When I am outside near the feeder, one bird, a chickadee usually, comes and chirps at me. Sometimes when he gets impatient he will fly around my head. The birds know I will feed them. How do they know? Because they are as trained as wild creatures can be. With birdseed, you know.

I only put out a handful of food at a time. Then I sit down at the window near the breakfast table and they eat while I do. They know exactly what time we eat breakfast, and are usually there, waiting. Especially the bright red cardinal and his dull gray wife.

My birds know that activity near the window usually means food, so they come when I want to watch them, I also have a special call, and a tap-tap on the window, which they hear and recognize.

The opening into my feeder is small. Big enough for brave cardinals but too small for aggressive blue jays. In nature, size and personality count. The bird who is bigger and more aggressive scares the smaller or more timid ones.

During summer there were only a few chickadees. Often they were wary, almost scared. A blue jay had moved into a nearby tree. But as the weather cooled, my regular birds, hungry and cold, started to flock back to the feeder. Now there are many, many chickadees who come first, flying fast. Followed by many, many tufted titmouse.

Also the winter birds have come back. Juncos and fox sparrows and morning doves return each year, though they prefer to eat on the ground.

Watching birds swoop and fly is fascinating. They come at full speed, then stop in an instant, tiny feet barely grasping the side of the wooden feeder. In this frigid weather, they have to eat a lot for warmth and energy . Also, they puff out their feathers to keep warmer.

We had 2 families of cardinals but now only one. The smaller, timid male with his big unafraid wife has gone. Only the big red male with the scaredy-cat wife remains. When she tries to eat, he shoos her away. Who ever said that birds were kind, loving creatures.

Sometimes they all seem skittish and afraid. I think there is a hawk who lives in a tall tree near the houses. Now to bird lovers, a hawk is like WOW! To my birds, it is a main predator. They hide in the bushes, then they quickly flit to the feeder, grab a seed and hide again while eating. Mother Nature is red in tooth and claw, even in the backyard.

What to do when you need a flutter of excitement and can’t get out. Feed the birds. Sunflower seed hearts (tan, not black) are favored by most species.

Credit: Ruth S. Foster