the way out here

Cardinal rules

Posted 5/26/21

If you’ll recall, I recently wrote about the bears trying to get into our garbage, and I gave some advice about how to deter and educate them on boundaries and so on. Well, I’m about to …

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the way out here

Cardinal rules


If you’ll recall, I recently wrote about the bears trying to get into our garbage, and I gave some advice about how to deter and educate them on boundaries and so on. Well, I’m about to disclose one of those “do as I say, not as I do” moments. To be fair, we’ve not had any incidents with the bears—save for when I had to address a 300-pounder that was dragging my sealed garbage can on its side down the driveway, as if he would crack the lock later like some kind of heist. Besides that, they’ve been well behaved. I have to give them credit because my wife has not made their abstinence from scavenging an easy task.

As the birds have come flooding back north, she and I both enjoy seeing the colorful songbirds stop in our yard along the way. To encourage this, my wife has set out our bird feeders with extra seed. The do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do part of this is simply that spring isn’t exactly the best time to be feeding the songbirds. They have lots of fresh things to eat that they gather naturally; they don’t require the additional nutrition during the spring as much as they would throughout the winter. Additionally, as you may have surmised, bears love to come and eat the birdseed, often destroying bird feeders or simply carrying them away, much like the fluffy bandit who left a slobbery mess on the lid of our garbage.

Regardless, my wife and I like to see pretty birds. So, my advice to you may perhaps be as valuable as the shed seed shells from our feeders. The most colorful birds are, of course, the cardinals and the blue jays. The bright reds and blues are hard to miss, and they are both entertaining to watch as they aggressively compete for first dibs on the daily seed stock. At one point, my wife and I saw as many as four blue jays, tangling in the air as they swooped to the feeder and back to the trees, perhaps fighting over food, perhaps just playing. I attempted to take a photo of them in mid-flight, but for some reason, I always caught them as the wings were folded back, thus making them look like strange little blue missiles jetting across the green lawn. The cardinals, on the other hand, seem to have their own set of rules. They didn’t fight as the blue jays did, but the males would normally sift through the feeder itself, throwing down seeds to the females below. The females, not quite as stark red, blend in much more with their tan-brown color, tinted ever so slightly with red; but you can tell they’re cardinals with the same shaped beak and feathery crown that shows their similarity to the males. I’m not the ornithologist that my mother is; however, out of sheer assumption, I might surmise that the males assume the higher elevation to stay on the lookout on behalf of the females feeding below. Again, that’s only a guess by a novice bird watcher, but it’s interesting to notice the subtle differences in their behavior as I sip my coffee by the window. Of course, we always have a smattering of other birds to watch—wrens, sparrows, red-winged black birds, etc.—each of which behaves and moves according to their own set of rules.

The way out here, we’re a lot like the birds. We each have our own way of doing things and interacting with each other. Some of us might mimic the blue jays, sparring with each other for sport; others like the cardinals, enjoying a good meal and looking out for one another. Bears aside, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the beauty of the birds.


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