Yesterday afternoon I observed a young, lone cardinal standing on the terrace wall calling out in vain to its parents. The calls were pathetic. When any bird arrived at the hanging feeder, this young cardinal vibrated its wings and stood open-mouthed begging to be fed. To no avail. This went on for some time. Much too long for this observer.


This young cardinal is at the peak of rejection and frustration. Its parents decided this day was time it learned to feed itself. Notice the big feet and long nails…better to cling and grab. Oh my heart went out to this lone babe!

For the past five years, following the death of my beloved Miss Kitty, wild birds became the object of my affection. As a devotee, I feed custom organic seeds and dried fruit to most birds who visit. To date seventeen types of feathered beauties arrive year round for my handouts. Those of you who have followed along have seen numerous posts filled with photographs, as I attempt to capture the antics and habits of wild birds here in my central Virginia gardens.


If a bird could weep, this would be the face before tears flow.

Yesterday was no exception. It was time for the young cardinal to feed itself. MA and PA decided to get on with their lives…tough love indeed. I quickly found a small, shallow saucer and placed chopped sunflower seeds and dried currants, both a favorite of cardinals in particular, on the wall where the young bird was frequenting. Then it became a watch and wait from indoors with my camera perched on its tripod. Yes, these photos were all taken through two panes of glass and solar film.


When I had all but given up, the babe jumped onto the saucer…backwards…


then reversed it position and began eating like there was no tomorrow! Cheers went up from inside the house! It’s the small victories, yes?

The late afternoon storm had soaked the young cardinal, rendering it even more pathetic in appearance. For a few minutes I wondered if it was injured, as the top of its beak looked askew…

As the afternoon slipped into twilight, the babe feasted a few more times at the saucer and even managed to capture and devour an insect in the turf, giving me hope for its survival.

When morning arrived,  I refilled the saucer and added another filled with fresh water… then waited for Babe.


Right on que, Babe arrived at the saucer and began its morning feast. Cardinals feed early and very late. Good thing I am an early riser.


With a healthy appetite, Babe dined for many minutes, managing whole currents. I am not sure what is going on above its right leg… hopefully not an injury.


How intelligent and spry! A huge difference from the afternoon before!


How quickly this observer forms attachments!


Babe even puts up with the obnoxious finches…the bane of my feeding efforts!


Strong appetites make healthy birds. I am delighted and hopeful for Babe’s success. This is just one example why I host these beauties in my gardens. Tough love is just that. When happy transitions occur, I exhale in relief.

As days and weeks continue here at Swallowtail Cottage and the summer melts into fall, I will gaze out my kitchen windows and follow along as my wild bird saga continues.

UPDATE: Four days following this post, Babe returns daily to the feeder numerous times per day and is drinking from the water saucer nearby. That weird clump is still hanging in front of Babe’s front right leg, yet whatever it is, it does not appear to impair Babe’s functioning.

Copyright © 2016 by Diane LaSauce All Rights Reserved