“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?“ – Matthew 6:26
Patti Jo Peterson
After Cindy Dougherty of Plattsmouth gets up in the morning, she drinks a cup of coffee inside her sunroom and watches the native songbirds breakfast at the bird feeders she stocks for them outside.
“The birds come between 9 and 10 a.m. I almost know when it’s time for them to show up,” she said.
Although her husband, Tom, had been an avid birdwatcher and outdoorsman since his childhood days, Cindy’s interest didn’t skyrocket until 2014 when she retired after 35 years working in the Cass County Treasurer’s Office.
“Tom is really up on birds. His dad used to take him on outings outdoors, so I learned a few things from him,” Cindy said. “The birds are just beautiful, but paying attention to them is nothing I did as a kid.”
She admits her first interest in birds started in 1984 with bluebirds, which were nearing extinction at the time.
“Ron Eaton was involved with Cass County Bluebirds Across Nebraska. He came to the office and introduced himself,” Cindy recalled. “He said he’d like me to join the group. Ron sold me a couple of birdhouse boxes and the others are made of PVC. I also bought one for (co-worker) Cindy Fenton. And then, I started buying them for around the neighborhood. Although, over the past 10 years, I haven’t done a good job of keeping records of their eggs.”
Maybe that’s because she doesn’t need to anymore. The little passerines now flock in abundance to her backyard for food, water and cleaning up in a heated bird bath.
The bluebirds are not only adorable, she said, they are less intimidated by a human’s presence than other wild birds. “Some birds, if you get close to their nest, get angry, but not the bluebirds. If they are sitting on their eggs, and you look in the top of the birdhouse, they just look back at you. Of course, it’s a good thing to knock first so they know you are there. They are pretty friendly.”
Like many, Cindy especially appreciates the bluebirds’ brilliant blue wing, crown and tail feathers and orange breasts. “What gets me is that in the summertime they don’t look quite that bright. But in the winter the sun and snow make the colors look bright. They are beautiful,” she said.
Bluebirds aren’t the only perching birds that come for free breakfasts in the Dougherty’s yard. Since retirement, Cindy and Tom have put up several feeders including suet holders that entice orioles, blue jays, hummingbirds, cardinals, woodpeckers, yellow bell flickers, crossbills, gold finches and even a catbird to their rural Plattsmouth yard.
“At Christmas or before my birthday, my family asks, ‘What do you want for a present?’ I always say, ‘I want bird feeders,’” Cindy said. “I have an oriole feeder and one I call a red roof feeder for the cardinals. I also have those shepherd hooks and we hang bags of seed. We have suet holders for the woodpeckers.”
Watching the perching birds isn’t the only thing she’s up to during their feeding frenzy. Cindy captures their flutter of colors in photographs.
“I started taking them with my phone, and then I got a better camera and transferred the pictures to my phone,” she said.
Cindy posts them to her Facebook page, where they are admired by many. Through her window, she’s spotted some unusual birds even for this area.
“I saw a gray catbird at the feeders. If you’re sitting outside, you can actually hear them meowing,” she said. “The crossbills were also back again about three days ago.”
The crossbills are aptly named as their top “bill” actually crosses at a slant above the bottom bill, so they can pry pinecones apart and eat their seeds. “They are not supposed to be around here. They are to be more up north,” Cindy explained.
Last year, Cindy spotted an orchard oriole. “They look like the Baltimore oriole but they have a deeper rust red on their breast instead of the bright orange of the Baltimore oriole,” she said. “They are more like a Boston-baked bean red.”
Cindy draws the orioles with Welch’s Grape Jelly and oranges. “I bought a cheaper brand of jelly once and they wouldn’t eat it,” she said.
Seeing the birds in the morning is a pleasant way for Cindy to start her day. “They’re relaxing. They are calming. They aren’t bothering anybody. When I sit and look out my window, I learn there is such a variety among them. People say Nebraska isn’t colorful, but they are our color.”
Cindy said her father-in-law always told her to, “Make sure you stop and smell the roses.”
In Cindy’s case, the “roses” are birds.
“When you’re hustling and bustling, you don’t stop. I think they’ve always been here, but I never stopped to see them before,” she said.