My Gold Finches are Back

My finches, my beautiful self-sustaining pets, Gold Finches are back!

It seemed to me that every year around October, all of a sudden after a mad feeding frenzy, where we all would go through a good bag of finch food a week, poof, they were gone, and didn’t come back until around Mother’s Day the following spring.

But a kind and faithful reader of the Newburyport Blog, emailed me that no, my finches were still about, and to keep the finch food out for the winter, and I would see my pretty little friends, for sure. And this was reinforced by another local bird lover. So, I put my finch food feeder out for the winter, where I could get to it, and replenish it on a regular basis.

But alas, no finches. The finch food never went down. Just stayed dismally the way it was for the whole winter. Alack.

And when the snow melted, I moved my finch feeder to a spot which I thought might be more finch conducive, but, “Oh dear,” still no finches.

I was beginning to think I had lousy finch food.

I thought I spotted a Gold Finch yesterday by the birdbath. The brightest, daffodil colored speck. And here they are, back again at the beginning of May, just the way they always arrive, right on time. So far, two “couples.” And maybe more may come.

Mary Eaton

Self-Sustaining November Pets

My self-sustaining pets, the finches. The beautiful Gold Finches.

A very kind reader of the Newburyport Blog emailed me a while back, to let me know that, no, my self-sustaining pets, the Gold Finches, actually stick around for the winter, they don’t fly on South.


Love this.

Apparently the males turn from a bright yellow to a muted grey.

So instead of dumping out the finch food the way I do every fall, I filled the finch feeder back up to see what would happen.

Low and behold, a few days later, there were a couple of very drab (sorry guys) birds pecking away. They were so drab that they were difficult to tell them apart from the less than swanky or colorful finch feeder.

I can tell when the finches have been hanging around, because the finch food all of a sudden starts to get low. But, alas, the finch food has not.

So, I go and talk to the bird feeder fellow out at the traffic circle (the place where the policeman stopped me for being too aggressive, trying to enter the traffic circle– see earlier entry). And yes indeed, the kind reader of the Newburyport Blog is correct, the finches stick around. According to the finch feeder fellow, some of his clients have feeders that are swarming with drab winter Gold Finches.

Not at my house, however. And no answer to this — the mystery of no finches.

It can’t be because they don’t like my cooking, because what I’m serving up to the finches, who aren’t showing up, is all store-bought stuff.

Mary Eaton

Backyard and the Drought Thing

I thought the “drought” thing was over. But no, apparently it’s not.

I figured the rain we just had took care of everything and no more watering for moi. Whew.

But I looked out my window late yesterday afternoon as I was cooking, and the green stuff out there, like the shrubs, looked like they were all wilty and parched looking again.

So I said, “Wait a minute,” to the broccoli that I was cooking and I ran outside to take a look.

Sure enough my back yard is crunchy and like the Sahara one more time. And if shrubs could wail, they would wail, “Could you please get out the darn hose and give us a good long drink. We are literally die’n here.”

Ok, so I’m listening to my darn shrubs do the “shrub wail” thing.

Since it had gotten “chilly” lately, I figured the water would be freezing. But it wasn’t. The water to water the shrubs and stuff was actually warm.

I guess this could tell me something, but I’m not sure exactly what.

So it turned out to be Ok to stand out there and water the stuff with the warm water coming out of the hose and with the sun going down and the late afternoon to evening becoming cool to chilly.

And my self-sustaining pets (see earlier entries), “my” finches, I don’t think any of them showed up yesterday. And only a couple of them showed up two days ago. I think it’s getting to be that time when all of a sudden they disappear, like to fly south.

Bye-bye self-sustaining pets.

Mary Eaton

Rain and Drought and Green Stuff

Who knew that I would love the rain so much.

I would water my yard, helping out the Newburyport Water Department marvelously during our “drought” and the “stuff” back there would perk up a little bit, but basically, no matter what I did, things looked “wilty” and “parched.”

My grey/green lawn turned brown and proceeded to become dust.

My green “lawn” turned grey/green except for a small piece around my dwelling that retained a kelly green color. (What this says about my dwelling, I’m not entirely sure.)

In the middle of our drought, when not a lawn mower could be heard, I actually got out my lawnmower and mowed my green morsel of grass.

(I wanted to go up to my neighbors and assure them that no, I was not abusing water restrictions by wildly watering my lawn. I just had this odd green scrap.)

And my finch feeders were swarming with finches still.

I think some of them were “baby finches.” A) Because there were so many. And B) because they were smaller and thinner than the other finches.

They also flew funny.

As I’ve watched “my” finches over the years, I’ve found that they have a wonderful long-wave flight. These poor little finches looked like little fluttery helicopters that might crash at any moment. I think that’s a give-away.

Ah, but there is nothing quite like the cooperation of Mother Nature. All that green stuff began to look perky and relieved. And the brown lawn is starting to actually turn green again. And I might be able to mow my lawn now without resident “drought guilt.”

I’d rather mow than water, or not water and worry.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s Note: The Primary to vote for Mayor of Newburyport, MA is this Tuesday, September 18, 2007. Don’t forget to VOTE.)

Helping Newburyport’s Water Woes

I’ve been distracted lately. The finches (my self-sustaining pets) have not been getting their finch feeders replenished in a timely fashion. Bird baths haven’t been refreshed (see earlier entries).

(Bird baths that haven’t been refreshed get “gross”– “gross” dates me big time. Who says “gross” anymore? Nobody.)

I looked at my garden/backyard/green stuff and realized that it was dehydrated, if not crispy, because I hadn’t noticed that the darn thing need watering.

I went out and contributed mightily to the Newburyport Water bill woes and spent a whopping two hours pouring water on some very wilted, withering looking green stuff.

(Apparently, water-wise, we may well be paying more because we, the citizens of Newburyport, MA, aren’t using enough water… the Water Department has to pay its bills, so the price of water goes up… I am now using more water thereby helping out my city, my state and my country… go figure.)

My neighbors (and now the readers of the Newburyport Blog) must think I’m totally nuts (actually they might think that already). I was wandering around the yard drenching stuff here and there going, “Don’t die on me yet, we’ve come so far together.” (Which of course, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever… Can you try and inspire wilty, withering plants? I don’t think so.)

I think the plants may have been paying attention, because they don’t look quite as withery as they did before.

I’ve given up on the grass. It’s a nice shade of brown/grey. And it’s crunchy. Everything, that I haven’t gotten around to watering yet is crunchy (lots of crunchy stuff)…

And I’m beginning to see BIG merits in crabgrass. It’s green, it’s fearless, it’s not crunchy. (Why does crabgrass get such a bad rap? It’s August, there’s been NO rain for what seems like weeks, and the crabgrass is green and not withery… I’m beginning to have “crabgrass admiration”… is this “lawn heresy”??)

Crunch, crunch, crunch… crispy, crispy–except for the crabgrass. Hope the finches keep chowing down. Don’t leave my back yard just yet, Ok? Eat up big time to feed those babies (if there are still finch babies) and to get lots of strength for that long flight south.

Mary Eaton

Self-Sustaining Newburyport Pets

My self-sustaining pets–the American Yellow Finches in my backyard (see earlier entry)… Well all of a sudden it’s feeding time at the zoo.

All summer long it’s been peck, peck, peck.

I looked out my window the other day at both finch feeders, and good grief within a matter of days they were half empty. Say what?

(I was going to subject the readers of the Newburyport Blog to a picture of one of “my” finches. But A) the picture looks like a yellow blob, and B) the readers of the Newburyport Blog are subjected to pictures of stuffed frogs, which are probably enough “animals” for one local blog.

But, if you are really dying to see what a gorgeous American Gold Finch actually looks like, please press here.)

One of the finch feeders is about 3 feet from one of my studio windows (I am a painter).

In the spring and for most of the summer, the minute I come near the window, whoosh, bye-bye feeding finch.

Now, I come by my window and they just look at me, as if to say, “What’s your problem, I’m eating here. Get lost already.”

Ok. Cool.

But all of this has me very curious. What the heck is going on? (Plus, I seem to have a whole lot of new finches. I used to only have 2 pair, now I’m counting at least 4. Wow.)

It turns out that these gorgeous little creatures are eating for 4-6. Finches breed late, the babies have hatched and everybody’s chowing down. Plus maybe some of these new finches are actually “baby” finches. (I don’t know. I just don’t know that much about finches.)

When I think about it, I remember this happening every year. Wild finch feeding. And then one day, no more finches.

And then, I finally get the message, everyone’s flown south. (But they always come back the next year.)

Mary Eaton

Elections in Newburyport, MA, Civic Engagement or For the Birds

Many people say to me, “you’ve got to get a pet” (usually they want me to get a dog).

At the moment my notion of having a “pet” is having astoundingly low maintenance pets. (And no the frogs do not count as pets. A) They are “hard working” political consultants for the Newburyport Blog; and B) they are either stuffed or made out of plastic.)

No, the “pets” that I have are birds.

In my “garden/ backyard/ green-stuff,” I have 2 Finch feeders and 2 birdbaths. I mean are we talking really low maintenance here or what??

And I’m even lazy when it comes to my “self-maintaining” bird “pets.”

(You may have noticed I’m chatting about, of all things, birds. This is because I have a severe case of “candidate mind mush.” In Saturday’s Newburyport Daily News, July 28, 2007, there is a list of all the people who are running as candidates in Newburyport, MA.

Count’em… At this point, (having pulled papers) there are 6 for mayor, 11 for Newburyport City Councilor at Large (good grief), 3 contested seats, Wards 2, 4 and 5, so add 6 more; and 7 who have pulled papers for Newburyport School Committee.

Being lousy at math, I actually got out my calculator. That’s count’em, 30 people running for office in Newburyport, MA. Yes, believe you me, I’m all for civic enthusiasm and involvement, but 30 people pulling out papers, creates a severe case of Newburyport mind mush for this blogger.)

I look at the birdbaths and say, “ok, ok, so, they need a little ‘freshening’. I promise, I’ll take care of it.”

And then I dump some water in the 2 bird baths. Major effort on my part.

The first one in… the Blue Jay. Gets right in there, in the middle of the bird bath, flaps around, and soaks himself so that he looks like Alfalfa after the rain. (Sort of the “my way or the highway” approach or the “assertive” or “intense” or “enthusiastic” approach, depending on your point of view of bird bathing.) (And wow, does this date me or what. Alfalfa was in “Our Gang,” black and white TV. We are talking millenniums ago.)

And then the sparrows come. They congregate together in the one of the trees above the bird bath. Chirp and chat. And then all land of on the perimeter of the bird bath and proceed to jump in together and take a communal bath. (The sort of cooperation, committee approach to bird bathing.)

And my favorites are the yellow finches (they are gorgeous). They chow down on the Finch food, seem to either be oblivious or arrogant or just plain old enjoying themselves, depending on your point of view, that the finch food is only for them. Flitter down to a bird bath, take a couple of delicate sips, and then proceed to fly away, or continue to peck away, looking over their backs, for some unknown reason to moi, as they go at it.

I’m not sure which political type that this would correlate to. The readers of the Newburyport Blog would just have to decide for themselves. (Spoiled and entitled? Confident? I don’t know.)

So, yes, at this point, we have 30 people running for contested seats for the Newburyport 2007 election. I’m not exactly sure what this means. Whether some of this is “for the birds,” or whether this is an indication that low and behold, some of the folks in Newburyport, MA have woken up from an apathetic stupor and are taking an engaged interest in our small, New England seacoast city. I’ll just have to think a little bit more on this one.

Mary Eaton