I seem to have a growing collection of bird feeders. Some women can’t stop buying shoes. I can’t stop buying bird feeders. Just when I think I’ve got the yard set up perfectly, some bird dynamic changes, I look for a solution and there I am buying another bird feeder!
The problem I was having was a real pain . . . or a non-problem depending on your point of view. While all birds have their good and bad qualities (as seen by humans), I have mixed feelings about Common Grackles. While I think their feathers can be very beautiful in the sunlight and they are quite clever, their manners at the bird feeders don’t endear themselves to me. They tend to arrive in groups and if they like what they find in a feeder, they’ll hang around all day, dominating the feeders quite aggressively, not letting other birds have a chance.
I only have grackle issues periodically, mostly in the spring when they are moving in really large groups. But this year, a small group of them settled into our neighborhood, decided they liked my feeders and didn’t move on. With a crowd of grackles on the feeders, I was hardly seeing the Carolina Chickadees, White-Breasted Nuthatches and Tufted Titmouses that have been yard regulars for years. Even the finches and sparrows were getting scarce. What to do?
When we think about American Robins, many of us think, “Spring!” But these very common birds are actually around all year long in much of the United States. While some in the north do migrate southward, in many areas, they stick around if there is food to be found. Their behavior changes in the spring though, which is probably why we tend to notice them more as the days start to lengthen and the weather warms. I thought today, the first day of spring, would be a good day to share some interesting tidbits about robins.
The most active and interesting days are often not the bright beautiful sunny days but the stormy days when birds are eager to eat as much as they can to keep energy levels high. Yesterday’s storm brought us just such a day with really interesting feathered visitors and activity, so I have pictures and stories to share with you.
Every day as dusk approaches, the Northern Cardinals gather in my yard. A lot of Northern Cardinals. I see between eighteen and twenty-two cardinals most evenings, although twenty-six have shown up for the party in recent weeks. While other birds are winding down their activities and heading back to their preferred snoozing spots for the night, the cardinals are busy filling up on safflower until well after darkness falls. I call it “cardinal cocktail hour.”
There is something very special about watching a new day begin. From quiet darkness, to the first early chirps, to the first few winged visitors, building to the busy activity of dozens, the local birds are a big part of the start of each new day. If you pay attention, you are likely to see patterns in the bird activity in your yard. Every yard is different and every day is different, but this is the pattern I see on a typical winter morning in my yard.
This week, we got a fun new feathered visitor to the yard, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch. We regularly see White-Breasted Nuthatches, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen this type of nuthatch in the yard, or anywhere for that matter. In our area, they tend to be a bird occasionally seen in the woods up among the pines rather than at the backyard feeder, but I’m hearing that this year there is an irruption of Red-Breasted Nuthatches.
Birds are always around, one of the things that makes bird watching such an approachable activity. If you don’t have time to watch for awhile, there will be birds to watch when time opens up again. When you do have time for it, it can be a very peaceful and healing activity.
I haven’t done much birding or bird watching in the past month or so. My brother died unexpectedly last month and as often happens when life throws you such things, my daily focus and activities narrowed for awhile. I’ve missed the birds. So today I made a point to go and sit out on my back step and see who might come for a visit.