when the bluebirds go awol

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

February 26, 2013

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We hang the bluebird feeder from the geranium hook on the porch. Fill it with yummies–crumbled suet, freeze-dried-berry-flavored mealworms (I actually scoop them with my bare hand), a few softened raisins, and a handful of blueberries. I don’t know if they like blueberries–but they’re berries, and they’re blue, so surely they’d make a bluebird happy.

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The birds flock to the shrub by the birdbath, the shrubs under the window, the butterfly bush, sip a bit of water. But they don’t find the feeder. So I move it into the shrub. I never see them feed from it. They just pick at the dried brown pods that once held the little red berries they’ve already eaten.

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And then, they’re gone.


We don’t see them for several days.

Saturday we drive 30 miles to Wild Birds Unlimited for bluebird advice and supplies. Debra tells us it’s a hard year for bluebirds. I’m not sure why since the winter’s been pretty mild, but maybe food was in short supply because of the drought. We come home with an expensive bag of elite food, a window feeder, a bluebird book, two houses, and a tub of live mealworms. (I don’t touch these with my bare hand.)

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Early Sunday morning before church, I’m outside in the cold in my bathrobe. I dump the existing feeder and pour in a little of the new food, add a few freeze-dried mealworms along with some wiggly ones. I attach the window feeder and layer a little of the “granola” in it, wondering what it would taste like in a bowl with a little milk. Minus the worms.

I sprinkle the ground, lay out some appetizer portions on the porch rail. Then I offer some overripe strawberries.

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I freshen the bath.

This weekend we’ll put up the houses.

We’ve done all we know to do to provide for their every need.

And now we wait.

We long for their return.

If they’d only return.

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  1. Patricia W Hunter

    You and I – we’re kindred spirits, for sure. Love the window feeder, and what beautiful birds. Hmmmmm…..we don’t have bluebirds here, but I wonder if I can talk Louis into letting me get a window feeder for when we take down the hanging feeders for the summer.

    • Sandra Heska King

      I’m pretty sure we are. I would never have gotten a window feeder because it hangs now right next to the kitchen table, right where the cats choose to sit to watch the birds. And I would never think the bluebirds would come to it that close. And really, it would put the birds and cats beak-to-nose. But the saleslady says they come to the window, and a customer said they learn that the cats can’t get to them. So we’ll see.

  2. Shelly Miller

    I so love bluebirds. I’m like you, when I see one I feel like it is a gift. And going to that bird store, it would be worth every mile for me. I just don’t know how you do it, how in the world you get those amazing photos. Love them.

    • Sandra Heska King

      There was this birdhouse that had a viewing window so you could peek at the babies… I love birds. I guess that’s why Jesus told us to pay attention to them–they teach us so much. And I can’t help but wonder how much it hurts God’s heart when He provides for all our needs–and we’re searching elsewhere.

      And thanks. The camera does the work. 🙂

  3. Martha Orlando

    What lovely photos! You’ve done all you can to entice the little guys – I hope they return, too! Blessings, Sandy!

  4. S. Etole

    I rarely see them here but isn’t their coloring striking. So much beauty outside our windows when we take a moment to consider.

    • Sandra Heska King

      I’m surprised we haven’t, Susan, since we sit on the kind of land they like–fields surrounded by woods. They’re just beautiful blue balls of fluff that I just want to cradle soft in my hands.

  5. soulstops

    They are so beautiful, and you are so kind and loving to buy them special food and touch the worms…Thank you, Sandra, for sharing these gorgeous photos 🙂

    • Sandra Heska King

      Touch the worms. 🙂

      I think it might be more selfish on my part, Dolly. They make me happy.

  6. Diana Trautwein

    Lovely. Just like you.

  7. Kris Camealy

    I love these reflections, Sandy. Love the care you have for His creatures.

  8. laura

    You are a lady after my own heart. But…mealworms? Really? Maybe that’s the trick. I’ve seen a pair checking out my box, but the sparrows always drive these shy ones away. I think I might take a page out of your book and try harder to entice them to make house with us. These pictures make me smile.


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when the bluebirds go awol

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 2 min