After 4 years of waiting patiently for financial reasons, we started doing improvements to our 1 acre blank-slate of a back yard last Spring. We will be doing improvements in phases based on a professional Master plan we commissioned by a great landscaping company here in Dallas. Last year, we started with Phase 1, which was a pool, cabana and flower beds along the back of our house. All improvements will be in keeping with our French County home’s theme. One nice thing that we noticed immediately when Phase 1 was all done in the late summer last year was how nature started just showing up right away and it was nice to see. Bumblebees, Dragonflies, Hummingbirds, Butterflies and more… We felt like our backyard was finally coming to life.
For Phase 2, this Spring we put in a privacy hedge of Magnolia trees behind our back pool wall and a bed to the east of our pool for the same reason. There we planted 2-100 gallon Live Oak trees, a Nellie Steven’s hedge, flowers, etc. I say we, but the landscaper did it all.
Then, I got the crazy idea of getting bird feeders for the first time ever in our 30 year marriage………
I’d never considered doing this before because we were always too busy carting around our girls to soccer games and practices 7 days a week for years. To add bird feeders to the mix would have been totally out in left field or rather mid-field in soccer terms. I have to also admit that I also considered people to do this as an only for retiree sort of thing… mostly you know — for old men in black knee socks and generic white tennis shoes. You catch me?? If someone talked to me about having birds, I would nod in interest at what they were doing and make nice comments like, “How fun! Good for you, isn’t nature fun to watch?” But, the truth was, I just didn’t get it.
When I told Mark of my plans, he rolled his eyes big time. Then proceeded to warn me that he was worried that I will be my normal self, start something, get really excited and then let it fall to the wayside over time as I lost interest. But, this time he said I would be leaving dependent, dead birds in my ADHD tracks like the various houseplants inside and outside my house through the years. He reminded me that I had put self-watering house plants on my “NOT To-do list”…………… However, not to be dissuaded, I left on a drizzling Saturday morning to a local wild bird store. I asked Mark if he wanted to go, but he yet again rolled his eyes and said “No Thanks”…
I drove 30 miles into downtown Dallas, walked into the bird store, marched right up to the counter and in my usual hyper-manic mode when I get a new idea – announced to the employee that “I am here, know nothing about birds but am ready to start!!!!!” In my mind, I had expected a “Welcome! So glad you came! Let me ‘take you under my wing’ and get you started little lady!” Instead, what I got was a quiet gentleman who wouldn’t look me in the eye and would only answer in “yes” and “no”(s). I probably scared the hell out of him and/or thought to myself that maybe he was the 50+ year old “special needs” son who was just watching the store while Mommy was gone.
So, I walked the store on my own. I’d come upon something and ask him about it. He’d plod over answer my question, quite well I must add and then go back to the counter. Bless his heart. An hour or so later, another employee showed up and they were exactly what I needed. Someone to notice the word “SUCKER” written across my forehead!!! Sooo, 2 hours and almost $400 later, I left with a large birdhouse looking feeder with suet cages on both sides and a 7’ metal stand, extra refrigerated suet that I now keep in our beer fridge (Mark thinks it’s a riot and is worried one of Madison’s college friends will eat it mistaking the suet for I don’t know what…), 2 hummingbird feeders with decorative red metal umbrellas over them (because they were cute), a bag of “fancy” local, native bird seed, a hummingbird nectar water bottle to also keep in my beer fridge, 2 birding books of Texas and North Texas and they just threw in a finch feeder for free. Something I found out later will be a money suck to get me back in the store… But, read on… 🙂
I hurried home and had Mark help me set everything up in the drizzling rain. He was still not impressed but was nice enough to help. Then I waited……… Nothing for a week. I emailed a birding friend (retired) 🙂 and they said to be patient, “like a good restaurant the word has to get out”. The next weekend, we went to my nieces wedding. When we came back that Sunday, I ran to the backyard to finally see my FIRST bird, a Red Cardinal!!! I was so excited and would later find out that they are a rather nervous bird, so to see that first was surprising.
I put my birding books in a reusable grocery store bag that I now call my Bird Bag and asked Mark if I could barrow a set of his hunting binoculars. He led me to a cheap set and I ran out to the cabana to “watch”. (The cabana is on the other side of the yard from the feeders) And, they all flew off. Which continued to happened every time I went outside to watch… I seriously was expecting to find a note on our back door from the bird community’s lawyer placing a restraining order from us using our back yard indefinitely as “we make them too nervous and they now had ‘squatters rights’ under Texas law”.
Sure enough, over time they did get use to me………. But, the turning point came a week or so later for this Empty Nester Couple. I was out enjoying the birds one evening and out walks Mark with hos own pair of $1000 Zeiss hunting binoculars. Before, I knew it he was sitting their next to me daily. Soon, we’d both find ourselves looking through our own scopes and arguing over what species we were trying to identify! We downloaded a $14 Audubon App on our iPads to identify and track them with other birders in the area… We watched a Mockingbird couple make a nest in one of our new Magnolia trees. I’ve decided I like the Mockingbird Male because he does everything 50/50 with the wife raising the kids. But, Mark and I really like the Brown Headed Cowbird Couple best because they just lay their eggs in other birds’ nests and go about their jet setting life. LOL!
It got even more surreal one evening when Mark came home from work. He rushed into the house from the garage and said, “D’Ann, come here! You got to see this!! Get your binoculars!!!!”… At his leading, we both quietly walked out our back door, crept around the corner of our house and saw a couple. A very different “species” that were quite big and looked out of place in not only our yard, but our area on the Black Prairie of North Texas. It was dusk and hard to see, but Mark was standing there in his dress clothes, with binoculars on point, animatedly whispering loudly, “I don’t know what they are, but they have to be a water fowl of some sort just coming through! Would you look at that!”
The only thing missing was our long, black knee socks and generic white tennis shoes. But what wasn’t missing was, we finally really understood all the hoopla. 🙂