By Susan Miller

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I have a new love…well maybe love isn’t exactly the right word…I would have to call it an obsession. I don’t know how this happened to me. I have always thought of myself as someone more moderate, considered, cerebral maybe…but I fell hard. Lately, I find myself always glancing around nervously when I get close to the spot where the “object of my fixation” likes to hang out. I usually fall for quiet, bookish types, but this fellow is a flashy dresser wearing a bright yellow orange hood. There is a tease of black peeking out from underneath his sleek, slender toned body. When I spot my “to die for object”, I get that funny, “Oh my god, he’s actually here” feeling in the pit of my stomach. The muscles in my body freeze, as I stare with longing. He seems nervous. He flits around a bit, then leaves abruptly without giving me a second glance. Does he somehow sense that I am nearby?’

Last week I drove miles to purchase foods I know he likes. What male isn’t tempted by a well prepared, delicious meal? Lately, this gorgeous creature has been visiting with his wife. Yes, he is married!! Rather than dampen my interest, her appearance on the scene has done nothing but increase my desires. She is much duller than he …dressed in olive grey with a little bit of yellow green. The two of them show up at my home, take a bath, eat my food and leave. I am content to watch the whole process. They are remarkably uninhibited and don’t seem to mind me as long as I remain quiet. My perversion has reached such dimensions that I sometimes pull out my binoculars for a closer look. Once I even snapped a picture of the two of them together. I have been wondering about making a video. Would they agree to that? Would a video be just too kinky?

The delightful objects of my latest obsession are a pair of Hooded Orioles. I have gone to ridiculous lengths over the years to attract these birds to my backyard. I bought special orange feeders for nectar and food because I was told that these birds were attracted to the color orange. One time on a flight back from Tucson, I was stopped by TSA for bringing a ten-pound container of nuts and dead bugs in my carryon luggage. The owner of the bird store there assured me that this gloppy mixture would be irresistible to any Oriole. It was not.

“Nuts and bugs heh??” said the security officer dubiously. “We’re going to need to open that container and check it Ma’am.” I envisioned the dead bug carcasses seeping out of the open container into my suitcase and infiltrating my clothes. No amount of washing would ever make them clean again. The ick factor for me was huge. It was evidently too much for the officer also. After a series of smiles, frowns, head shaking and label reading, think over 1000 dead flies per pound-that would be ten thousand dead flies, she let me on the plane with my dead bugs and nuts unopened. I guess she figured anyone who had dead flies in her luggage wouldn’t be likely to be a terrorist. Most of that concoction is still sitting somewhere in my garage.

These days, I buy completely natural, organic Birdberry Jelly at a specialty store that feels a little like an avian Whole Foods. The jelly is a grape and blackberry mixture that sounds yummy. Evidently Mr. and Mrs. Oriole think so too as they are visiting the feeder often these days and flying back to their nest in the fan palms across the street where I suspect their babies have hatched.

My husband, Larry, is the real birder in our family. He goes on bird walks with his book and binoculars in hand carefully marking off where and when he has id’d a species. I have never been able to connect an eye for birdie details, with the actual name of the object, AND work the binoculars at the same time. Larry might say to me as he stares at our feeders through his scope “Ahh green back, rose crown… beautiful male Alan hummingbird” or “I see the crest…shiny black…our male Phainopepla is back Susan” Much as I love the feel of the word Phainopepla as it rolls off my tongue, I am incapable of attaching this word to the crested shiny, black- bird the next time it crosses my path.

I am drawn instead to the beauty and elusiveness of these finely feathered creatures as they fly through the canyons behind our home. I enjoy watching their behaviors. I have learned that once orioles discover a safe food source they return year after year and teach their young to visit the same spots. Birds have no sense of smell to find their food, so food needs to be placed in their flight path and easily accessible. They are attracted to the color orange probably because their own plumage is orange and some of their favorite foods are orange. Now that they are regular visitors I think they will return.

Each morning for the past few weeks, I have slowly moved two very small dishes of bird jelly closer to my orange roofed feeder coaxing Mr. and Mrs. Oriole along each step of the way. Now I am beginning my baby step behavior modification program to hang the feeder on a bird perch outside my kitchen window. Sometimes over my morning coffee with my mind just waking to the world around me, I like to sit and consider the possibilities. “Should I just hang the feeder from the perch today?” I tell myself “ No, patience has gotten me this far, I don’t want to chase them away.” Then,

“Whoa, just at this moment, Mrs. Oriole landed on the blueberry bush outside my study. She’s eating my blueberries. I am just watching and not chasing her away like I do with the Mocking Birds. I bet her chicks have hatched and she needs to feed them. Of course you can have my blueberries that I save to put in my oatmeal.”

I have that tight reverent feeling in my throat as I watch Mrs. Oriole eat my precious berries. I am even considering adding mealworms to their jelly as a special treat. Mealworms are the larva of beetles. That is how I know I have crossed over a line. I need help. “ Hello everyone, my name is Susan and I am a Bird Voyeur.”

Susan resides in the hills of Sherman Oaks.  She shares her home with her husband, Larry, and her backyard with the hawks, ravens, finches and, of course, the beautiful orioles.  Susan is a retired speech therapist who now enjoys hiking, gardening, writing and playing with two wonderful grandchildren.


Published Western Tanager Vol. 79 No. 6 July/August 2013