The Bedroom Bird Blind

How some colorful visitors helped me survive a dreary winter ... without even leaving home

I must admit, my excitement to share the best birding site I discovered all winter long is considerably tempered by embarrassment, since the incredible location I’m about to reveal was … my bedroom window.

I’m blushing, but what can I say? I never so easily beheld such a beautiful bounty of birds, until I learned to look for them while bedecked in … pajamas.

For those who debate whether February or March is the cruelest month, I heartily opine “both.” On the heels of an especially (even by Oregon Coast standards) long, cold, damp and dreary winter this year, signs of spring arrived much less like proverbial lambs or lions, and much more like a ubiquitous, amorphous, sloppy gray “blob” pressing damply down from the oppressive atmosphere overhead, outstretching myriad soggy, light-crushing tentacles to every location I longed to venture. (Getting an idea yet how truly sick of winter I was?) Thus bereft of anywhere good to go, I found myself trapped indoors, staring forlornly for weeks out rain-spattered windows, praying for spring to arrive before I fully lost my mind.

Then one day (in late February or early March, I forget precisely which), I gratefully spied two species new to my back yard bird buffet — a Townsend’s warbler and ruby-crowned kinglet, each bearing colors of spring and welcome as first-of-year tulips pushing up through garden ground. Wistfully thinking “what a beautiful picture!” I suddenly realized I was not so much peering out a bedroom window, as sitting in a picture-perfect bird blind. Waiting ever so patiently atop its tripod in a nearby corner, my long-dormant camera suddenly smiled and (I swear) beeped encouragingly.

Warblers and kinglets are flighty birds, and not easy to film. Starting with basics, my first challenge was to learn what–where–&–when they liked to eat, then figure out how to slow them down enough for my camera to keep pace. At last, a worthy project had found me. Breathing a sigh of relief, I cracked the bedroom window open wide enough to accommodate my camera lens, and got started.

Days of futility followed as the warbler and kinglet, consistently demonstrating an exclusive interest in suet, proved all but impossible to image at my regular feeding stations. Buffeted there by a crowd of ever-hungry flickers, woodies and sundry other bigger birds, these tiny newcomers bounced around too quickly for my camera to focus. But as so often occurs with me, frustration turned to inspiration when an idea began to take shape that maybe, possibly, perhaps I might be able to craft new feeding stations optimized for little birds. Set up to dine far enough away from their boisterous, bullying cousins, maybe the smaller birds might comfortably linger awhile longer, giving me and my camera more time to capture them in natural mode. Would that work?

Retrieving a bough of spruce recently fallen to ground during a storm, I used a 1-inch paddle drill bit to bore several receptacles about a quarter-inch deep in the wood, into each of which I squished a spoonful of suet. Switching to a smaller bit, I added a couple of shallow holes to mount twig-size perches in front of the food, and voila! With very little effort (a principal requirement of all my projects, as I’m neither handy nor hard-working), I quickly had a perfectly natural-looking suet dispenser that, amazingly, the little birds soon discovered and appeared to love.

Encouraged by the success of this vertical feeder, I similarly created a horizontal feeder-log capable of holding nuts and sunflower chips, and before I could whistle “Mister Bluebird’s on my shoulder,” gorgeous seed and suet lovers galore were posing for portraits squarely before my bedroom bird blind. Though my quest began with spring-colored warblers and kinglets, I soon found myself seeing — but in a whole ‘nother light — such common winter visitors as juncos, chickadees, creepers and thrushes. Knock me over with a feather, even hummers contributed to the color parade. Taking some creative liberties (for which I pray Mother Nature and photo purists will find room in their hearts to forgive me), I strategically placed pine cones and tree moss around my new feeders to fashion perfect photo backdrops. You can judge the results above.

Beholding all this through a bedroom window while sitting warm and cozy in a comfortable swivel chair, sipping my favorite hot morning brew, I was not oblivious to the sight that I would have made as well, had anyone been looking. To complete the picture now in your own mind’s eye … if you’re imagining me dressed in a faded red, long-john-style “onesie” with feet attached and half-buttoned flap in back … I won’t discourage you.

Spring finally sprang, and of an overnight the parade of feathery wonders you see above marched away on a wing to entertain elsewhere. But for awhile, during the dread dead of winter, there were sights aplenty to see both inside and outside my amazing bedroom bird blind.

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