BY MICHELLE BROOKS
RUSSELLVILLE - A flurry of feathered friends are easy to see from Shirley Scrivner's glassed-in porch.
During the winter months, they come up to the deck where she provides a buffet of avian favorites from suet to thistle to the most popular, black-oil sunflower seeds.
In the summer, she and her husband Jim have developed their rural acreage into a pleasing habitat where the birds and other wildlife can forage for themselves.
"If you provide water, food and cover, they will come," Scrivner said simply.
Large stretches have been converted to wildflowers. They let blackberries, winterberry and other unruly plants grow for more cover.
Formerly in the business of Christmas tree sales, their land still has many white pine and cedar trees. But they have tried to eliminate fescue, which no birds prefer.
Jim mows paths through the taller sections, one of many steps they've taken that might bring back the quail, she said.
Unlike clean and ordered beds around in-town homes, the Scrivners deliberately leave dead trees and limbs on the ground for the squirrels and woodpeckers, as well as the birds.
"They were here first, so we try to see what they want," Scrivner said.
The cherry trees replanted from her mother's place in Jamestown have been a popular answer. Scrivner said she manages to pick enough for a pie or two.
In recent years, she has enjoyed watching the honeybees from her brother and sister-in-law's hives gather nectar from her zinnias and wildflowers.
And a barring owl visits most evenings for water.
Scrivner enjoys capturing nature with her camera. And they recently added trophy cameras out in the fields.
"I'm amazed at what's out there," Scrivner said. "It's kind of exciting to see all the stuff you have out there."
She marveled at the number of deer and wondered about the multiple bobcats.
"It encourages me to put more stuff out," Scrivner said.
The Scrivners were one of the first members of the Missouri Bluebird Society.
"We just like the birds," Scrivner said.
Growing up, though, they seldom saw a bluebird, she said.
So they have been enjoyed watching the Missouri State Bird return as boxes are put out to host them.
"It's fun to be part of that," Scrivner said.
The couple have about 40 boxes around their property.
"We love the little ones; you get hooked," she said.
And two years ago, they helped install several bluebird boxes around Lions Field through a matching grant from the society to the civic club.
The Scrivners monitor those boxes weekly in addition to their own. They make sure insects or sparrows don't move in and clean out the old nests once the chicks have fledged.
"It's fun to take care of the nests," Scrivner said.
The couple moved out of town 25 years ago to their comfortable home nestled among trees and fields.
They enjoy their retirement with their yellow Labrador Buckwheat and two rat terriers, Tinker Bell and Rosy.
"Nature is so amazing if you take the time to look at it," Scrivner said.