This place is for the birds.

When you buy a house from a guy whose business card reads The Birdman, you kind of expect the backyard to reflect his passion. Sure ’nuff…

I don’t know if our property is an official Bird Sanctuary, but it oughta be.

And then, not more than half an hour after walking through the yard and taking these pics, Tara pointed out the window excitedly. “Is that a cardinal?!”

‘Twas a cardinal.

Here’s the thing. Other than three years in the late ’70s in Ohio, I have never lived anyplace where there were cardinals. And Tara spent most of her life out west, where they don’t exist. If you look at a habitat map, cardinals are really an eastern-half-of-the-country phenomenon.

Northern Cardinal habitat

Red birds are a novelty for both of us. You should have seen our reaction the first time we spotted a cardinal after moving to Wisconsin. We were, to put it mildly, quite animated. We love the fact that we have cardinals in our backyard now.

Living the dream, guys.

Speaking of geeking out, I finally got around to setting up my weather station today. Long story short: I have always been fascinated by weather and, as a kid–nerd alert!–I used to keep track of climate stats in a three-ring binder. I even thought about becoming a meteorologist, but one college course in my freshman year was enough to dissuade me of that notion. Meteorology is, of course, a science–and science is way too math-y for my blood. Writing it is, then!

But my interest in weather and climate have never waned. I was an official National Weather Service storm spotter for a few years in Vancouver, WA. One of my daily rituals is to read over the NWS’s very technical Area Forecast Discussion. It’s a narrative description of current, short-term, and long-term forecasts and trends based on physical observations and weather models. I’ve gotten to the point where I understand the jargon pretty well, too. A few years ago, in Rapid City, I invested in an actual weather station, which thrilled my stat-lovin’ heart. Breaking it down and boxing it up back in August was almost as hard as packing away our many lava lamps.

I said almost.

The nice thing about moving is, when you unpack, it’s like one jubilant extended Christmas morning as you discover things you haven’t seen in a long time (seven months, in this case). Just wait until I find our potato mashers! So when I came across my weather station, I figured it was time to set it up again.

Figuring out how and where to mount it was the biggest challenge. I’d had it U-bolted to a chain link fence in South Dakota, but we have nothing similar here. There was a perfect spot in the middle of the yard, on a little wooden fence next to some preexisting garden beds, out in the open with no trees or other obstructions. Through trial and error, I MacGyver’d myself a solution involving a metal flange, pipes, and painter’s tape. Go, me!

I would’ve used duct tape, but who knows where that is and I didn’t think to buy any from Ace Hardware. It’s probably in the same box as the elusive potato mashers.

As I was scouting out a location for the weather station this morning, I was surprised by a big, burly, mustachioed man in our yard. Turned out to be our neighbor, Brian, who wanted to introduce himself. Nice guy with a booming voice that kind of reminds me of Sam Elliot. He’s 62 and has lived in the neighborhood with his common-law wife, Linda, for 36 years. Was friends with Dick and helped him out quite a bit over the years. He’s also a fountain of knowledge and let us know about the abundant blueberries and peaches we can expect in our yard, not to mention asparagus(!); said the ponds are pretty low-maintenance and basically take care of themselves (whew!); and even offered to help us with lawn care if we need a hand.

“I have one rule in life,” he said. “Don’t be a dick and we’ll get along fine.”

That’s a motto I can live by, too. Brian’s my kind of people.

55 thoughts on “This place is for the birds.

  1. When the husband’s grandma came over from England for our (Wisconsin) wedding, she marveled at the cardinals, too, Suddenly, annual Christmas gift shopping for her became much easier: Cardinal tree ornament one year, cardinal mug the next, cardinal stained glass decoration thingy after that… I guess I’m spoiled in that, except for a couple of years in western Montana (which more than made up for its lack of cardinals with its mountain scenery) I’ve always lived where the birds are plentiful.
    Not so with hummingbirds. I see maybe one a summer around here, but in places we’ve been in Colorado (Leadville and Ouray spring to mind) they are out in droves. I love them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get it. When I first outed myself as a flamingo lover a few years ago, the flamingo-themed gifts started pouring in from all over, ha. Be careful what you wish for!

      We always had tons of hummingbirds in the PNW but they were less common in South Dakota. Not sure what the situation is out here yet…I guess we’ll find out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There will be an entire post dedicated to the potato masher at some point I bet, whether you find it or not. Am I right or am I right?

    The cardinals have arrived back in our region recently as well and they are so pretty with their bright red colours! Especially because winter is back and so is the snow which makes them look even brighter.

    Keep an eye out for the female cardinal, she’s often nearby, not nearly as brightly coloured but attractive nonetheless, she has different shares of red in her coat.

    By the way, when the male sings, he’s looking for the wife (is what I was told). He sings a lot in spring. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, I suppose there’s going to have to be a potato masher post now, isn’t there?

      Cardinals do look especially striking against the snow. Ironically, we didn’t really start to see them until most of it had melted. Huh.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve only seen red birds in New York, never in WA. I was also jumping up and down with excitement which probably embarrassed my daughter. 🙂 A weather station, cool! I don’t know if I want to know what’s coming. Sometimes, yes, sometimes, NO. Brian sounds like a straightforward dude and helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Think how embarrassed Brian would have been if your name was Dick.
    I’m glad you’ll be able to enjoy cardinals from now on, they really are lovely birds. We have them daily.
    Well done on the weather station. And now? I shall anxiously await the potato masher’s appearance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I miss cardinals and the crested blue jays most out here in SoCal. There are still pretty blue scrub jays, but you can’t beat the jaunty crests! Today the hooded oriole returned to our yard from Mexico, which is always a thrill–he’s the only really bright bird in the area.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We had a lot of stellar jays visit our yard in Rapid City. They are pretty striking with those jaunty crests! Haven’t really seen any around here yet, but then again, I’m mainly keeping an eye out for those cardinals.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wait a minute — is there some sort of “weather balloon” you are going to launch next?

    Love the bird houses and the neighbors. Both are great signs that you guys are right where you should be! Even if the potato mashers are not where they should be. How fun!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I wonder whether Brian ever greeted Dick with that same line 😀 But I have to admit that big & burly, with mustache & Sam Elliot like voice all sound darn good to me!

    I love your gorgeous brightly coloured birds – we have nothing like that here in grey old England. It took a lot to get used to after a childhood in the tropics.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Glad you saw a male cardinal. They are very pretty. What about Blue Jays and Bluebirds? I don’t really know their habitats, but they are numerous here. I’m laughing that your neighbor told you his age upon meeting. Maybe he’s like me and thinks he looks good for his age! 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it came up because he said he and his other half were the first people in the neighborhood and their house was the first built, but now they’re “the old folks.” Honestly, I might have pegged him as a little older. He’s just got that been-living-my-best-life-outdoors vibe about him.

      I haven’t seen blue jays or bluebirds yet, but their habitat map is nearly identical to that of the cardinal, so I expect we’ll see plenty of them, as well. I wonder why the western half of the country gets screwed out of all the really cool birds?


  9. I’ve lived my entire life in regions with cardinals. They are, and I hope I don’t shock you with this but, STUPID. They’ll sometimes knock themselves out bashing into a window if they see their reflection in the window. Other times they’ll give up and fly off with the feathers on their little pointy heads bent off into angle. Sure they’re fun to look at, but…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My mother gave Mrs. Chess and I a weather station “kit” one Christmas. We enjoy checking out the data each day. We are fortunate to have many cardinals in our area, and they brighten up the day when we see them making their rounds. He’s hoping those potato mashers not only are freed from captivity soon, but are able and ready for duty. Brian’s motto sounds reasonable enough.😁

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Cardinals are my favorite species of bird (don’t tell the other birds). Geez, you guys won the property lottery. Heated driveway AND a bird habitat??

    Brian sounds like my brother. Are you sure you didn’t move to Ohio??🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  12. You never forget your first cardinal or your first blue bird or your first blue bunting or your first gold finch…I’ll miss them!!!!! We don’t have birds like that in L.A., that’s for sure. I never did see an oriel or a bald eagle while I was here, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

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