On the coldest days here in Wisconsin, I look out the window onto our backyard and watch the wild birds with wonder. It's freezing out there, and yet they are perched on tree branches, power lines, and on fence posts. We're lucky, we have a wide variety of feathered visitors in the winter months. Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Juncos, Downey Woodpeckers, Black Crows, Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Starlings, and the occasional Cooper's Hawk.
We have lots of wildflower seed heads in our faded garden for the birds to eat, a pair of juniper bushes, and a young crabapple tree, but until our garden matures, we put out feeders in the winter months to supplement that, especially when its bitterly cold. We have two very tall and large evergreen trees in our backyard, which offer great shelter for the birds as well.
We put out black oil sunflower seed for the birds, but since the squirrels tend to make a feast of it, we started including safflower seed cylinders. The squirrels don't care for the safflower, so they tend to leave them alone. The finches, nuthatches, and woodpeckers especially love the safflower, and the cylinders hang nicely and tend to last a while. Super handy when the weather is brisk and snowy.
Back around the holidays I kept seeing birdseed ornament ideas popping up on my Pinterest feed. So cute!! These are often made with gelatin or suet. But then I saw another option made using ice molds. Artsy, photo friendly, and less messy, in my opinion. So I decided to try making some to hang in our backyard as an extra treat for our visitors. Using silicone molds, and a variety of fresh fruits and seed mix, I made up a batch of heart shaped feeders. And they turned out!
To Make These You Will Need:
Silicone Mold (I used 4, 6-pc molds)
Fruit: Fresh fruit is best, frozen next best thing.
I used: 1 fresh orange, sliced and then in quarters
Fresh raspberries - half pint, sliced
Fresh blueberries - half pint
Wild bird seed mix - including black oil sunflower seeds, etc. Approx. two-three cups
*Note: you can vary the fruits, but be sure any fruits are pitted, and fresh or frozen
Roll of natural twine for hanging
To Do: Layer in seed to cover bottom of mold
Layer in each fruit: orange, raspberry, blueberry (or fruit of your choice)
Sprinkle a small covering of seed over the top of the fruits
Fill in each mold with fresh water
Cut equal numbers of twine, make significant knot at the end, place knot in mold
Put on cookie sheet or similar, and place Outside or in Garage to freeze
When frozen remove from silicone mold and hang on bushes, trees, shepherd hooks, etc.
Making these little feeders was a great way to add a bit of creativity to a cold winter day, with the added bonus of feeding local wildlife, and providing something fun to photograph in the outdoors as well.
I had enough of these to scatter them throughout the yard, and give a few away. I even took a couple along on a local nature walk and left them for our woodland friends.
21 Times. As of today. As of right now. Tonight. 21 times I have bid farewell to a precious pet. Said a sudden goodbye to one of our flock. Yes, they are birds. Yes, they are parakeets (or budgies). And every single loss has broken my heart (21 times in 15 years).
Tonight Wiki died suddenly. Everyone was having a good day. Had a good evening. Were settling into bed as I sung them the usual lullabies. Everyone was content. Grinding their beaks. Ready for dreamland.
But a couple hours later, just a short time ago, we heard some squawking. We went in to see if there was a scuffle for a favorite sleeping spot. And there was Wiki, at the bottom of the cage. Blood oozing from her beak and mouth. Still warm. But dead.
Wiki is one of six babies that were born within our flock. Back in 2014. A gift to us by a pair of parakeets we adopted from someone who could not keep them. Watching them hatch, and grow, and thrive, was an incredible experience that I will never forget.
It has been eight years since then. And since that time, we have said goodbye to many of our flock. Old age, or illness striking. We do everything we can. We take great care of our flock. They get amazing medical care. Fresh veggies. Lots of sunshine, and exercise, and music, and social connection. They live good lives here. But even so, death comes. And every single damn time, it breaks my heart as if it has never happened before.
Wiki has been looking after Daisy of late. Daisy hasn't been feeling her best, and we are going to see the vet in the morning to be sure she is ok, or to treat what we can. I was worrying about what would happen to Wiki if we lost Daisy. Only a few months ago Nokia, one of Wiki's hatch-mates, and Dancer, her father, passed away within weeks of each other. Both rather suddenly. Wiki sometimes likes to hang out in the flight cage she shared with them at bedtime.
And lately the gang of 5 that hang together, have been hanging out in there, close knit, for a good part of the day. They always settle in to their bedtime house together in the evening, but it seemed to me that Wiki was missing her sister and her father, and it helped her to hang out in there. I may be anthropomorphizing, but birds are social creatures, and they experience all of the emotions we do. Happiness, anger, fear, bliss, love, sadness. I know they do.
So, now, tomorrow, when I am taking Daisy to the vet to see if there is anything we can to do to help her get back to her normal self, I will be taking Wiki along. But to say goodbye.
Loss is a part of life. A part of having loved. There is no way around it. But I feel I've learned that lesson in so many ways. So many times.
I pray that Daisy will be ok. That she will be alright without sweetest Wiki by her side. I will do everything for her that I can. I will love the flock with all my heart. And I will hope that Wiki is flying side by side with Dancer, and Nokia, and all the members of the flock we miss to this day. Sometimes I dream of them at night. Tonight, however, I don't think I'll be sleeping.
We love you sweet Wiki. More than you know. Fly high and fast, with joy and song in your heart. We will miss and love you forever.
It's going to take some serious time in nature to help this heart of mine heal. I credit this flock of mine for teaching me compassion. For teaching me resilience, and for giving me so much joy over the years. The wild birds do much the same for me. I hope they can do the same for you as well.
Be well, my Friends
The first real measurable snowfall here this winter came a few days after Christmas. I had plans for that day, but took a detour to the Root River Parkway in West Allis to capture some of the winter magic.
It was a lovely, softly falling snow. Sure, roads were messy. But winter magic persisted. There were ducks swimming in the open water along the parkway, and birds like Juncos, Downey Woodpeckers, Cardinals, and Goldfinches flitting from snowy branches. Scenic indeed.
After taking in the beauty along the Root River Parkway, I went just a few minutes east to McCarty Park, in West Allis. It's amazing how a blanket of new snow can add so much sparkle to our neighborhood parks.
There were ducks and geese swimming in the open water on the pond, and a few others out walking the paved trails. I could see there was a good start to the base of the sledding hill. One of my favorite trees flanking the pond looked especially handsome with its branches frosted in snow.
This week, after our New Year's Day snowfall, I took a walk at Euclid Park. Another charming neighborhood park, just minutes from my house.
The walking path was mostly clear, and the snow was still fresh, the air crisp. This is a popular spot for local residents, but it was quiet at the time. Just a lone Red Cardinal and me.
A traveler, singer, novice photographer, humane gardener, and nature lover.