Bluebirds and American Goldfinches

Goldfinches on thistle feederIf I were asked to name my favorite bird of all, it would have to be the American Goldfinch. I have many childhood memories of watching these delightful black and yellow birds flitting around on the fence rows in the Indiana countryside. After moving to South Carolina I have enjoyed watching them appear in flocks on a row of small sunflowers I had planted in my yard one fall. Since my last move, I have been less successful with growing sunflowers from seed, but we have still had the privilege of watching them come in flocks to feed on sunflower and thistle seeds at our feeders. I learned that in the winter their plumage becomes a dull yellow and brown, so it took a while for me to recognize them. But by now, they are ready to migrate back north and their feathers are becoming brilliant yellow and black again. What joy to watch them!

The bluebirds are another favorite bird for me, though I have had less opportunities to watch them. But this promises to change this year. Last Wednesday my husband and I purchased and set out two bluebird houses in our front yard. We purchased a small booklet about planning for bluebirds, and by the time we got home, we had a plan in place for the best place to set up our birdhouses. When we drove into the back yard and got out of our car, the first thing that caught my eye was not one, but two bluebirds in the treetops between our yard and the next. Joy upon joy! I had been watching for them and thought I had seen a brown female at the feeder recently but couldn’t be sure.

We lost no time in getting our birdhouses up realizing that we were already at the tail end of the time bluebirds made their nests. I have been watching one of the birdhouses out my window as I work at my computer hoping to see some action. This Saturday morning – only the third day after setting them up – I watched a flurry of bluebird activity around one of the birdhouses. There are at least two pair of bluebirds checking it out. I am concerned that they may already be fighting over this birdhouse and ignoring the other birdhouse which is not in as suitable of a location. We read that they bluebirds have been known to kill another bluebird that is competing for their nesting site, so tomorrow after church we will be moving the second birdhouse to a more suitable location in our neighbor’s yard. (They have already agreed to this.) I hope we haven’t taken too long to move it, but there was no opportunity to do this today because of prior commitments that kept us out of town.

While watching the bluebirds in the front yard and the goldfinches on the feeders in the backyard I made another discovery. Goldfinches love dandelions. We are not lawn fanatics who get bent out of shape over dandelions in the lawn. We like having both dandelions and clover for the honeybees. But while watching the bluebirds fight over the birdhouse, I discovered a flock of goldfinches on the ground around the dandelions. It first appeared that the dandelions were popping like popcorn until I realized that the things that were popping up and down were goldfinches. I hurried to get my camera, but my movements scared them away and they didn’t come back to the dandelions. Walking around the house with camera in hand I found them on the bird feeder, though I couldn’t get close enough for a really good picture.

Goldfinches at dish feeder

We had to leave for Charleston by noon and didn’t get home ’till after dark. I can’t wait until tomorrow to see them all again. I hope we will get the second birdhouse moved quickly, and then get a few good pictures of both bluebirds and goldfinches.

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A Backwards Party in a Hoghouse

From my Family Heritage Album 

© 2002 by Janice Green

Among my earliest memories of writing my own thoughts and ideas I find myself playing with secret codes when I was in about the second grade.  My older brother, Keith, had been using secret codes to share messages with Ronnie who lived up the road, and I thought it looked like fun.

The easiest code they were writing called for two sheets of paper and a piece of carbon paper.  The trick was getting the papers in the right position before starting to write–an original copy on top, a second sheet under that which would carry the encoded message, and beneath it all was a sheet of carbon paper with the carbon side up.  Then when you wrote the message correctly on the top sheet of paper, it would appear backwards on the backside of the second sheet of paper.  It was a great trick!

I discovered two problems with my newfound trick.  The first was figuring out whom to write a message to since my older brother preferred writing to the neighbor boy, and my younger brothers and sister couldn’t read yet.  Then the second problem was figuring out what to say in my secret message if I did figure out whom to send it to.  This was probably my first encounter with writer’s block.

That’s when the idea of writing an invitation to a party came to me.  Since the writing was all backwards, it seemed perfect for an invitation to a backwards party.  There had been a backwards Sunday School party at church recently where everyone dressed with their clothes on backwards or wrong side out, and with their shoes on the wrong feet.  My family had recently moved to the farm in Rochester, Indiana, that had been in my father’s family for generations.  There was also a new family who had moved into the farmhouse across the road and they had four young children.  We could invite them to join us for a backwards party in our clubhouse.  With Mama’s permission, I wrote the invitation, in code of course, and took it to Mrs. Ogle across the road.  She didn’t understand it, so I showed her how to hold it up to a mirror to read it.  And what joy!  She said they would come to my party!

When the day arrived for the party, the girls, Carol, Doris, and Sandy came in dresses, though I don’t recall what her son, Donnie, wore.  They didn’t wear anything wrong side out or backwards.  I panicked!  I guess in all the excitement I had forgotten to explain to her about the clubhouse. Our clubhouse was nothing more than the old 5 by 7 foot abandoned hog-house behind the barn.  To fix it up for the party we had brushed out the spider webs and used some crepe paper to attempt to make it more festive.  I had also planned an activity or two to play in it.  But I would NEVER wear one of my dresses to play in the clubhouse!  We even had to climb in through the door in the roof!

If it bothered Mrs. Ogle, she never let on.  She let the children take their clothes off and put them back on wrong side out and backwards.  And the party began!  I was quite proud to have pulled off the party, but I also learned something about the importance of including all the important details in an invitation that day.