Pluck seeds from a star Hold tight to the swaying stem Siskin on sunflower
Our front yard sways with sunflowers bending under the weight of Pine Siskins and Lesser Goldfinches that give voice to the lofty plants of September. Siskins punctuate twitters with a rising zeeeeeet! Goldfinches accent clear and quick notes with a descending cheeeeer!
Among the bright yellow rays, the birds seek the finished blooms rich with oily seeds. Whole flocks fluster within a full quarter acre dense with flowers. Sometimes a trio will line up on one bending stem, their tiny toes wrapped around the perch that rises and falls. Siskins burrow their heads in chocolate brown seed heads. A fluffed up juvenile goldfinch calls insistently to the parent that still tends the youngster even now at summer’s end.
Mountain Chickadees enter the frenzy with their buzzy chick-a-dee–dee–dees. The last of the Rufous Hummingbirds join the fray, too. In a blur of wings, they hover on our now five-foot-tall columbines still blooming by the kitchen window. Each sweet sip adds fuel for migration to wintering homes far south from Oregon–all the way to Mexico.
Watching through the window of my home office, I’m a voyeur to an avian amusement park–filled with rides, bird versions of cotton candy, and family drama. Each time I attempt to walk out the door with camera in hand, off they all fly–siskins and goldfinches in a windy whirl.
I’m left with the buzzing of bees and wasps seeking nectar and pollen on the blooms of towering plants–some rising 12 feet above me. Within the sunflower jungle, a myriad of other blossoms–evening primrose, blanketflowers, coneflowers, black-eyed susans, goldenrod, phacelia,catchfly, globe gilia, and my favorite of the early fall–a riot of purple asters forming five-foot-tall bouquets,
Then I make a discovery. If I lie on the kitchen floor and open up the dog door flap, I can snap photos without disturbing the birds. It’s awkward, but serves as a bird blind. Our dog Pepper gives me a quizzical look and settles in beside me.
Over the weekend, I took action to tie up sprawling asters and fallen sunflowers. At last, I forged a pathway through our jungle, spying errant thistles to pull and freeing prized native perennials –penstemons, Indian ricegrass, globemallow, phlox, desert sweet, and lupines–from the summer’s frenzy of blue flax and sneaky still nameless to me weeds I had mistaken for flowers.
Our pollinator and bird garden that blooms throughout spring, summer, and autumn trills, chirps, buzzes, hums, crawls, hops, flutters, and hovers with life on every stem, leaf, bloom, seed, and the spaces in between. I take hope and personal pride in what Wes and I have created here at home in Central Oregon’s pines–this little refuge making a difference.
When I wake up troubled by the crises on our planet with accelerating climate chaos and the most destructive, anti-environment presidency in U.S. history, I know I have to act personally–write letters, support causes, volunteer, show up for the climate strike on September 20th, and do my part on the board of the Greater Hells Canyon Council. That can feel mighty weighty. Then, dawn lightens the darkness and the wild, colorful tangle of flowers singing with birds flows through my body, and I am happy.