Rush Hour on Vernon Street

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I think I surprised Donna Corriveau when I stopped by unannounced one cold December morning. She was shoveling snow from her porch, and I thought it would be a good time to find out how she attracted so many birds to her yard. As I explained the reason for my visit, I could see a hairy woodpecker and a blue jay at one feeder a few feet over her shoulder. Chickadees and nuthatches were busy at another. Like every other time I drove by, Donna’s yard was full of birds. In fact, I had recently waited as a long line of turkeys crossed Vernon Street for a visit.

Donna uses a few feeders to convert her entire property into a café for birds. She scatters cracked corn on the ground for turkeys and doves. She mixes un-popped popcorn and bread in a feeder, which the woodpeckers and jays enjoy. She has suet in another feeder and black sunflower seeds in yet another. 

She’s been doing this for 22 years. The result is a yard full of birds and a potential traffic jam due to all the turkeys crossing the road.

Why does she do it? Simple - she takes great pleasure in sitting in her chair with a cup of coffee and watching what shows up. Over the years, she’s seen some interesting things, including 52 turkeys during one visit! When turkeys show up, crows do, too. “The crows like to torment the turkeys.” She’s counted over 60 crows at one time.

A raven once hung around imitating the scream of a fisher cat. Another time, a turkey climbed onto a dirt flower bed and peered through the window. “It was like he was asking me to bring him food.”

Sometimes a goshawk shows up. “It’s terrible,” she said. “I don’t like it when he carries off my birds.”

Most of us will never feed birds at the scale Donna does. She buys popcorn by the case and goes through 20 pound bags of cracked corn every few weeks.

However, take a tip from Donna. Try sunflower seeds in a feeder.  Scatter some corn. Then, get a cup of coffee and see what shows up. Oh, and next time you drive down Vernon Street, watch out for turkey rush hour. It just means Donna’s feeding her birds. 

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust, which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at www.mahoosuc.org. To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to info@mahoosuc.org.