Sue Bowman Rural Ramblings

From graduations to weddings, this is the time of year when many photos will be taken.

I’m not sure how the phrase “watch the birdie” came to be identified with photo-taking, nor do I hear that phrase much anymore.

But once upon a time, a photo-taking session was a big deal. You had to carefully select your subject matter, because your camera only had 12 or 24 exposures on each roll of film, so every shot counted. Besides, you had to pay to have that film developed, regardless of whether the resulting photos were good or bad.

I assume that “watch the birdie” was the best way to have everyone looking straight at the camera at the same time. Presumably, the clicking shutter was the “birdie” that the photo subjects were watching for. Or maybe some photographer somewhere had an actual bird figure he or she would attach to his or her camera to capture the subjects’ attention.

Nowadays, snapping photos is as easy as grabbing one’s cell phone to capture photographic moments, either in still shots or videos. There’s no film to worry about, the resulting photo is ready immediately and there are storage options available that allow the photographer to keep an almost unlimited number of photos for future reference online. There is no need to say “watch the birdie” when it’s possible to take repeated photos of the same image until one suits you.

It’s been said that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. I feel this saying is true, and too often applies to me. For example, how many years have I hung a beautiful, natural pine wreath from our summer kitchen door at Christmas time and failed to take it down before a pair of birds built a nest within it in spring?

You’d think the prospect of fallen pine needles and bird droppings at the entryway to our farmhouse would be enough of a reminder. Yet, it seems that history still repeats itself with these wreaths each year. They stay fresh and pretty-looking for so long that I hate to take them down prematurely — and just about the time the wreath is starting to drop needles and I’m ready to remove it, I invariably see evidence that nest building is underway. Little pieces of straw and twigs, and even hanks of hair from the sheep and goats, signal that I’ve waited too long, and I never have the heart to disrupt the nesting process.

Having a bird’s nest where everyone comes and goes from the house can lead to having birds diving defensively at passersby. However, it all seems worth it when you hear those little birds cheeping from the nest one day. Unfortunately, our barn cats also hear this chirping and know that it won’t be long until the little ones are learning how to fly and will crash land right in front of them. This always means a sad ending to our new little feathered friends.

This year, as usual, I was too slow to notice that nest building had begun before I discarded our wreath; however, I came up with a plan that might work better for the birdies and for us. Directly above the first-floor summer kitchen door is a little-used identical door that leads onto a balcony. Why not relocate the wreath, nest and all, upstairs where the nestlings are less likely to be exposed to marauding cats? Dennis and I waited for the parents to take a break from the nest one day and then carefully inserted the needle-shedding wreath inside a large garbage bag for its trip to the second-floor door.

I was worried the birds wouldn’t find their relocated nest, but they did. And since their new home is convenient to the bathroom window, which is at a right angle to the balcony door, I was even able to surreptitiously snap a photo of the busy little birds frequenting it. They are small and mostly tannish-gray with dark bars on their wings; however, the male has a reddish head and upper breast. I’d never seen this type of bird and had no idea what kind it might be.

Fortunately, I was able to forward the mystery birds’ photo to my birding friend, Lisa, in Bucks County. She quickly responded that it is a house finch. The finches have become welcome boarders, as their song is sweet and not at all shrill and annoying like the mockingbirds who frequented our yard the past two years.

So now Dennis and I are both “watching the birdies” as we await the arrival of the finch family’s new additions.

Sue Bowman is a freelance writer in southeastern Pennsylvania.