The World Is Too Much With Us

Blog#78- 8/9/21

Richard Davis

When the world is too much with us I turn to the birds. Most of us have been in need of some sort of refuge these past few years and I have found the observation of the bird population to be an activity that has helped to clear my head and get a better perspective on the world.

I am not what might be called a birder. I do not count species and I do not make birding treks to look for rare species. Quite simply, I have put up a suet feeder and a hummingbird feeder in my yard so that I can watch the activity from my deck.

At first I wondered if feeding birds year round was a bad thing for birds. My research has shown me that there are pro’s and con’s but that, overall, birds are not usually harmed by having a handout on a regular basis.

Every few weeks the metal pole that the feeder is on is bent to the ground and the suet cage is scattered around. Although I have not seen what causes that, it is pretty clear that a bear is probably the only creature, other than a human, that would be capable of the suet looting.

I keep a bird identification book handy and I have learned the names of some of the more common birds that make regular trips to the feeder. They are all unique and each has their individual feeding habits.

The red bellied woodpeckers have to make their presence known and they squawk and chirp. It sounds like they are announcing that this is their territory and everyone else needs to back off. When other birds try to join the red bellied on the feeder he becomes aggressive and keeps them away.

I find myself yelling at the red bellied guy because he wastes so much suet. When he grabs a chunk with his large beak more of the suet lands on the ground than in his mouth. At first I thought this was wasteful, but then I saw the sparrows arrive.

Sparrows tend to be ground feeders and they often show up when the red bellied woodpecker is eating because they know they can get an easy feed if they simply scour the grass below the woodpecker while he is feeding.

Downy woodpeckers are one of the birds that often feed on a daily basis. Sometimes a male and female pair show up together and there have been times when the male feeds the female after he has chipped into the suet. She just waits next to him and lets him do all the work as he feeds her. I think I have seen some of their younger offspring occasionally. At least it looks like immature birds of the same species.

Some birds tolerate other birds joining them on the feeder, but for the most part, birds seem to want to eat by themselves. Blues jays are so big there is no room for others when they are at the feeder but the smaller birds such as black-cap chickadees and catbirds tend to be joined by others. Sometimes the company is tolerated and sometimes not. I wish I knew what was going through their minds when they are on the feeder.

One of the high points of the summer was when a pileated woodpecker showed up to grab a free meal. He only came for a week and I tried to get a picture of him but I could never get the timing right, even when I tried to keep my camera handy. The memory will suffice. Pileated woodpeckers are reclusive and they are the size of a large crow. I was hoping he would make my feeder a regular stop and I don’t know if he is still in the neighborhood and found better food or if he has just moved on.

As I sit on my deck watching the birds I think of the poem “The World Is Too Much with Us” by William Wordsworth.

The world is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

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