Friday, February 16, 2018

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. 

Bluebird box my Dad made, now attracting a chipmunk
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 a tree by a bird feeder 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)


The Principal Undergardener said...

My own 'personal best' was a pair of roseate spoonbills that elected to nest in a newly topped tree in our backyard following a circa-1960 hurricane. The spoonbills raised one brood but were apparently put off by the presence of people. They decamped for, presumably, the Everglades. But, for one glorious season, we had birds that were instantly identifiable.

Lynn Hunt said...

Neal, what a treat for you even though it only lasted one short season.Gorgeous birds! I know I only saw the Great Horned Owl three times while living in MD but even the quick glimpses were something special.

Sunil Patel said...

Hello Lynn, I'm afraid I'm not a "bird bore" and there are no exotic birds around us, with a standard complement of kites, robins, thrushes, tits, woodpeckers, magpies and owls it's nothing compared to the colourful gallery of birds you've snapped in those pictures!

Lynn Hunt said...

Sunil, your little robins are so charming. Much lovlier than the big bruisers we have here! And although many dislike the magpies, I admire their crisp black and white plumage. Take care and happy spring my friend!

Les said...

I wouldn't say I was a birder, but when I see one I don't know, I really enjoy the challenge of getting an identification. I like to learn about it's migration habit, and I torment the dogs by playing it's call from the Cornell site.

Lynn Hunt said...

Les, maybe we'll turn you into a birder yet. But it is fun to identify "strangers" who flit by. I loved catching the Pileated Woodpecker on my Critter Cam. Bet your dogs would love that call!!

Donna Hamilton Paulson said...

Hey Lynn, we’re the Baltimoreans who met you at the LV window dinner a few years ago! Behind our house in Cherokee Trail we out to an owl house, and how seem to have a returning pair. Only once have we seen offspring, tho it’s doubtful we’d wvrr aoybthem. But a guest got an amazing shot of 3 fuzzy heads with sharp beaks all peeping out of the hole...precious!!

Lynn Hunt said...

Donna, I'm so happy to hear from you! When I upgraded my computer I lost all my old e-mails and some addresses. Would love to see you guys. What a treat to have those owls in your back garden! Our Barred Owl only comes by occasionally. Drop me a note with your contact details!!

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Lynn Hunt said...

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WashingtonGardener said...
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