My tale is a true tale and a happy tail… that evolved slowly but has given me tremendous pleasure.
We moved into our small home on a double lot over twenty five years ago. No garage, a private well with a septic field and neglected grounds in an unincorporated area of Carol Stream in DuPage County, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. We asked ourselves, where do we even start?
The birds, bees and critters gave us those answers, little by little, starting with observing droves of monk parrots huddling in the only tree we had in our yard, masses of garter snakes surveying the area and groundhogs and skunks making themselves at home in our yard.
Sadly, the monk parrots built their nests next to the electric transformers near us and ComEd removed them, never to be seen again. It made me realize how critical it was for us to offer food and shelter to our feathered friends.
After getting settled in, we tackled one project at a time, including building a garage, connecting to the city sewer, adding a deck and bringing in mounds of dirt to create gardens that would sustain the wildlife we hoped to attract. And it did…. not always in a perfect way, but in a way that gave the birds and outdoor animals a safe haven.
I have to say there were times when I wished we had done things a little differently. Especially when a groundhog and his extended family decided to burrow around under our deck, and when mama skunk had her babies under our front porch.
But I’ve never had qualms with any of the birds or bees and other creatures that frequented this little paradise which became a reality when we added bird feeders. I didn’t add one or two but many different feeders I scooped on craigslist, Goodwill and at thrift stores to test them out to see which the birds preferred and performed the best.
I offered mixed bird seed at first but switched exclusively to sunflower seed, safflower seed, suet and thistle that’s appealed to a mix of birds including cardinals, wrens, house finches, gold finches, rose-breasted grosbeaks, chickadees, nuthatches, sparrows, woodpeckers and more… including Cooper’s hawks that disperse every critter in sight in seconds.
The defining moment when we realized how instrumental the bird feeders were in welcoming our visitors came when we spotted an unusual pair dining under one of our sunflower seed feeders: a skunk and a raccoon side by side, unfazed by the other’s presence and willing to share the seeds the birds scattered along the ground.
It didn’t end there… We saw two skunks side by side one day, a skunk and a squirrel another day, a mama skunk and her babies making their way under our deck for shelter and the most amazing thing: spotting a neighborhood cat walk out from under the dogwoods, side by side with a skunk….. all while the birds were happily feeding at the feeders and with us standing nearby.
Last summer, a tiny hummingbird that was a regular visitor felt safe enough to sleep on the perch of the hummingbird feeder most evenings.
Each year we have a red bellied woodpecker that drums on the vent pipe on our roof and swoops down to feed on suet. They seem to sense that they can trust us.
We recently added a heating element to our bird bath so they now have access to water during our frigid winters.
This past week, a fat rabbit braved the sub-zero temps, eating his fill of sunflower seeds. I have no doubt access to the bird food helped him and the birds tolerate our record cold… Lucky for him but pure joy to be able to witness it.
In my sixty something years on this earth, I have to say that it’s these simple pleasures that have made each day special and uplifting. Being graced with the presence of these simple creatures and being honored to have them feed at the home we all share.