Smarty Pants



Some time in early December, or even late November, the riot of bluejays we had coming to the yard nearly every day just stopped. So too, the trio of squirrels who were ferreting away the peanuts in the shell that I was tossing out every morning. It may be that the jays got tired of competing with the squirrels, or it may be that someone else had better food on offer at the time. Who knows? I was dismayed to lose the jays, but also felt the absence of those darn squirrels keenly.

I decided to put out the coil peanut-feeder. I filled it about halfway and hung it on the hook on my fence. I was expecting that the jays might be the ones to return, but no! It was our dark-haired friend, “Smarty Pants”.

I am one to give names to most of the creatures I see in my yard. That is not to say that I actually anthropomorphize them, I just like to be able to talk about them and distinguish who is who.

Smarty Pants came by his name because he was always the first one on the scene when peanuts were made available. “Paddy” and “Bingo” were just a bit slower off the mark and Smarty Pants was always up for a challenge too. He wouldn’t let a skinny wrought-iron pole deter him for having a go at a feeder, even if he did just slide down it like a fire-fighter.

So it was not a big surprise that he was the one to reappear the other day. We were delighted to witness his acrobatics from fence-top to feeder and watch his tail all a-twitch when he secured his edible goodies. Just look at those leg muscles! He is a top entertainer!

It’s been rather snowy of late, and SP hasn’t shown up today. I have the coil-feeder loaded up and hanging from the chokecherry. Perhaps he’s sitting out the inclement weather and will pop round again when it improves.

In the meantime, I have peaceful “Puff’n’Stuff” the dove, to keep me company.


New Traditions



When we made our purchases at the bird store the other day, we were handed a small packet of bird seed mix with our receipt. The young lady said, “Put these out on Christmas morning and good things will happen in the new year.” I had not heard of this tradition, and was a bit skeptical that it was just a ploy to make you go back and say, “Wow! That seed really worked! I need to buy a big bag of it from you. Is it a special mix?” My cynicism has been dispelled however, since the internet is full of information testifying to this tradition in Sweden.

I’m starting a few new traditions this year. The bird seed is one, and the new vegan gingerbread cake recipe that I found on Facebook last week. It has already been baked twice and it will be firmly lodged in our Christmas Customs from now on.

Next up? Danish aebleskiver for breakfast after we get back from singing at the Christmas Day mass. We usually fry up some fruitcake, but there was none to be had in the shops the other day! It will have to be our New Year’s Day special now.

Have a wonderful December 25th!

Scatter seed to feed
the wild birds on Christmas Day—
Swedes say it brings luck.

Kathleen Mortensen © 2016




Thursday was a very exciting day.  A trip into the city resulted in a few goodies for me, or rather for the birds in my winter garden. As it’s Christmas, my loving husband’s greatest gift to me was a spree in the Birds Unlimited store. I bought a bird-bath heater for the deck, a vertical suet-feeder and some peanut-butter suet. To be honest, I could have gone mad, there was that much amazing stuff on offer.

As if that weren’t enough, we happened upon a craft-store in an old house on a corner lot, that was going out of business and I found a charming fence feeder made entirely from reclaimed materials. Wait until you see it!

We’ve been in and out doing Christmassy things, but I’ve cleared the deck and scattered seed each day. We now have about six regular juncos, a trio of chipping sparrows and yesterday we had a pair of house finches. A visit from a dove was encouraging, despite its facing the wrong way on the fence and flying off without hanging around. My husband witnessed the rabbit on the deck first thing this morning, so I’ll be putting out carrots tonight.

We had some sad news the other day. Our neighbour who lived directly behind us (on the other side of the cedars) passed away quite suddenly. She was a friend to the birds as well, and always kept her silo feeders full of nyjer seed for the goldfinches in the summertime. She had an immaculate garden with lots of trees and perennials. I am hopeful that the next owner of her home will care for the garden and its inhabitants as conscientiously as she did.

Well, I don’t know if I’ll have time to share with you for a few days. This evening we will be singing in our church choir for Christmas Eve, and again in the morning. It’s a busy time for all.

However you spend the holiday, may you be blessed with peace and joy.

All the best from us here at the winter garden.


O Christmas Tree!*



I can get a little crazy when it comes to preservation of the wildlife in my backyard. I am determined to have a heated birdbath on the deck by Christmas and right now, the variety of food out there includes: sunflower seed (shelled and unshelled) finch mix, torn bread crusts, walnuts in the shell, peanuts in the shell and a few organic carrots for the as-yet-unseen rabbits who leave their scat and tracks all over the yard.

One of the wackiest things I’ve ever done, was to drag a neighbour’s Christmas tree from the edge of their drive where it was awaiting pickup post-festivities, and lay it out in my own backyard at the townhouse where we lived nearly 20 years ago.  It served as shelter for not only birds, but also chipmunks, squirrels and even a family of mice!

This year, I was set on having a tree on the deck to provide a bit of shelter for the small birds who visit every day.  We have an artificial tree indoors because we have cats and the tree needs to be portable. Right now, it’s sitting on my dryer, awaiting its time of glory on Christmas Eve, where it will have a place of prominence by my great room window. With our cats, it’s always best to get the tree out of the way before you go to bed.

The price of real trees is rather steep! We shopped around for a small tree and finally found one being sold by a local charity in the empty garden centre of our local Walmart.  I offered $20 for it and that was accepted.  The tree fit in the back of our Toyota Scion, so it was ideal.

We celebrated an early Christmas with my husband’s side of the family because my husband and I are busy with rehearsals and preparations for singing over Christmas with our church choir.  Both my husband and I have senior parents in their 80s (my mother lives with us), and so it was good timing for all of us to get together on the 10th of December.  The lighted tree on our deck added to the convivial Christmas spirit of the day.

My neighbours have no notion of it, but I will be keeping an eye on who puts out their real tree after December 25th.  I plan on shifting the small tree to another spot (perhaps below my window) and replacing it with a full sized “donated” tree to live out the winter as shelter for all of my winter garden residents. There will be photos!

Thanks for reading,


*O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blaeter!
(old German folk tune by Ernst Anschütz, 1824)

(translation: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, you stand in verdant beauty)




It’s been an interesting few days in the winter garden. We’ve had some respite from the falling snow, and even  some lovely sunshine which made the snow sparkle and put a smile on my face.

Over the weekend we picked up some fresh finch food and a bag of pre-shelled sunflower and peanut mix. I had to dig a tunnel with my little red shovel to reach the hanging feeder (see “Snow on Snow” for image). It was partially filled with as yet untouched black oil sunflower seed. I dumped this out onto the icy birdbath that sits in the middle of my deck. The red feeder is now holding about 2 cups of the new mix, but nobody has shown any interest.

Conversely, the black oil seed on the birdbath has been a big hit. So much is this the case, that we now have some new regulars who have been giving the juncos a bit of competition. Mind you, the juncos know how to handle them. In fact, they’re not even that gracious with their own when it comes to getting food down their tiny gullets. It’s a bit like a bumper-car ride out there most of the time. They collide with each other in an effort to get the choice seeds and within seconds the bumped one hops back into the fray! The newcomers, who are a pair of lively little chipping sparrows, do not seem too disconcerted by this. Rather, they have adapted to the game almost instantly, often winning out.

Never a dull moment on deck!