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Blue jays make their home in Louisiana year round. 

Last month, no one in our family batted an eye when I reached into a gift bag on Father’s Day and found a sack of worms waiting inside. At our house, we’ve grown accustomed to exchanging presents that others might find odd or even gruesome.

For Mother’s Day one year, along with other things, we gave my wife a pile of dirt. I seem to remember other special occasions when she got bales of straw and bags of manure.

While I can’t broadly recommend giving your wife a bag of cow poop as a prescription for matrimonial bliss, my bride of many years didn’t seem to mind. She likes to putter in the yard, so finding fertilizer, mulch and potting soil adorned with a bow is right up her alley.

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It was in a similar spirit that my loved ones presented me with a bag of worms on Father’s Day. If you enjoy feeding birds, as I do, then a few pounds of dried mealworms are as good as gold.

Mealworms weren’t something I’d tried before as a draw for backyard songbirds, though I’ve long been feeding birds several kinds of seed. The people who know such things say that mealworms make an ideal meal for bluebirds, chickadees, titmice and wrens.

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We lost our big elm in a summer storm last year, and the broad stump that’s left behind makes a good feeding table for birds. I spread dried mealworms across its dead rings, mixing in kernels of sunflower to sweeten the deal. I’ve seen some brown thrashers at this new feeding station, and it might take awhile for others to discover the buffet.

Birds tend to visit feeders less in summer because the lush landscape means they can find plenty of food elsewhere. Even so, I’ve liked feeding birds again after taking a break for a couple of months in the spring. The pine siskins around our place seemed sick with an illness that can spread more easily at bird feeders, so we had taken ours down for a time to help break the cycle of contagion.

Scrubbed, sanitized and replenished, our feeders dangle once again from low branches near our windows, a sight that pleases me as much as the ornaments on a Christmas tree.

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Not all of our summer birds would look nice on a Yuletide card right now. This is molting season for some songbirds, a time when they lose feathers and grow new ones for autumn. The plumage on many of our cardinals this month is wildly uneven, reminding me of those bad haircuts people gave themselves during last year’s pandemic lockdown. A blue jay who visited my window had a head as bald as mine. They’re gloriously conceited birds, but maybe this annual loss of feathers will keep their vanity in check.

Such thoughts occur to me as I scout our bird feeders for visitors. It really beats watching the news.


Email Danny Heitman at danny@dannyheitman.com.