Saturday, February 16, 2008

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

It's the second day of the Great Backyard Bird Count, and I'm still all aflutter. Yesterday, I was happy to file my report online: 15 separate species--including a Great Blue Heron, a red-bellied woodpecker and two downy woodpeckers. I keep my bird feeders stocked year round, though not quiet as heavily in the summer when I have plenty of native plants for them to feast on. Now-- and even better reason to keep-em filled: The NYT Science Section reports a new study on the benefits of "supplemental feeding" (also known as bird feeders):

[birds] "in areas with supplemental feeding laid eggs on average two and a half days earlier than those in areas without extra wintertime food. And on average, about one additional chick per nest survived to fledgling age.

Dr. Bearhop said the extra energy provided by the food could help adults reach breeding fitness a little earlier. And the vitamins and other nutrients could be passed on to the offspring, making them hardier."

And an apt reminder from the Belle of Amherst who found inspiration from her close observation of birds:

A bird came down the walk:
He did not know I saw;
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew
From a convenient grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the wall
To let a beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad,--
They looked like frightened beads, I thought;
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger; cautious,
I offered him a crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home

Than oars divide the ocean,
Too silver for a seam,
Or butterflies, off banks of noon,
Leap, splashless, as they swim.

--Emily Dickinson

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