You’ll pardon me for paraphrasing the B-52s, but bird watching in my back yard since spring has sprung really has been like living in my own private Audubon. Yang pointed out that we often see more birds (in number and variety) through our sun porch windows than we do on many of our nature walks! It’s been a delight to see many old friends return.
First back were these Mockingbirds. Usually we see one in February or early March. S/He doesn’t stay long, but chows down for a day or two – maybe a week – and then is on the way to wherever Mockingbirds like to chill. This year, we got TWO. A honeymooning couple? I don’t know, but they were a pleasure to see.
Another of the spring early birds are the Red-Winged Blackbirds. In my yard, they are one of the earliest sign of spring rolling in. These guys actually showed up in the end of February – and I’ve never seen so many of them! Usually their numbers tend to thin out as we get into May, but this year we still have many of these visitors with the red and yellow epaulets. You can see this chap flashing his shoulder embellishments as he shares the feeder with a grumpy-looking Grackle – tons of Grackles off and on since February. Below is the blackbird taking a turn on the suet.
In fact, everyone seems to be into suet this year! You saw the Mockingbirds above. And get a load of both the female and male Downy Woodpeckers. You can distinguish their genders by the red dot on the back of the male’s head.
These two aren’t the only woodpeckers who visit us. Through the winter and still into the spring, we’ve had a pair of Redbellied Woodpeckers chilling with us. In fact, this male is probably the one Yang and I saved from frostbite after he was stunned from hitting a window – the woodpecker, not Yang. Anyway, we call him Red and his mate Ruby. Original, aren’t we?
Of course we also had a spring newcomer woodpecker: my friend Flicker (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.). Just last week, I saw him hunting insects where my and my neighbor’s yard meet.
One of my favorite returnees is the Catbird. I love the way they say my name in one of their calls: “Sharon!” Last year we had two. This year, I’ve seen four! I don’t think they’re all pals, either. One day, I saw two of them in my Canadian Maple with their heads up, beaks pointing skyward, and their shoulders thrown back in a stand off. Bird number three was merrily chowing down on suet all the while. Who knows where number four went. Still, I do see two, three, four of them traveling together, making the rounds of the bird feeders in my yard.
We’ve also had some more colorful returnees as well. Although a Goldfinch or two would come by during the winter, we had a huge influx in April. They’ve thinned out a bit, but it’s been fun watching the boys gradually change back to their bright yellow duds. They’ve also broadened their tastes. Rather than only snacking on sunflower hearts, they are now going for the black oil seeds, no longer too lazy to crack them open with their powerful finch beaks. This fella is giving the feeder a quizzical study before he zeroes in on dinner.
Finally, May brought back two of my favorite friends. First, the Baltimore Orioles. This year we’ve seen two adult males and one juvenile. These guys love their oranges! Yang gets them the good ones from the Asian grocery store in town.
One day, Yang and I saw Dad taking his young son out for his first drink.
Then they both turn to our window and stare: “What’re YOU lookin’ at?!”
One week later, who should come to town but the last of our colorful spring regulars: the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Usually we get a couple of couples. However, this year, I’ve only seen the male. Still, for all I know, it’s not the same male every time. There could be a bunch of them, each showing up one at a time. However many, these guys are always gorgeous to see! Here one of them is sharing the feeder with a House Finch. He doesn’t look too chummy, though, does he?
Of course, we’re not the only ones who like to watch the birds from the sun porch. But the girls are kept safely apart from feathered visitors.
Now, bring on the Indigo Bunting and the Scarlet Tanager!
|These waning days of winter have given Yang and I some fun bird watching, whether at home or away. For instance, Yang went for a stroll one day on a canal that runs perpendicular to the Blackstone River and sighted some interesting ducks and the peripatetic Kingfisher. So, the next day, I had him take me back there. Sure enough we saw some swell birds. Yang got some really nice shots of a pair of hooded mergansers. At first we thought they were both females, but I noticed that one had a distinctive long, pointed tail sticking above the water, as well as a fluffier brush of feathers at the back of the head. I suspect that one was a juvenile male. We either had a Mom and her teenage son or a Cougar duck. Who can tell? Enjoy the pictures!
I also got to see the Kingfisher, a male. I heard his excited chatter way down toward the end where the canal ran into the Blackstone. I kept my eyes peeled until I saw a blob of white way ahead in a tall tree over the waters. Training my binoculars confirmed my suspicions, bringing into focus a magnificent male Belted Kingfisher. Yang came up and got some shots with the binoculars he could attach to his cell phone. We had a great time watching His Majesty swoop down into the water, skimming along to fly off with his fishy dinner.
Further from home, we visited Forest Park in Springfield on our way to lunch in Montague. This turned out to be the mecca for Common Mergansers. We saw tons of them in one of the ponds. They were shy guys, as whenever we got close to the shore, they paddled off to the middle of the pond. Yang did get some nice pictures of them, though. I love how the males gleam white, their green heads almost black. Their head feathers in the back are far smoother than those of the male Red Breasted Mergansers. In both these types of Mergansers, the females are beautiful, with their Rita Hayworth-red locks! Yang loves the ducks’ red beaks.
We also found some American Black Ducks enjoying the same pond as well.
Closer to home – as in the bird feeders next to my house – we’ve been seeing some nifty birds, old friends and new. The Mockingbird and the Redwinged Blackbirds are back. Would you believe that even in the snow, the Robins have been scooting about for at least two weeks? Here we have a Robin and a Downy Woodpecker chilling (literally with all the snow) in a tree outside my sun porch window.
I must say that this Robin loves his/her? suet.
We also had the pleasure of this Red Bellied Woodpecker’s company. Since it’s a female, it wouldn’t be the one who was stunned after hit our sun-porch window. We brought him in in a box and let him warm up for about an hour then set him free. Whoosh! He was in great shape and off to the races. We see him and his mate here quite a bit. They’re also big suet lovers.
and perky Downy Woodpeckers.
Bring on the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks!