In the company of nature, if only on a balcony.

Funny how life and Mother Nature, has taken the opportunity to help highlight the small blessings even in uncertain times. The end of last year was chalked full of fast paced to do lists, work, and holiday rituals. In January, the new year began with an energy that felt somewhat unusual from years past. Then in the subsequent months that followed, everywhere the usual way of life was brought about a grinding halt. By the end of march in Russia it was most assured that things were going to be suspended into the current limbo. Honestly it is challenging to find the blessings and thoughts of gratitude some days. But that does not mean they are not there if you simply want to see them. For me personally, the universe decided that my very “American never take vacation mentality” was going to take a vacation, even if it meant using an unorthodox method. While a bit challenging to handle at first, it is defiantly something that I realise going forward needs to be on the books every year. But perhaps not as long as my current imposed vacation. I have to recognise that there is no need to burn myself into the ground trying to prove my productiveness. So I will be grateful for the lesson of learning to take a pause and slow things down. I am also grateful that I have new opportunities that lay on my horizon.

Titmouse and spring buds. Photo by Jacqueline

Another thing that I feel has been highlighted by this current event is that people are starting to wakeup to many things around them. One of those things is the abundance of Mother Nature. My companions during this time have shown that time will carry on as surely as the season and the cycles of the moon. The birds keep going and the flora grows and blooms all around us. We will all get through this and persevere, nature is really just waiting for us to come to the realisation that we are all strong and we have always have been. When the going gets tough and tragedy occurs humans come together and heal together. Sometimes in order to recognise the problem we have to become so saturated with it in order to be able to intuitively come to the understanding that change is necessary. The media, politics, and social media have been flooding my thoughts for the last few months. The unintended consequence is that I have been able to dig deep and come to the realisation that I need to listen to nature and my intuition more than ever. Nature and our intuitions are under constant assault and need to be protected and utilised with highest priority. Perhaps we need to dial the tech back, and pay attention to the nature around us. Do not get me wrong some technology is good, but I believe that right now Mother Nature is telling us that we need to wakeup and take a step back. I myself am far too guilty of being glued to devices, and that is something that I will take strides to correct.

Kitchen herbs in the window. Photo by Jacqueline

So coming out of this mess that has been allowed to take hold of us. I am making a pledge myself to make a few changes. Firstly, is to carve out time where I do things that do not need tech. I regularly say to others that we need physical work, and that our bodies crave it. So I will be taking my own advice and dedicating time for creativity, and projects that require my hands. Additionally, I will be much more dedicated to my flat and balcony gardening. The garden is not necessarily for food production, but more so for tuning into nature and being aware. Carving out this time will hopefully help me to be more in balance with myself. Helping to make me stronger and keep me truer to my convictions.

The winter feeder season!

The weather has finally started to chill and the rains of autumn have arrived. My lovely summer visitors, chiefly the green finches and the hawfinches have gone south to find warmer weather. And so the time of year has come where I change the feeders. In a previous post you will have seen the summer version and today you will catch a glimpse of the winter feeder. So what is on offer on the 8th floor balcony? The offering usually stays the same year round with the exception of a couple of additional things. I feel very strongly about feeding the company only good and natural foods. Meaning no bread allowed on my balcony!

The masterpiece, photo from Jacqueline’s balcony.

So here it is, the beautiful green masterpiece as I call it. I constructed this one also by hand creating it with elements that I saw on the Internet. I built it with the idea of keeping the flying rats out of the food supply, as well as the elements such as snow. It’s going on it’s second season and the birds absolutely love it. Most of my feeders are painted green as the company prefer the color and it makes the feeders look more inviting. The winter feeder is created with wood, sheet metal, and plexiglass. I then pieced together the materials in my kitchen and finally attached it to the balcony railing. The look I wanted to achieve was something you would see in a country garden, akin to a mini bird mansion. Yet at the same time I wanted to have good utility of the feeder. The base with plexiglass is a superb feature as it allows for better viewing and light inside. Not only that but because they are removable it makes it super easy to fill and to clean out. The metal roof holds up exceptionally well to all the autumn/winter rains and snow falls, and I like the sound effects when rain hits the roof. The wire that crosses the openings is to restrict access to birds of smaller size, however I recently caught the woodpecker going in and out so it mainly keeps the fat pigeons out. All in all I am really pleased with this model, if I were to remake it I would like to find a way of making the base a little more hefty to balance the roof.

By now you are probably wondering what kind of goodies are in the feeder. The trays inside are filled with sunflower seeds unshelled for the softer beaked birds, shelled sunflower seeds for the titmice and finches. I did a fair bit of reading on the subject of feeding my feathered friends, in doing so I saw repeatedly that fancy seed mixtures were more of a hassle. The reason being that there was huge waste due to birds being selective, and causing a horrendous mess trying to dig out their favorite seeds. So being that I am a more practical person, I researched the things that birds ate from those seed mixes. I found a resounding vote for sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and peanuts. So it was of to the bulk food section for regular visits. It has been very successful for me to do it this way because I don’t want to upset my neighbors with the mess, nor do I want to deal with it on my own balcony. And it just makes sense to not waste money on stuff they will not eat.

The peanut basket, well used!

As for the hooded crows. They have a basket, which they at first wanted to take with them, filled with peanuts in the shell. The pigeons have an irritating habit of staring in the window, and then throwing the peanuts out of the basket as I watch in disbelief. The crows however, take turns carrying off as many as they can fit in their beaks. Occasionally I give boiled eggs, which they drill holes into and fly off with, meat scraps, but most coveted and fought over is the cottage cheese. They will have aerial wars, fighting to make off with the coveted quarry before the rest do. The routine however, is the dutiful collecting the peanuts until the basket is left empty. Some of the murder’s more brave members are comfortable enough to crack open nuts, and even rest on the railing for a bit. So long as I keep the balcony door closed, and do not get to close to the window.

The suet feeder. It is hung upside down to prevent the greedy pigeons and starlings from getting to it.

The woodpecker also like the crows comes by for peanuts. He predominantly keeps to the peanut tube, which holds the lightly roast unshelled variety. But from time to time he digs into the basket for a peanut in the shell and most recently has been spotted slipping into the feeder for a tasting of sunflower seeds. He first came to my balcony during the late winter, after a full spring and summer of drawing the attention of the feathered fauna. It was also about the same time as I began the supply of suet cakes. During the late autumn and winter I add suet as an additional food source for the birds. My initial research was for the titmice, but as it turned out it was a huge success with everyone including the woodpecker. The woodpecker is very much a regular for suet and when he drops in for his snack time he dominates it. The other day he plucked a few feathers out of an impatient tree sparrow, I felt bad for laughing. Better luck with some patience and wait your turn!

I hope that this inspires you to set up your own feeders, or maybe just feed a few little birds in the park. You don’t have to be so elaborate, perhaps just a little suction cup window one. But I do encourage you to try because birds bring the vibrational energy of joy!

Homemade PB suet cake

  • 150 grams Natural peanut butter
  • 120 grams Nuts (peanuts or others)
  • 100 grams Sunflower seeds
  • 20 grams Meat fat (melted)
  • 50 grams Polenta/oatmeal (optional)
  • Container for freezing

In a bowl mix peanut butter and melted fat together. Add in the nuts, seeds and polenta if using. Mix until everything is completely coated with peanut butter and fat. Then transfer and press firmly into a square tupperware like container. Put into the freeze to harden it up before putting in the feeder.

More about the company aka the birds.

How I ended up with a plethora of winged friends on the balcony started with my curiosity. A curiosity which stems from them being one of my animal totems. Each type of bird has a special significance and they appear when advice is needed!

The summer feeder on the balcony. This is the latest version after many different prototypes. Photo by Jacqueline

When I moved to this flat, I had been searching for a place where there was more greenery. I selected this flat because of its open balcony that would allow me to do some container gardening and perhaps have a bird feeder. Being situated nearby one of the large parks I was curious about what birds there were. I have a fondness for the winged fauna and so I was eager to see who might come by. So along with my gardening pots, I erected a bird feeder. Which was by no means the beautiful sophisticated one that is now on display, more of just a small basket. It was not long before they became curious about the new resident and began dropping in to have a look. The reward for my efforts was a beautiful mated pair of hawfinches, followed by the house sparrow, and then the hooded crows. And not so much to my delight the flying rats. This is the name that city dwellers have given to the urban pigeon, who congregate in large flocks everywhere to everyone’s dismay.

Juvenile hawfinch photo by Jacqueline

Since starting my balcony birding, I now have way to many to name and keep count of. The beginning was just a small group, but that has since changed. In addition to my year rounders, we have seasonal rotations and special guests who stop by to check what is on offer. I have research each of the various birds and provide them with things that they need in their diets. This means that the buffet is careful curated for them and does not contain things that cause them issues with digestion. And while there are an abundance of mainly sunflower seeds, the main attraction is peanuts! It is quite possible that almost every bird snacks on peanuts. Thus making them in high demand and can cause problems if the feeder is emptied without getting a prompt refill. They are quick to call my attention to the empty feeders and can be rather bothered if I run out of something.

Green finch juvenile. Part of the summer visitors, they migrate south for warmer weather. Photo by Jacqueline

Personally I find joy and pleasure watching them on the balcony. The main focus of the group will be the titmice, the sparrows, the hooded crows, and the woodpecker. You will hear from them regularly, as they are my year round residents. I hope you enjoy the stories we will share about the fun things we get up to!

The starring cast on the 8th floor balcony!

Please allow us to introduce ourselves. Jacqueline and company, would like to share fun adventures and life in Moscow. We do hope that you will enjoy reading about our tales from the 8th floor balcony as much as we love sharing them. Just so you know we will take turns writing about the different events that go on, so we hope that you will not get confused.

Watercolor of girl and titmouse bird. Painted by Jacqueline

~ Let’s begin with our human, also known as the keeper of seeds! ~

Jacqueline is an expat living in Russia. We have dubbed her the keeper of the seeds, as she is the purchaser and feeder filler. She is from the city of Seattle originally and moved to Moscow in 2014. Having fallen in love with the city of Moscow she intends to stay permanently. Her primary occupation according to her is teaching English to corporate students. We find her a kind, compassionate, and quirky person who likes to share positive vibes! Among her interests, is a fondness for nature, probably the reason she spoils us with seeds and enjoys living near our beautiful park. She says that nature has always been a part of her life and that she loves flora and fauna. If you knew her in person you would not be surprised that she enjoys creating things with her hands and spends her weekends cooking or doing diys. We here on the balcony have the pleasure of enjoying a good portion of her diys and urban gardening projects. She is someone who enjoys life in its simplicity, harmony and the natural world. She likes to focus on being happy, positive, and living healthily. Jacqueline’s other hobbies include photography/art to some more spiritual things. However if she is not doing one of those then she’s either doing some fitness, trying out a paleo recipe, or perhaps drinking tea!

~ Friends with wings also known as the company! ~

If you are a bird lover like myself, then you will enjoy my balcony. On the balcony there are several species that stick around the whole year, and then some migrators. I distinguish the company as the year rounders and the guests as migratory or rare sightings. My year rounders are the sparrows, the hooded crow, the titmice, and the great spotted woodpecker. Each of them are wonderful to watch and listen to over a cup of green tea. The great northern titmouse and its cousin the blue titmouse are bright and cheerful singers. The sparrows, both the tree and common house varieties help tend the balcony plants and chat about the day. The crows are harbingers of messages in exchange for peanuts, and yes I do pay attention to synchronicities. And then there is the woodpecker, this bird is definitely my favorite totem. Each of them ensures that I always have joy in my day, something to smile about and keep me in tune with nature.

So once again a warm welcome to our blog and we hope you will enjoy!