New life on the Rumsey Canal


After nine years of living here on the Rumsey Island Canal, so much has changed in my life but the beauty and serenity of  this place still captures my heart.  Time has come for a commitment to spend another year on the waterfront, and that is not a difficult decision even though life has taken a few sharp turns since we walked in here nine years ago.

The biggest change in my life came with the death of my wife Joan after 56 years of marriage.  She died of cancer on December 22, 2010 and for the first time in my 80 years, my decisions about life concern just one life, mine.  I mentioned in the previous paragraph about walking in here nine years ago, that is the other life-changing situation that is different, I can no longer walk.  My Inclusion Body Myositis confined me to a wheelchair and Scooter about two years ago.  So far,  I have been able to function well enough to live independently, with help of my children who take me food shopping.

When we moved into our waterside, patio apartment, the month was September, and we had a moderate winter with some snow.  We frequented flea markets and yard sales at that time and had acquired some decorations for our patio.  One item was a life-preserver ring that had the words “Welcome Aboard” on it.  We hung it over the sliding door entrance on the patio.

I am not saying that the birds were able to read the invitation but two Purple Finches flew across the canal and in a space behind and atop the ring, they built a nest and set up house keeping.  With peace and quiet on our part, they laid five eggs and three of them hatched.  We spent limited time on the patio that spring and one day they were gone.

We would often watch them fly back and forth to Rumsey Island during the incubation period so I am sure that is where they took the offspring.  They are such beautiful birds and sing like canaries, we hated to see them gone.  Our normal birds on this side of the canal, English Sparrows and Starlings,  are not the best singers.

While Purple Finches are a beautiful bird with a beautiful song and do their share of eating millions of insects, in places where there are large cherry and apple orchards, the fruit growers hate them. They love to eat the cherry and the apple blossoms and that means for every blossom they eat, that blossom never becomes a fruit. But it doesn’t stop there, they also love green cherries and with their extra-large “finch” beaks, they scoop out a big bite of the cherry and ruin the fruit.

Three years after their first visit to our patio,  the Finch family came back and  built another nest and that time just two of the five eggs hatched.  One day when no one was watching, the four of them slipped back across the canal and Rumsey Island had two more residents.  Rumsey is a small bird paradise with it’s abundance of cover and food.

Now here we are, year 2012 and a pair of Purple Finches are back on the patio.  They have built a nest in the exact same spot and they are taking turns keeping five eggs warm.  I try to be as quiet as I can when opening the slider and most of the time whoever is on the nest will just “hunker down” and stay where they are.  At certain intervals they will trade places and one will come back across the canal and trade with the egg sitter.  The nester goes to a nearby tree, fluffs up it’s feathers, sings a pretty tune and then back across the canal to eat and rest for the next turn on their family marathon.

They will be taking turns on those eggs for the eleven to fourteen days that they take to hatch and then their really busy time will begin.  Depending on the number of chicks that hatch and survive,  these two birds will be on a non-stop feeding marathon from daybreak to dark for the weeks following the big hatch. I will keep close watch on their progress and have a Finch Family follow-up for you.

We have been asked in the apartments not to feed the birds due to the seed mess they create but if anyone reading this would like to attract and help a beautiful bird through the winter, they love the black-oil sunflower seeds and as a bonus, I am sure a couple of Cardinals will be visiting your feeder.

Don Langrehr

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3 Responses to New life on the Rumsey Canal

  1. mike says:

    Great article. I think those birds can read that welcome sign. My theory it’s they are former hatchings from that ring and their mother told them what it said. That’s why they keep coming back. Ok, maybe not, but you have to admit it sounds good.

  2. Keith says:

    Can’t wait to hear the follow up, I hope they all make it. With a life preserver for a home, you would think they have a good shot! Great story!

  3. Pingback: Farewell to a friend | The Zone Magazine

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