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Christmas is for the birds -- and bird lovers

By Paul Viau | Dec 18, 2013
Photo by: File Photo FOOD FOR THOUGHT — If you have a bird (or other animal) lover on your Christmas list, why not give the gift that keeps on giving?

Every year when we decorate our Christmas tree, I am surprised at the number of birds (ornaments) that end up roosting alongside the generations of homemade ornaments and nestled among the mini-portraits of our grandchildren.

This year, one of our bird ornaments — a bright red cardinal — had the audacity to crowd my royal blue globe commemorating the Kansas City Royals World Series Championship. Now that’s not playing fair. The Cardinals have had their own great years.

But baseball aside, I guess my wife and I have always been partial to birds in one-way or another. One of my earliest recollections of childhood, is my mother coming down into the basement and exclaiming, “Paul, you bird-brain, put down that hammer.”

Later, when I discovered that dinosaurs were members if the bird family, I felt better about being labeled a “bird brain.” Dinosaurs rule.

And, then there is on my wife’s side of the family — no “bird brains” there, but lots of ladies who grew up hearing, “You eat like a bird.”

With all the negative bird imagery from our youth — Mean old Foghorn Leghorn, countless vultures waiting menacingly in all the TV Westerns and (most notably) the movie that still scares us all — “The Birds” — it’s a wonder these creatures hold such “Pleasant Places” in our hearts.

Moving to the Great Smoky Mountains has really kindled our fondness for our “fine feathered friends.” And even though we have a few pesky squirrels intruding on our feeders, even that is enjoyable.

I keep a BB pistol locked, loaded and ready by the outside door to our deck. Carol is my spotter.

Just the other day, as I walked into the den, she said, “Hey Paulie, two squirrels; no waiting.” Lock and load — It was game on.

Rest assured, no critters are ever in harm's way when I am shooting. It’s just my fun way to chase the “tree rats” away from the more needy bird population.

Did you know? Many species of birds remain in our beautiful mountains throughout the winter. Just this week we have seen cardinals, downy woodpeckers and even a beautiful redhead — pileated woodpecker.

I have found that the secret to attracting better birds is to use better seed, which you can find in abundance at Pleasant Places on Main Street in downtown Waynesville. It’s a local business dedicated to the birds and bird lovers in the community.

So why not buy the bird lover on your gift list bird feed and a new feeder. Pleasant Places has a variety of Droll Yankee feeders in stock, and a variety of Cole’s birdseed to attract your favorite species. You’ll be adding to everyone’s birding enjoyment, while helping more birds thrive and survive our winter.

Pleasant Places also has a variety of gift ideas for birders and pet lovers alike — from handmade wooden birdhouses from a local craftsman to whimsical bird-friendly Christmas ornaments, wind chimes to welcoming outdoor signs.

My favorite sign says it all, “Welcome to our nest.”

Pleasant Places also has a selection of helpful and decorative outdoor gardening supplies — from ornamental garden plaques to helpful garden stakes and plant markers.

For pet lovers, Pleasant Places has picture frames to showcase your favorite “rescued” animal(s) — with the saying “Who rescued who?” They also have markers and memorials for pets that have passed away.

FYI — Pleasant Places is a supporter of Sarge’s Animal Rescue Foundation.

So after you pick out bird- and pet-friendly Christmas gifts, head across the street to Mast General Store and have them beautifully wrapped by Sarge’s volunteers. They’ll be there wrapping gifts for a donation to Sarge's through Dec. 24.

I hope I have “planted the seed” of a gift idea for you, and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers, a Critter-Friendly Christmas.