By Angela

Attracting Birds & Other Backyard Creatures

(Scroll down to bottom of this page to find listings under this section. Clicking onto the underlined, highlighted words will take to there.)

One of my TBI phone buddies and I had been complaining for months about how boring our lives had become. Because of a decreased network of friends and increased confusion about the strange workings of our bodies, we had joined the ranks of our elderly relatives we used to joke about. Our conversions were filled with the failings of our bodies and the new terminologies used to describe them.

Then came the day she called to tell me about some bird feeders she had placed around her yard. I cringed. Wasn’t this the stage that happened after talking about your failing body parts? She seemed to be happy bumbling around her yard filling bird feeders, but I was determined not to succumb.

My determination did not last very long. She was having fun and I wasn’t. I started thinking about where I could put a bird feeder in my yard so I could watch the birds. When I sit on my couch, I have a direct view looking out of a 10’ sliding glass door. It was almost like a huge TV screen!

Soon I was shopping for some bird feeders and a pole on which to hang them. I found what has become one of my favorite places to visit when I have birthday or holiday money to spend – Wild Birds Unlimited. (Click here to find a store close to you) It was here that I purchased their Advanced Pole System which is easy to install, very study and allows you to creatively put together a system that works for you. My friend made fun of my system at first referring to it as my bird ghetto, but she also has one now.

This hobby has become great therapy for both of us. We have learned new information as we practiced identifying birds, deciding which birds we wanted to attract to our feeders. Being able to rely on books with pictures was helpful since we both experienced reading difficulties. Remember information like which birds like what kinds of seeds and the difference between a Starling and a Grackle, both birds that we hated.

As we used the internet to help us remember certain kinds of birds, we came upon interesting information. Such as Starlings are not native to the United States. Someone decided to bring different birds referred to in Shakespeare plays here to the U.S., Starlings being one of them. One hundred Starlings were released in New York in the late 1800s and that’s what started the whole overabundance of these obnoxious birds.

And then there are Cowbirds. They are known as “the Maffia” of birds. This is because the females don’t raise their own young. They lay their eggs in someone else’s nest and let that bird raise their young. If the other mother bird tosses the Cowbird’s egg out of her nest, the Cowbird will come back and destroy the nest and eggs of the other bird in retaliation, forcing it to raise her young the next time she lays her egg in its nest…..or else.

I experimented with putting out different things in an extra suet feeder for nesting materials. Cutting pieces of yarn and pulling apart small hunks of Spanish moss helped me with my fine motor skills. Observing which items were favorites with which birds and comparing notes with my friend gave us something to quantify, notice, remember and report. Bags of white craft feathers were especially popular with the sparrows. Lint from the dryer was very unpopular. Dog hair from my pets was not treasured unless it was blowing freely on the ground.

After purchasing a book of birds common to my state which also included a CD of bird songs, I added another cognitive challenge – identifying birds by their songs. I made a new friend in the store owner of Wild Birds Unlimited. Feeling guilty about actively finding ways to keep the squirrels away from the feeders, I bought a Squngee, a bungee cord for squirrels, and placed it in an area away from the bird feeders, but within my view while sitting on the couch. Click below for short videos of various backyard equipment one might purchase or make for Squirrel Entertainment.

Squirrel on a Squngee

The Launched Squirrel

Squirrel Obstacle Course

If this looks like a hobby you might enjoy, click here for Hobby: Bird Feeding and Watching.

a. The Building of a Nest

b. Mystery Visitors – BIG Birds

c. The Hummingbird Moth

© Angela Cramer, 2008

Tags: TBI, traumatic brain injury, acquired brain injury, post concussion syndrome, therapeutic activities, therapeutic hobbies, hobbies for the handicapped, backyard nature, bird watching, bird feeding, recreational activities, photography, swans

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