A Christmas Poem

When I first wrote ‘Twas the Morning of Christmas back in 1988, readers responded enthusiastically. I get requests to reprint it every year. When the excitement of Christmas morning settles down, sit down with your younger children and/or grandchildren and read my Christmas poem aloud. See how many of the featured birds the kids can spot at the feeders.

… with apologies to Clement C. Moore.

‘Twas the morning of Christmas,

And all ’round the house,

The feeders were empty,

Not enough for a mouse.

Each feeder was hung

From its perch with great care,

But on this frosty morning,

The cupboards were bare.

Tubes, trays, and suet bags…

Too many to mention.

In the Christmas Eve rush

They’d escaped my attention.

The rising sun on the breast of the new fallen snow,

Accented the vacuum in the feeders below.

I couldn’t believe it, I’d stayed up too late.

I’d forgotten my friends on this most special date.

A ravenous flock perched in dawn’s early light,

Reminding me clearly of last night’s oversight.

Impatient, they perched in an old apple tree,

Famished and anxious, some scolded me.

Ashamed and embarrassed, I flew down the stairs,

I whistled and shouted like a big angry bear.

“Now Linda, now Nora, and Emma, you too.

The feeders are empty, there’s so much to do!”

I spoke no more words, we all went to work,

We filled every feeder, I’d been a real jerk.

The birds quickly forgave me and flocked to the food,

I knew in a moment, they’d lost their foul mood.

Cardinals and grosbeaks and nuthatches, too,

Were first to arrive at my backyard bird zoo.

The sunflower seed disappeared with great speed,

I smiled contently, I’d fixed my misdeed.

Then finches and siskins sought the feeder with thistle,

They flew so intently, each looked like a missile.

Soon sparrows and juncos ventured onto the tray,

Hungrily joining the late breakfast fray.

Even the water dish pulled in a crowd,

The titmice and chickadees were certainly loud.

When woodpeckers finally found the fresh suet,

We were completely forgiven, the whole family knew it.

I began to feel better, I’d made up for my goof,

When suddenly a voice caught my ear from the roof.

(You may not believe this, but I swear it’s the truth.)

From a perch at the top, sang a sassy Blue Jay,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good day!”

Another frequent request I get every winter is for the “No-melt, All-season Peanut Butter Suet” from Alabama friend Martha Sargent. Birds love it.


one cup lard (no substitutes here)

one cup crunchy peanut butter

two cups “quick cook” oats

two cups cornmeal

one cup white flour

one-third cup sugar

Feel free to experiment by adding raisins, sunflower kernels, and shelled nuts.

Melt lard and peanut butter over low heat, then stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into square or rectangular cake pan about 1.5 inches thick. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to allow suet to harden a bit, then cut blocks to size to fit your suet basket, separate blocks with wax paper, and store in freezer in plastic bags.

Finally, after the holidays, resist the urge to compost your old Christmas tree. Instead, add it to some neighbors’ discarded trees, tie them together, and build a brush pile under the feeders. Then cast white millet and sunflower seeds under the outer branches. A pile of evergreens provides ground-feeding birds with cover from snow, wind, and bird-eating hawks and feral cats.

Used Christmas trees also make a great background for photographs. Few will ever suspect that the lush green background in your photos is in your own backyard.

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Dr. Shalaway can be heard on Birds & Nature from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday afternoons on 620 KHB Radio, Pittsburgh or live online anywhere at www.khbradio.com. Visit Scott’s web site www.drshalaway.com or contact him directly at sshalaway@aol.com or 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.