Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

We’re Back, But How Do the Birds Know?


Resident pileated woodpecker, measuring almost two feet.

©Bert Gildart: Often times Janie and I are on the road for months at a time, which means that our bird feeder remains absolutely empty for the duration. When we returned bird life is conspicuously absent, but then something happens which seems inexplicable.

Typically, we’ll load our feeders up with seed and suet and then settle back. Though nothing happens instantly it seems the word is out: “The Gildarts have returned.”

Truly, in so many words, that’s what they seem to be saying.

First come a few songbirds, and invariably a small woodpecker or two, such as the downy and the hairy. Perhaps a day more goes by, but by the end of day two our feeder is crowded.

How do they know?

Right now a huge pileated pair is poking away at suet. In the past,  the two (males have a red mustache) have been frequent visitors and so we’ve named them:

“Janie, Hector is back. And, look, here comes Hortense!”


Though they’re huge, the other birds remain and we see chickadees, juncos, grosbeaks, flickers, doves, and warblers – sometimes all together. In their exuberance to feed, the group scatters seed from the feeder mounted on our railing down onto the ground, about eight feet below.

That attracts a resident flock of turkeys, which yesterday numbered about 12. Sometimes one grows bold and flies to the railing and, then, down onto the porch where it feeds – and where it poops! Because turkey poop adheres I try and shoo them off, usually with comical results. Immediately upon opening the sliding door the bird panics, forcing me to close the door so it can escape from the “maze.” That can take time, but other than that gesture — no other help from me for I fear the turkey’s sharp spurs.

Over the years, raccoons have also visited us as well as families of squirrels, which we attempt to discourage, preferring the company of birds which sometimes number 30 or more at one time. Our several feeders provide us with an immense source of satisfaction, which buoy our spirits on short winter days.



*Anza Borrego Desert State Park


3 Responses to “We’re Back, But How Do the Birds Know?”

  1. Bob Says:

    Hey Bert,
    You heading out to Anza Borrego anytime soon?

  2. Bert Says:

    Not sure, Bob. All depends on how many obligations we can fulfill. But it’s not ’cause we don’t want to. Miss the park and all the good people immensely. Would certainly like to see you, and remember the great hike.

  3. Tom & Sandi Palesch Says:

    We would notice birds awaiting in the branches above our feeders while we filled them after long trips. I’ve wondered too how the word gets out, but then again I’m hearing impaired so I can’t hear them shouting to one another, “THEY’RE BACK!”

    Maybe they use the Internet too!