Two Saturdays ago I was dismayed to see pine siskins perched on the trees closer to the front of the house looking west from where I heard their departed friends’ morning song in the distance. For a few hours they took off in groups of 15 or so in that direction. Fatone (Fat One, pronounced Fu toe’ knee, borrowed from the Back Street? Boy) ended up staying behind with about 10 other ground feeders. I assume she is heavy laden with eggs. It seems they do not like to leave anyone behind, so for this past week stragglers up to about 25 came back and ate a bit. I had cut back on their food because at least 25 huge white wing doves and five or so squirrels were bullying them away from the seven or so spots I was dropping it, and I didn’t want to encourage them. Siskins, especially fat ones, like to eat on the ground, so I kept feeding them by the deck under the computer-room window.
Later last week I started hearing them gathering and singing their morning to noonish song in the north, but still within ear shot. The remaining ones were still kind of timid, but a second not as fat one, Fattwoie (Fat two, pronounce Fu too’ ie) joined Fatone. The doves also dwindled to the original two or three that usually get the crumbs falling from the elevated feeder. Concerned that the doves were also snacking on the Siskins, I looked up dove bullies and found they are quite aggressive at feeders, but stick to seeds. The general advice is to provide enough food for everybody so that they are nicer to each other.
So since I had bought a 50 pound bag of small black sunflower seeds, which everybody loves especially my 5 or so new male cardinals and probably as many shyer females, they may be siblings and parents as they are usually quite territorial, early Tuesday morning I decided to be more liberal again with my castings. I put up a second feeder over the deckside area, from a high branch with Bird Trail Mix, that includes dried meal worms, black sunflower seeds mixed in and also spread below, black sunflower seeds in the original pole feeder as bigger things clog it up, on the ground at the edge of the woods where the dogs can’t reach, and back beside some of the trunks I seeded when it was snowy. Finches and pine siskins also love small black, smaller than rice thistle seeds, and the bigger birds and squirrels don’t. But they mix too easily with dirt, and their shells clog feeders, so I put them on the compost bin lid, and on some of the stepping rocks that have convenient divots for them to enjoy, competing only with each other. This overwhelming abundance has hearkened everyone back. Or a lot of them anyway. Every now and then I let my bigger dog, Mercy, shoo the bigger animals away, plus they aren’t as comfortable close to the house as the finch type birds.
Just today in addition to our usual chickadees and titmouses, I have seen a male (more yellow) and female goldfinch, a male (red) and female house finch, a male and female very small downy woodpecker, who like the cylindrical feeder above the deck steps, and the at least three times larger female redheaded woodpecker who contorts herself to grab onto the pole feeder. I’ve also seen the more dramatically redheaded male in the last few weeks. It’s all quite the show, especially since the siskins are so numerous and gregarious and so close to the window, even with cats transfixed on the sill.
The sad news is that in total I found 32 dead pine siskins and one dead cardinal, but none in several days. I had buried 29 siskins in a mass grave somewhere around our original Corgi, Pippin, two Sundays ago, before I found the 4 other birds in the next couple of days. They are still in my freezer.