Last week was a bird bonanza at our house. I hope it was at yours too. Between the 10th through the 12th birds both expected and unexpected arrived. This is the very best part of springtime for my husband and me. The days have been mostly sunny with temperatures ranging from a low of 26F in the morning, to highs in the 60s. In order to have a good flow of birds we need winds and weather from the south.
It began on the 10th, when at 7 a.m. I looked out the kitchen window and my eyes were struck by the bright orange
body and black wings of the Baltimore Oriole. Such a shockingly bright color makes you gasp. I quickly grabbed an orange from the refrigerator and some jelly to put in a small bowl. I quartered the orange and rushed both items outside to the platform feeder. The bird was gone of course, but I hoped it would return.
We have noticed over the years that we are just a temporary rest stop for the Orioles. If we aren’t home or looking out the window on the one or two days that they show up, we’re plain out of luck. They prefer to nest it big hardwood, deciduous trees, often near rivers and we just don’t have the right habitat, but apparently we offer something of interest on their travels.
Later in the morning I heard the Ovenbird (which is actually a warbler) calling ‘teacher, teacher, teacher’ from the forest. This is the way I learned to identify their song and I’m glad I did, because these are shy birds and it isn’t very often that you see them, but if I hear their call, I know they’re around. They will continue to sing throughout the next two months and raise a family on our property.
The Brown-headed Cowbirds showed up in the afternoon – both the males and females. Usually they get lumped with all the other ‘blackbirds’, but up close you can see that the males really do have brown colored heads, while the females are just a drab grey brown. They should really be called brown-headed bison birds, since that was the animal they originally followed around, eating the insects the great herds stirred up – a true moveable feast. Some people aren’t fond of these native birds, partly because they parasitize other smaller songbird’s nests, leaving behind a much larger egg that often hatches and out-competes the true nestlings for food; not what we consider admirable behavior in a bird or any other species.
Tuesday’s list of birds ended at dusk as I glanced out the kitchen window again and there, perched on the lip of the hummingbird feeder was the Ruby-throated Hummingbird itself; a male, sitting perfectly still, as if frozen in place. It stayed there a long time, seeming to contemplate the wooden roof overhead. By the next day the female was visiting the feeder too. We love these little buzzing, feisty bits of bird. They will entertain us for the next four months and keep us busy filling the clear glass feeder with sugar water.
I was making lots of trips to our house list booklet. We reached 40 species for the year on that day. Wednesday morning found the Oriole on the bird seed feeder, ignoring the oranges. When I went outside to replenish the feeders with sunflower heart and chips, I heard the Eastern Towhee singing ‘drink your tea, drink your teeeeaaaa”. A Great Crested Flycatcher was calling ‘wheep, wheep’ from the top of an unseen tree too. Two more birds to add to the list.
Later in the afternoon a Red-bellied Woodpecker made an appearance at our big feeder, grasping a corner and diligently pounding on some shells. This is a rare sighting for us. They are found in the area, at least to the south of us, but are infrequent visitors to our property, so we relished his presence. As the day ended and darkness closed in, the Whip-poor-will started up with its somewhat monotonous name calling across the road for the first time this year.
To finish off this wonderful list of arrivals, I was able to add Northern Harrier (hawk) to the list the next day. This
bird of prey would not be looking for bird food but flying low over our old horse pasture in search of rodents. There are lots of 13 Lined Ground squirrels this year and I wouldn’t mind sharing some with this raptor.
I doubt we’ll have another stretch of days quite like those three, but before the month is over and in early June we may have more wonderful sightings, including many more warblers. It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time and this year the right place is right in our own front yard. Happy birding to all.
By Kate Crowley