When your chickens eat millet and cracked corn lots of wild birds join in. I built a feeding table so I could feed the chickens underneath to keep the grain dry, and sprinkle food on top for the birds. Mostly juncos come year round, with a few sparrows and towhees. There are seasonal visitors like the gang of red-winged black birds dining at the buffet table just now. They will stay throughout the spring and summer and raise their young here. In the summer grosbeaks come for a few weeks and add a little colour. Crossbills drink from the bird bath.
One year a flock of pine siskins (small gregarious finches) came for the summer. I sat by the feeder with a handful of sunflower seeds and waited. They are a fairly tame species and they put up with my slow movements as I offered them seeds. It only took a day and when some took food from my hand the others felt it was safe. For the rest of the summer every time I went outside finches would land on me. They went off to have families and brought their babies back to feed them. One time a mother and her baby were in my hand and there were sunflower seeds in my palm. The mother would give a seed to the baby, then jump around on my fingers warning other birds away, then she'd turn around and give another seed to her baby, then jump around defending the perimeter again. Slowly I brought up my other hand, stroked her back and said, "you are such a good momma," and she allowed this. I was repairing my power system batteries one day with a pine siskin on my shoulder, one on my arm, and one on the top of my head. They offered all sorts of advice (clean the contacts, top up the water, tighten the nuts.) They must have been males.
A sharp shinned hawk hunts at the feeders and I get to see it swoop in after smaller birds. It usually misses, but once it caught a junco in its talons three feet away on the feeder at my window. These windows where I sit are like a big screen T.V. tuned to the nature channel. Deer and sheep wander through eating the flowers, raccoons come at night, beautiful chickens parade about by day, ravens keep an eye on us all. The yard is always animated. It's hard to stop staring.
Here is a little video of the junco feeding frenzy. You can stop watching halfway, nothing new happens after that, but I left the whole video for those who are mesmerized like I am.
Jay Rainey is an artist living on an island in British Columbia, Canada.