backyards but not to mine?  A friend in a town just ten miles away gets American tree sparrows and red-bellied woodpeckers.  Lucky her.  Another friend in a town even closer gets redpolls all winter long.  I've never seen one here.  But that doesn't mean I never will -- as the siskins' arrival shows. 

     My wildflower hunts are also full of surprises.  I keep a journal of flower finds, noting date and place of discovery so I can return each year to renew our acquaintance.  In the case of most of the flowers it's usually a happy reunion.  But sometimes I'm disappointed.  For three straight years I visited an odd little ghost of a plant called one-flowered cancerroot,  just off the path in the woods at Skidmore College.  Five years ago it disappeared.  Haven't seen it since.  Anywhere.  I grieve the loss. 

      Another loss is a whole island full of purple-fringed orchis, in the middle of a little stream in the middle of the little village of Lake Luzerne:  about 25 of these beautiful state-protected orchids in the space of an average living room.  I returned a few days later to find some fool had mowed them all down!   I returned the next year and found one, the following year none at all.  Sic transit gloria florae.  (Apologies for bad Latin)

     Luckily, the happy surprises outnumber the losses:  a cluster of tiny bright-pink centaury (above) thriving in the hard-packed gravel on the side of a road; a scarlet pimpernel peeking out from a crack in a downtown sidewalk; a native glaucous honeysuckle  almost lost in a  hedge of the alien invasive kind.   Like the siskins mentioned above, none of these is considered gorgeous or rare.  Just kind of pretty, and I'd  never seen them before.   Happy to make your acquaintance, little birds.  Just leave some seed for the others.


NatureGirl said...

It takes a special person to take time to notice the little and over-looked things that share our trip through space. I'm glad you are one of us.

PS - I just noticed your coral fungus (Mickey Mouse)photo on the side - made me laugh out loud! :D

Susan said...

Every day I have the pleasure of a HUGE flock of Pine Siskins as well as Goldfinches. The suet brings Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers as well as Red Breasted and White Breasted Nuthatches. What a treat I experienced on Sunday morning when a Northern Flicker visited at the suet feeder. It is shy and difficult to photograph, but I have a beautiful memory and a fuzzy picture of this incredible bird.