The Pileated Woodpecker has been hammering away on a dead aspen next to our deck. He goes to the very top of the tree and in jackhammer motion announces to the world and any nearby females of his kind that he has established his territory for the breeding season and he hopes a curious female will come and see what he has to offer. The tree
he has chosen for his drum is riddled with cavities created by him or others like him, as they search for insects. It is a wonder to us that the snag still stands, but it makes a perfect percussion instrument.
He and his kind remind us that life goes on, even as we humans face a crisis unlike any other we have seen in our lifetimes. Now more than ever birds can lift our spirits and give us reason to look at the world with some optimism. This pandemic is happening just as winter is giving way to springtime and for those of us who love to watch birds, it coincides with the return of many species.
Today is the first day of Spring and we were granted two wonderful sights this morning. As we went for a walk down the street of our small town, there was a honking sound overhead and we looked up in time to see two Trumpeter Swans in flight. Their white bodies glowed against the blue of the sky. They won’t find any ice free lakes or ponds in this region yet, but the rivers are open and they can
easily find rest and safety on them, as they wait for more open water.
Then when we came home, my husband was walking back to the barn when he spotted a Barred Owl perched on the limb of another dead tree. He quickly came back to the house to alert me and we both went back with binoculars to get a better look. It had moved to another snag and sat in the full sun with both eyes closed, unaware or
unconcerned about our presence. We stayed about 40 yards away so as not to disturb it. I have heard these owls calling in our woods in other seasons, but seeing one so clearly in broad daylight is really rare. These two sightings lifted our spirits and reminded us that when we go outside, we are often rewarded in unexpected ways.
These sightings were especially delightful because it has been a very disappointing five months at our birdfeeders. For reasons we don’t understand we have not had any of the usual avian visitors from farther north. We were never without bird activity at our feeders, it’s just that we were seeing the same ‘players’ every hour of every day. We never saw any of the winter finches – Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, or Purple Finches.
We hosted a huge flock of Blue Jays. They waited every morning until my husband went out to fill the birdfeeders and then they would swoop down to feed. We easily had 20 of them flying in and out of the front yard. The others were Black-capped Chickadees, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, a Cardinal or two, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. The Pileated did not seem to be on our property for most of the winter, but he is definitely back now.
It is not going to be easy for any of us to adjust to this restrictive lifestyle. Boredom, anxiety and depression are moods many of us will face. Birds can lift us out of these moods just by their presence. Now is a good time to refresh your memory of the songs we will be hearing in the trees very soon. The National Audubon website has a page that can help in this regard. It is a good resource with actual recordings of bird songs. The Cornell Lab is always a good resource for advice and information and right now you can improve your bird watching skills or find a webcam set up in the nests of hawks, owls and osprey. These are things we can do indoors, but the best thing for our mental, as well as physical health right now is to get outside and let birdsong fill us with feelings of peace and calm. And since we should be limiting our time away from home, Prdseed.com is the ideal place to keep up your supply of wild bird seed
By Kate Crowley