Here in central Maryland, while it has been feeling like summer lately, we have to remind ourselves that it is actually still spring. The yard has been lively, with quite a few interesting spring visitors over the past week. Most of them will not settle in to become yard regulars and will continue on their way within a day or two, but it sure is fun to watch them while they are here.
For several days, we’ve hosted a pair of Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks. They are avid safflower eaters (which we offer in quite a few feeders) and park at the platform feeders for long stretches of time along with the Northern Cardinals and the Mourning Doves.
In the past, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks in the yard have been pretty hesitant around people, but this pair seems fairly tolerant and will stick around even when I’m sitting on the back step so I’ve been able to photograph them. I wonder whether they have had good experiences around people in general or if this is a pair that is visited before and knows I’m the one who puts out the safflower.
On Saturday morning, another cool visitor arrived, this time an Indigo Bunting. That morning we only got a quick look at him and I at first thought it was the larger but similar Blue Grosbeak, but he has hung around for a few days, long enough for me to confirm that he is a bunting rather than a grosbeak. He’s been pretty shy when I’m around. He’ll pop up on the top of the brush pile but will then quickly dive inside to find the millet I’ve tossed there.
Then Sunday morning, two Gray Catbirds arrived, the first of the season. They seemed a bit nervous, probably due to being new to the yard and were easily spooked at first. One of them kept doing fly-bys of the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders. I’m not sure if this was just nerves or she was having trouble figuring out how to get to the seed. Usually birds will watch each other to learn how to get seeds from a particular feeder but this one seemed to want to take a shortcut to the seed she could see inside the clear tube section of the feeder. The pair has calmed down today and have been mostly hunting for insects along our neighbor’s chainlink fence, with a few visits to the millet around the brush pile. They also can be found on the ground beneath the suet feeders with the Blue Jays, hunting for dropped scraps of suet.
Today’s new visitor had me stumped for awhile. I could hear him talking quite a bit somewhere in the trees but couldn’t see him anywhere. (I’m deaf in my right ear, so while I can hear bird calls and songs, with only one functioning ear, I can’t triangulate to be able to figure out where a sound is located.) Fortunately, my mystery bird decided to come down lower and pause briefly on a branch near the brush pile, where I grabbed a few pictures. Flycatchers are notoriously tricky to ID, but based on the coloring and the sounds I was hearing, I think this is a Great Crested Flycatcher, a very cool bird to have in the yard. These flycatchers are fairly common around here in warmer weather, but they like to hunt for insects way up in the tops of trees so they can be hard to see. Today is a really breezy day, so the treetops are whipping around quite a bit, making locating movement challenging.
Other birds in the yard include most of our more regular birds: American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Red-Winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-Headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch, House Finch, House Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Fish Crow and I suspect the Cooper’s Hawk is around although I haven’t seen her.
There are also still a few lingering White-Throated Sparrows eating millet near the brush pile, although most of their crowd has moved on to their breeding grounds to the north. I’m still waiting for my first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of the year.
The Blue Jays in particular have been very active today. They’ve been around so much this afternoon that I put out some extra peanuts for them, which they love. (They see me outside and go to the hanging feeder where I always toss some peanuts for them in the morning to see if I’ve added any. If not, they look at me inquiringly as if to say, “Maybe a few more please?” I’m a sucker for that.)
They’ve also been busy at the suet feeders. They are often big suet fans around nesting time, so I wonder if that might be what is going on today. Suet is probably good energy for making eggs as well as a soft easy food for new nestlings.
As well as birds, I also got a look at one of the snakes that lives in the yard. I was alerted to the snake by Orange, a feral cat who has decided that our yard is his territory. I started to fuss at him because he was in the bird feeder area but realized that what he was watching so intently was this snake. I’m not super knowledgable about snakes, but I think this is an Eastern Garter Snake.
You never know what you are going to see in the yard in the spring!
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