to Helping Birds from the Backyard to the Boondocks
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By Charles Kennedy
I saw an advertisement in a mail order catalog and knew it was bound to happen. I really didnít think it would take as long as it did. After all, Iíve been a bird fancier since I was a child. I built dozens of birdhouses and birdfeeders in the 1950ís and installed them on my parentís half acre. Some of them are still there. I started bird watching in the 60ís, birding in the 70ís, became obsessive/compulsive with it all in the 80ís and in the 90ís founded the South Alabama Birding Association, and became the President of the Alabama Ornithological Society. I have parents, children, siblings, aunts, uncles, a covey of cousins, in-laws, outlaws, and even a few folks who will admit to being my friend. I was certain that one of them would soon discover the golden opportunity I had seen in the catalog.
As the years and seasons rolled by and those special days came and went; you know Fatherís Day, Birthday, Christmas, etc., I greeted each with the thought "this will be the one". And finally, oh glorious day, on December 25, 1998 at 9:00 AM I got my "Singing Bird Clock".
At last somebody spotted this perfect gift for the old "birdman". I was beginning to think I was going to have to go out an buy one for myself. The thoughtful giver included batteries for this marvelous concoction of plastic, metal, quartz, and computer chips, so within an hour or so the Audubon Society Singing Bird Clock was hanging on the wall in the "bird den".
As we gathered around the table at noon to carve the Christmas Turkey we were greeted with the faint, but unmistakable call of the Great Horned Owl. Everybody got a big kick out of this. One of the youngsters ran in the den and shouted "the owl is sitting right where the 12 should be". And so it continued, all making perfect sense; at 1:00 PM old mimus polyglottus piped up and there he was at his usual backyard post guarding the cedar tree against the invading Cedar Waxwings. At two a chickadee joined in a Christmas chorus with those on the feeder just outside the window. A Cardinal called clearly to his fellows at three and at four the Downy on the suet log snapped his head about as if asking "whoís that".
But Aah! At five as the sun was setting on a lovely Christmas Day, I grabbed my binoculars and went dashing out the door to look for the flock of geese that were obviously flying over the house. I fully expected to add Canada Goose to my yard list.
The songs and the hours rolled by. At 10:00 PM a Titmouse joined in as we sang the final chorus of Silent Night and I exclaimed right out loud "that clock is going to sing all night". "Not to worry", replied my wife as she read from the box; "Light Sensor Deactivates Bird Songs When Room Is Dark". Those Chinese think of everything. They put a little thing-a-ma-jig in there that sends everybody to roost when the lights go out. (Yep! the National Audubon Society Singing Bird Clock that "Features 12 of the Most Popular Birds in the United States" is made in China)
Bright and early on December 26 as the first rays of the morning sun streamed into the bird den my old friend turdus migratorious greeted the day with a song. I do sort of wish they had rigged the light sensor so it wouldnít turn the Great Horned Owl off when it gets dark. I do love to hear owls calling on a cold winter night.
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