I was never much into birds or bird-watching. That changed when I met my Erika and started spending time at her place in Bellevue. Her basement apart was tucked into a wooded area, with a window, the length of the wall, looking into the trees. 

She had a small feeder affixed to the glass that attracted a variety of species (not to mention a certain squirrel). I found myself watching them come and go from the feeder. Erika would point out the birds – house finches, beswick wrens, black-capped chickadees, juncos…..I slowly learned to identify them. 

They were always there. We’d wake up to their songs. Stuck at home, we’d watch them for hours.

Hummingbirds would drink from a small feeder on her fingers. Chickadees would eat out of her hand. Steller’s jays would walk up to me, picking up peanuts placed within arms length, as I sat on her deck.

Then we moved.

Moving to Redondo Beach

The beach house is a block up from Redondo Beach. Our elevation is lower. There’s little in the way of trees. The exception – a large Rhododendron, a Western Strawberry tree, and a Mountain Fetterbush (or a Japanese Andromeda, we’re not entirely sure) – situated between our place and the neighbors – on the north side of our deck.

 

But no birds.

 

We both started to miss seeing and hearing them, though me far less so than her. I was still missing the proximity to the water and watching marine mammals and birds from my deck at Salmon Beach.

Creating a bird sanctuary

The north side of the deck seemed like non-usable space. Narrow, a small covered area with a vertical support in an odd place, the old brick chimney – I never expected it would be used for more than a place to hang a kayak. 

And then Erika had this idea to attract birds to our beach house – create a small bird sanctuary. She ordered a feeder and filled it with black sunflower seeds. Sure enough, chickadees started to show up. 

While the bird sanctuary was her idea and project, I decided to surprise her by ordering 3 hand woven bird houses and picking up a suet feeder with peanut suet.  

The suet attracted a beswick wren and juncos. The bird houses have since caught the attention of a chickadee who poked her head into each one, but decided to pass on them as a home.

We’ve added a second suet feeder with a berry mix, that as of this morning has attracted a Stellar’s jay. A hummingbird feeder now hangs in the space. Peanuts, cracked corn, and mealworms round out the food available to them. 

Making it comfortable

We have two vantage points to watch the birds from inside, but Erika had the idea to turn the deck into an outdoor room. 

In keeping with a minimalist approach, she sourced an old wicker love seat and table as well as cushions through OfferUp and Craigslist (supplemented with a few from a local thrift store). An old bird cage was added – the door is always open!

To define the space, we moved some potted evergreens to the deck. Shamrocks in an old, wooden wine box sit on a small table next to a bird bath left behind by a previous renter. Corner shelves have been added for plants and a place to set a cup of coffee.

Christmas lights run along the base of the deck provide accent lighting and create a ‘cozy’ nook. 

Our bird sanctuary as seen from the inside window bench

Still to come

  • We discussed an outdoor rug – it will add comfort and insulate the sitting area from airflow below the deck. 
  • She’s looking for a small outdoor heater to allow year-round use of the space. 
  • The bird bath will get a small electric pump.
  • We’ll add more plants to the deck.
  • Whatever else she can dream up.

Though not the end result, it’s already warm and inviting. Private, with views of the water while tucked into a nook surrounded by plants and birds, it’s an amazing space. I see it becoming a sanctuary for her (us), as well as the birds.

I’m looking forward to how it evolves.

The birds we’ve already attracted

We didn’t expect the variety of birds we had in Bellevue, but, so far we’ve seen:

  • Chickadees
  • Bewick Wrens
  • Juncos
  • Spotted Towhees
  • Hummingbirds
  • Steller’s Jays
  • Pine Siskins
  • White Crowned Sparrows
  • Golden Crowned Sparrows
  • A Northern Flicker
  • A Cooper’s Hawk

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A black-capped chickadee with a peanut in its beak on the railing off our bird sanctuary.Copyright: Robert Nissenbaum, 2020; rnissenbaum.com