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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

Bird seed—check

Feeders—check (including a shiny new one)

Suet cakes—check

Cages for suet cakes—sorta check (I need to replace a stolen one. Yeah, I'm looking at you, raccoon.)

Okay, I think I’m all set. For now, at least. I’ll be buying refills for sure, since Project FeederWatch ( runs from November 14 to April 9.

This will be my third time around. Over the past two seasons I’ve counted—get this—27 different bird species visiting my yard. 27! Who would’ve thought? I mean, I’m really into birds and I’ve seen quite a few in my life, but I never thought so many different kinds would show up at my house. And this in the cold season!

I really look forward to the juncos. They come down from Canada, although I did find out some stay year round in the mountains around here. They’re slate-colored with white tummies and short pink beaks, and they like to feed on the seeds that fall to the ground. Since they enjoy hanging out together, I usually see at least four at one time.

Of course, birds hang out at my place year round, 2020 being no exception. They’ve been a constant amid all the ups and downs (or downs and more downs) of this year, and watching them—whether on nature walks or through my window—has been a good respite. My backyard birding highlight so far has been an indigo bunting. I’ve only rarely seen indigo buntings out on nature walks, and never had one visit my feeder. I got a half-decent photo and even made an attempt to draw it after taking a free bird drawing class online. I also had a couple of huge visitors to some nearby trees: a pileated woodpecker and a red-shouldered hawk. Unfortunately the hawk’s been coming more and more. Probably sees my feeder station as a buffet (I found feathers on the ground not too long ago). I try not to get upset because a hawk’s a bird and a bird’s gotta eat. I just wish he or she would do it elsewhere.

Indigo Bunting Safflower
Indigo bunting at shiny new feeder
Hawk staring down at my backyard feeders

I know a good number of you out there feed birds. Why not kick it up a notch and count them for science? You don’t even need a feeder, if that’s not your thing. Any area that has plantings and water and stuff that attracts birds could be used for the count. Go to to get the info you need. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology runs the program and is a wealth of information about birds (google them and be prepared to dive into a birding rabbit hole).

There’s a small fee to sign up for Project FeederWatch, but new participants get a nifty kit which includes instructions, a calendar, and a bird identification poster. And it’s something you can do at your own pace and schedule. You want to spend hours staring at your feeders? Go for it. You want to just check every now and then for a few minutes throughout the day? That’s fine. And just so you know, you aren’t counting every day. In fact, you’re supposed to space it out. The only rule is that you have to count two days in a row when you do decide. Last year there were times when I went weeks without counting (that was in March when the Covid panic started).

You don’t have to be a birdwatching fanatic to participate. They welcome all skill levels, as well as children. I can imagine this being a really fun activity for kids. I don’t have any, but my cats sure like helping me out! From indoors, of course.

Pepper helping me count birds

Well, I hope I’ve convinced some of you to give it a try. Okay, gotta go. I just realized I forgot the dried mealworms.

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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Tibbit and Frank were best frog friends, but they quibbled quite a bit. Today’s little spat was over Frank’s future-telling skills.

“Didn’t I say a blackbird would sing loudly in the next ten seconds?” Frank said with a wink. “And what do you hear right now?”

“A song sparrow,” said Tibbit.

“What?” Frank croaked. “That was a red-winged blackbird!”

“I know a song sparrow when I hear one!” Tibbit replied.

“Well…” Frank snatched a fly and gulped it down. “It sang loudly, so it counts.”

As the spring winds picked up, Tibbit glanced at the cherry blossom tree swaying behind them. “Okay, well, it’s gonna snow down on us soon.”

“What? It’s seventy degrees!” said Frank.

And sure enough, within a minute they were surrounded by falling pink petals.

Tibbit smiled.

“Those are flowers,” said Frank.

“They snowed down on us, didn’t they?” Tibbit said. “So it counts!”

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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ann Richter

My winter is winding down on an angry note. Okay, maybe not angry—just mad.

Let me explain…

Last Thursday I took part in a #PitMad pitch party. That’s where writers tweet pitches for their novels on a specific day using a specific hashtag that agents and editors will be following. A ‘like’ means they’re interested. Pitch parties have been on my one-day-maybe list for a while now, and I got more interested after a writer friend participated in one last year. Even though hers turned out to be a dud, I figured I had nothing to lose by just trying. So when I found out about the #PitMad event taking place on March 5, I decided to throw caution and pride to the wind and go for it.

Planner and strategist that I am, I wrote out my three allotted pitches well ahead of time, thought about them during just about every waking hour over the next couple of weeks, then tweaked them the night before based on feedback from my husband. I also plotted how I would space them out. The next morning—you guessed it—I tweaked them some more.

I had Thursday off from my day job, so I could dedicate the whole day to #PitMad. Although that sounded great at first, I quickly realized that meant I had the whole day to stress about it with no one to talk to except two cats who would be fast asleep by mid-morning.

Anyway, I tweeted my first pitch at 8:40 a.m., forty minutes after the official start. My first shock came when I refreshed the page to see if my tweet displayed correctly. In the seconds it took me to do that, there were at least 10 pitches that appeared after mine! The other shock was a pleasant one: within minutes I had a handful of retweets and one ‘like’ (although unfortunately, that ‘like’ turned out to be from a sketchy account that definitely was NOT an agent or editor).

After a few more retweets things calmed down, and then radio silence.

So I left my phone downstairs and headed up to the bedroom to iron while watching a King of Queens marathon on Lifetime. I checked throughout the morning between ironing, other housework, and binge-watching. More retweets, but no more ‘likes.’ At 1:40 I sent out my second, slightly re-worded tweet, and at 6:00 I sent my final one.

By the time this was all over, my house was sparkling.

Here’s how it all shook out: Altogether I got 15 retweets on my first pitch, 6 on my second, and 12 on my third—including two positive comments from other writers. Okay, I will not lie. I was pretty bummed that I didn’t get one agent or editor ‘like.’ But as I searched around online and read #PitMad-related tweets the following day, I came across a number of writers who said they participated multiple times without getting one ‘like,’ but still ended up finding an agent or editor through other means.

And two other positives came out of it: I now have a pretty decent tweet to pin to my Twitter profile, and I made a connection with a local kidlit writer.

By the way, here’s the third pitch:

A science nerd and proud of it, Priscilla resents an “airheaded” pop star tagging along on the first student trip to the moon. Upon arrival, a publicity stunt involving the two not only threatens to ruin Priscilla’s trip, but forces her to confront old wounds head-on.

I may try #PitMad again, but for now I need to focus on my next mad adventure. Starting Monday I’ll be participating in a Madness Poetry tournament, where I’ll be competing against children’s poetry writers from around the country. This is my first year and I’m up against a veteran “authlete,” so I’ll be thrilled if I can manage past the first round.

Stay tuned!

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