Breakfast with Birds

My husband Dan is not a breakfast eater, plenty of hot coffee is sufficient.  Me, not so!  I usually prep coffee the night before and am already thinking of breakfast as I take in the aroma of the beans…coffee in the a.m. is only an essential prelude to my breakfast staple, oatmeal.  (I sense a slight gag reflex from some readers…) We will return to this topic.

Outside my window the Mallards are already aware of my presence even with no lights on…just my silent movement through the kitchen and an occasional word to the cats- who are hungry too…  I can’t even imagine how the ducks can see me through the dark but they sense my presence and move towards the shoreline.  In winter I feed the cats first, the fishy smell a rude wake up call to my olfactory. The ducks will linger along the shoreline until it is light enough to feel safe on land and then they will come up for corn chops- march around my deck quacking at me if I am not out to feed them in a reasonable amount of time.

For our smaller avian diners we have a flat feeder built by a friend, a suet feeder and a hanging feeder called the Squirrel Buster…only hanging feeder I have EVER had that kept the squirrels out! (And Dan has a small corn cob holder for aforementioned squirrels.) I used to put out all variety of seeds…seed recommended by experts, folks at nature stores, books and magazine articles on attracting birds to your yard…until I discovered that the birds I want to see like sunflower seeds and suet…so why bother with other kinds?! It is a parade of small birds (cardinals, chickadees, titmice, wrens, sparrows, finches, juncos, Mr. Kinglet, Red Bellies and Downys) to these feeders from dawn til mid morning and they make for interesting dining companions as I eat my own grain…oats…

Now, I have not always been an oatmeal fan, it’s just that oatmeal is an easy fix for a relatively healthy start to the case I was not so health minded at later meals…and it fits my routine. But sometimes that routine gets well, too routine and I seek ways to change up the oats.  Besides as I watch a variety of my feathered friends dining, I am thinking I need a little variety myself.  So, a couple of years ago I switched to steel cut oats and began to experiment with all kinds of toppings.  Just looking at suet ingredients could give one some ideas for good additions to oatmeal…fruits, nuts…anyway, today I want to share my basically 300 calorie oatmeal breakfast…coffee or toast will up this count.Steel Cut Oats with Curry and Apples

Cinnamon Curry Oatmeal with Apples, Cashews and Raisins*

  1. 1/3 cup steel cut oats (sorta follow directions…use 1 cup water bringing it to a boil and then add oats with a pinch of sea salt….then turn off stove, put lid on saucepan and leave it to set for about 45 minutes and find something else to do like take a walk, exercise, read the paper…)
  2. Add 1 oz of Golden Raisins to the oatmeal and reheat til oats reach a nice consistency and raisins are warm.  Add a small sprinkling of Tumeric and a couple of good dashes- to taste of Cinnamon and Curry powder.
  3. Using 1/4 of an apple (Pink Lady Apples are the BEST!) chop up and add to warm oatmeal, add 1 oz of raw cashews broken up and gently drizzle with raw honey
  4. Find a seat by a window with a view of your bird feeder, eat and enjoy breakfast with birds!

*substitute pomegranate arils, mango for fruit of choice and walnuts or almonds for nuts of choice….

























Kansas Winter Landscape- Fashionable Greige

The winter landscape in South Central Kansas has been fashionably “greige” long before this neutral beige-ish gray hue ever became trendy.  I love it, most days- as there are such subtleties in the landscape that are better defined when there is absence of range of color and the monochromatic takes over.  As long as these gray (greige) days don’t last too long ie no sunshine, I am actually content to contemplate the frigid, sleeping natural world outside my window.  A warm fire, cozy chair and a cup of tea certainly help.  Bird sightings can be exciting with a flash of red from the cardinals, a glimpse of purple from the little finches or the quick movements of dull greenish gray from the Goldfinches among others.

This week even the pond has been a steely “greige” color as most of it has been frozen due to the consistent low temps and lack of solar heat.  But the American Shoveler Ducks have been busy spinning like a slow moving top across the limited open water; their circular churning eating away at the icy fringe.  Atop their frozen dominion, two plump geese and Mallards observe the small Shovelers work.  When sufficient water opens up they too take on buoyancy and float along rather aimlessly, possibly thinking of corn chops tossed on the bank for dinner- unlike the Shovelers stirring up a meal from the depths.  Northern_Shoveller_Pair

Predawn found me staring out in the darkness at the silhouetted sphere on the pond.  As on all previous days this week, undulating en mass were the Shovelers conserving warmth- safe in the open waters waiting for dawn.  These little spoon-billed ducks; hens in subtle camouflage, drakes- fashionably feathered in color blocked green, white and rust, all poised, waiting to churn color on color across a cold gray pond.  Classic, timeless- spinning the gray colorless winter away. shovel spinning


A Convocation of Eagles

After the holidays Dan and I decided to exit from Green Heron Pond for a few days and head to Southwest Missouri- to a little place in the Mark Twain National Forest, close to the Arkansas border and Table Rock Lake. The drive takes us through central and Eastern Kansas as we weave our way into Missouri.  It is a winter-dried landscape that fascinates me.  I never view this varied brown landscape as barren even with its naked limbs, tall grasses with heads bowed clear to the soil and very little green to be seen. Instead I see a landscape laid bare, its architectural structure exposed, subtle hues- variants of browns, dull grays and the coppery-green patina of the cedars….only resting, sleeping- all patiently awaiting Spring’s return.

In the midst of these faded colors, exposed branches or dense cedar fronds, one may spot a camouflaged avian predator…raptors cold, hungry; hunting or napping in the little solar warmth the short days provide.  On our way we counted over 200 “hawks”- my generic term for the various accipiters, buteos and falcons that hide or bask in the winter weather. Kestrels, Merlins, Red Tails (with their many morphs) and others I need to stop and observe for long periods of time and reference before I have any idea of who I am viewing.

But in the wintry season there is one raptor, always identifiable and that is the migrant Bald Eagle.  These eagles frequent the prairies and waterways throughout Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas seeking warmer winters with open water and small moving prey.  The mature eagle’s massive size with telltale white head and tail distinguish them from the still sizable but with mottled coloring of the juveniles.  One siting of a Bald was a juvenile in a field enjoying highway roadkill alongside some crows…he looked up as we passed with an almost apologetic countenance… and then returned to enjoying his carrion feast.  Another siting was an adult on ice pulling at something wedged in the frozen water. He lifted to flight from the ice as we drove by…a magnificent sight of noble power and grace! Bald_Eagle_Portrait

After arriving in Southwest Missouri, Dan began to notice large birds overhead in the afternoons…he called me to come look and there was a small grouping of Bald Eagles.. their high pitched chattering, circling above us.  The next day it happened again but this time Dan said there were more…in fact we counted fourteen Bald Eagles…a convocation of eagles!!  They were playfully spinning, circling- both juveniles and adults coming together as one large group only to spin off into smaller family circles and then exuberantly reunite..this happened over and over.  We observed them for several minutes before they spun out of sight.

Knowing just a little about eagle behavior, I was amazed at the seeming camaraderie, no territory issues, just joyful family play and probably courtship maneuvers.  These welcome avian visitors soaring along the pale watery blue of a winter sky, spinning, circling, invigorating the atmosphere and the sleeping brown landscape with coppery colored trees; a lively winter gathering of eagles, a convocation indeed!