April 13, 2010




Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

     I sat in my “summer office” (a window-lined porch) on the cooler spring days, but on the warmer days I sat on my patio under a hemlock tree, writing. Either spot put me in view of nature’s spring glory.

     I watched as birds investigated and chose three of my four birdhouses for their nests. I saw my first Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, the first cardinal pair, the first bluebird, and numerous robins, those harbingers of spring’s arrival. I came across the following piece written by my mother, who died January 3, 1998.


     She is dull in appearance, brown-speckled front and a rather nondescript color to her back and wings but she sits on her porch with bright, alert eyes, cocking her head, peering into the breakfast room.

     She is always the first to arrive and the last to leave. She is also the bravest. We call her Jennie.

     Jennie calls to the others and soon the bird feeder is swinging and swaying with the flutter of wings, the landings and takings-off of house finches and sparrows. We sit at breakfast and supper scarcely breathing, forks raised halfway to our mouths, lest we disturb the birds at their feeding. The slightest movement on our parts sends the flock of small birds flying to the garage roof and the telephone wires—all but Jennie—she remains steadfast.

     Jennie nibbles the seeds, carelessly dropping the seeds and hulls to the ground where the mourning doves gather to feed. Perhaps she is aware of the hunger among other species, or perhaps she is playing hostess, Either way, that’s her secret.

     Sometimes Jennie is indiscriminate and at times over-zealous with her invitations to feed and too many birds crowd the feeder. Then there is a great pushing and shoving, excessive flapping of wings, a pecking at one another until, again, the feeder is empty of birds—all save Jennie—stoically she remains.


     Not too long ago Jennie invited a red cardinal to feed with her. Now, the feeder is small  and the cardinal was large. After many false starts and maneuvers the cardinal managed to perch on the edge of the feeder and, with loud and raucous chirps, managed to keep all the other smaller birds away—except Jennie. Perhaps she sensed a false bravado in the cardinal, despite his brilliant color and loudness, and was aware that without her support his timid heart was incapable of confronting a group of humans, even though they resided on the other side of the glass.

     Yesterday Jennie invited a young cardinal to lunch with her. We laughed until the tears were rolling down our cheeks. If you have never seen a young cardinal you are in for a treat. The head and tail are red but all the middle is a scruffy bunch of grayish-brown feathers all fluffed up and pointing every which way. I do hope Jennie will make him a permanent guest so we may watch him develop into a proper red cardinal.


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  1. I don’t really have too much time to watch the birds; but, just recently I went into the pet store on Rte. 30 in Latrobe, and I saw two beautiful blueish/white doves! I didn’t know what kind of bird they were at first, but, really thought that I’d like to one day have one! Anyhow, I asked the owner of the store, what kind of bird that it was, (I only saw the one at first!), he not only told me the name of the bird, but, that their was a female at the bottom of the cage, so, I, of course, had to go back and look, and sure enough there was a female protecting her nest of eggs at the bottom of the cage! I don’t really know much about birds, at least not as much as I used to! Yet, I find them interesting and fasinating! Anyhow, speaking of birds and nests, the building where I live, I just saw two different species of birds in a nest on the perched in the nest on the outside of the building! There is a spot just above the front stoop, above the door, that has a slanted arch and roof, and they seem to want to nest there! They leave for winter or hibernate somewhere, I believe, but then they wind up coming back! Though, they may not always be the same birds! Anyhow, it is a nice, but, weird way to enjoy part of nature! I’m a little afraid of them eventually flying and pooping on my head! Other than that, it is kind of neat and nice to see them! Is it possible that they watch us, as we watch them?
    Anyhow, I enjoyed your little story about Jennie; or should I say your Mother’s story! Thanks for sharing it!
    Julia T.

    Comment by Julia — April 14, 2010 @ 4:31 pm | Reply

  2. I have just received a cocketiel as a gift; it is a Grey Latin. It is only four months old and it will be a couple of months until I am even sure of the sex. I hope it grows to be as good a friend as Jennie.

    Comment by Will Patterson — April 18, 2010 @ 8:14 am | Reply

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