Friday, February 16, 2018 11 comments

Birds I have known



The Barred Owl hunts in the daytime and stops by occasionally


I grew up in a suburb of Miami and, as a little girl, was intrigued by the variety of colorful birds that would appear in our yard every winter.
I’m not talking about tropical birds like parrots or cockatoos. They could be seen quite regularly in our area year-round. In fact, knowing someone who owned an “exotic” bird was about as common as a friend with a German shepherd or Siamese cat.
I don’t know the names of the birds that sat in our trees or listened for worms in the grass. But they fascinated me.
 


Later, as an adult, I became a dedicated bird bore. My husband and I bought reference books and made notes each time we spied a new variety and jotted down the date it first crossed our paths.
While living in the D.C. area, we noticed a few bluebirds in the garden so we rushed out and bought a proper nesting box. Before long, Mr. Bluebird was standing on the house singing, inviting prospective partners to come by and see his shiny new digs.
It appears he turned at least one female head, because within days, Mr. and Mrs. were setting up housekeeping (probably with newlywed furnishings from Ikea.) For a few weeks, there was continual activity at the box, with both birds flitting in and out. Then nothing.
It wasn't unusual to see a hawk near the bird houses
My husband finally decided to take a peek. Inside the box, he found four tiny babies, dead and covered with ants. Not wanting to see, I went inside while he buried them and cleaned out the birdhouse.

I called our local Wild Bird store and tearfully described our discovery. “They were probably an immature pair and didn’t know how to be parents,” he explained. “Next time, they’ll do a better job.”
And they did.

 A Bird Bonanza

We next moved to a cottage on a river off the Chesapeake Bay. For bird bores like us, it turned out to be heaven on earth.

For the 15 years we lived there we were treated to an amazing parade of birds: herons, Tundra swans, turkeys, ospreys, egrets, woodpeckers, all manner of ducks, red-tailed hawks, and “regular birds” including catbirds and hummingbirds.
Mrs. Mallard made her nest every year under one of my rosebushes.

We were privileged to witness a continuing nature documentary almost every day.
We had dozens of eagles living nearby on the Eastern Shore

I once photographed seven Bald Eagles fighting over a dead duck stuck in the ice on the river. We watched a Great Horned Owl land in a tree by a birdfeeder my Dad made.  We saw the sky darken as thousands of Canada geese headed back to the wildlife refuge from local cornfields. We listened to the haunting cries of the loons.

Something new was always happening in the garden and on the water.

Now that we’ve moved to the mountains, we realize how very lucky we were to have so much wildlife on our doorstep. Not long ago, we saw a mallard on the golf course, and it was as if we’d caught a glimpse of some extremely rare creature.
 
Of course, we love our local birds including cardinals, juncos, nuthatches, tufted titmice, finches, and hummingbirds. The pileated woodpeckers live here too, but they are shy birds and don’t care to have their picture made.
On occasion an unusual bird stops by and visits for a while.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
We’ve had a Barred owl, Rufous-sided Towhee and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Not long ago I noticed a Scarlet Tanager while I was walking. I had never seen one before.
 That sighting took me back to the time when I was four years old. I was looking out at the yard one day when a beautiful cobalt blue bird landed on a branch of the oleander bush outside my bedroom window.
Oh, how pretty, I said softly to myself. Then the bird began to sing just for me.
And I was hooked.



                                           
                                     Kookaburra I spied in Australia (laughing of course)











 
;