For the love of feathered friends
When you live on a busy roadway you generally don't expect to have the best view of nature possible.
But fortune favors the bold.
Tucked off Hubbard County Road 15, Janet and David Grundyson of Park Rapids are eyewitnesses to dozens nature's winged creatures and a few predators in waiting.
Janet recalls the recent morning when eight red cardinals were munching on seeds below her picture window.
Or the time she saw a hummingbird in distress, went outside, picked it up and removed a cockle burr from its chest.
"I held a hummingbird in my hand!" she recalls.
The house is barely visible from the road, nestled behind pines, birch and a maple tree.
When a large Norway pine died in the front yard, David hatched an idea. He asked the tree removal service to leave a 15-foot "stump."
Whatever, they said.
David stripped the tree of its bark, a tedious and sticky process.
"Pitch just oozed out of it," he said. The trunk now has a mottled look that David would like to sand off. Janet likes the look.
He started with a T bracket, spindles, eye bolts and chain, building bird feeders that stretched around the trunk. A wood duck house perches atop his "totem pole."
Aluminum baffles guard the tree, and adjacent living trees, from raccoons, squirrels and the occasional mink that would love to raid the feeding stations, or the nests nearby. The couple watched in horror as a woodpecker opened the shells of some bird eggs in a nest once.
The front and side yard, which borders the Fish Hook River, are full of feeding stations, bird houses and a failed project or two.
David removed the purple martin gourd colony when he discovered it was too low to attract the mosquito-eating birds.
With multiple feeders, he can attract species of birds that normally wouldn't flock to one spot.
Aggressive blue jays don't scare off the smaller birds like chickadees, nuthatches and finches.
"They like to come sailing in and scare everyone off," David said the blue jays. In the Grundyson yard, there's ample room for all comers.
And come, they do.
Janet saw three pileated woodpeckers vying for space around the suet feeders.
David has made feeders for rolls of suet and cake suet.
Another favorite stopping post is actually a hanging 2-by-2 David made that he smears peanut butter into the holes he drilled out of it.
"They love it," he said.
A pulley system allows him to raise and lower the feeders, move them around the tree and change depending on the seasons.
He placed a bottom board under the oriole feeders and can be removed to insert grape jelly jars into come spring.
David has had a lifelong fascination for birds since the days when his mother would grill him on bird names with a set of box top flash cards. Janet, his high school sweetheart, is right there with him.
And sitting in the catbird seat, literally, is a monstrous Siamese named Rikki, who spends his days peering out glass windows wondering what a mouthful of feathers might taste like. Rikki's an indoor cat.
Besides the usual winter birds, they've hosted scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, cedar and Bohemian waxwings, orioles, warblers and others. The bluebird houses have been moved across County Road 15 so the notoriously shy birds could have some privacy.
As soon as the mealworm feeders go out, the bluebirds gather.
Moving them also kept the wrens from raiding the feeders and nests near the house.
When they're not busy filling feeders, they indulge artistic urges. He's a woodcarver. She took a painting class of the Old Masters and has a replica Manet she painted hanging on the mantle that's a dead ringer for the original.
They've watched birds weaving nests from their kitchen table. And they've watched death on the pane glass that surrounds two walls of the house. Bird bonk into the glass regularly, sometimes bouncing off stunned, sometimes not.
Life would be perfect except for a grosbeak or two. The couple, from McIntosh and Winger, grew up with evening and rose-breasted grosbeaks, but don't see much of them anymore.
They remain hopeful.
"He's always got his projects," Janet laughs of her husband.