Entries in birds in garden (4)


My Life as a Baby Birder

I was warned that bird watching can suck you in, that what begins as an innocent desire to identify backyard birds can become an obsession that sends people on excessive quests to to find illusive species to add to their lists. There is no chance of that happening to me, but after participating in an excursion to view the overwintering cranes who descend by thousands on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, I was intrigued enough to join a group of birders on a morning walk around Aldridge Gardens

Everyone met in the parking lot, and when I arrived, people already were pointing and scanning nearby trees with their binoculars. Even I could see the flock of cedar waxwings perched amidst the branches of a tree a few feet away. I am a baby to bird watching, and that was as good as it got.

"Look at the Pine Warbler!"

These people know their birds. Everyone swung their binoculars upward and nodded in agreement. I was busy trying to focus in with my binoculars, and by the time I found the right tree, never mind the right branch, the Pine Warbler was long gone. I had similar results with the Eastern Phoebe, the Carolina Wren, and about twenty other birds. I did a little better with the birds gathered around a large feeding station. If a bird was big and brightly colored, it helped. I let out a whoop when I found the Red-headed Woodpecker perched high up in a snag. Canadian Geese are easy! They are huge and easily recognizable.

Turtles are also easy. Of course, they don't don't count as birds, but I enjoyed the sight anyway.

The Camellia Garden at Aldridge Gardens is home to bluebirds. We heard them, but no one caught sight of one. We all admired the Camellia japonicas in bloom.

I spent a pleasant morning strolling through beautiful surroundings, and I enjoyed the enthusiasm of my fellow birders. I think I will have more success with my birding efforts at home. Red-shouldered Hawks have built a nest on a large branch that arches over the front lawn.I can see them easily from several rooms inside the house. And Bluebirds have chosen the new red birdhouse only steps from the kitchen. Front row seats!

This morning I saw a flock of birds flying over the house. I immediately wanted to grab the binoculars to confirm my suspicion that these were American Robins. Was that a sucking sound I heard?


The Hunter and the Hunted

There were three different types of birds in the dogwood tree near our patio this morning, all at the same time, devouring the berries: bluebirds, cardinals, and titmice. When they were done, there were no berries left.We have many types of birds in our garden including, clockwise from top left: bluebirds, cardinals, titmice, and Red-shouldered hawks.

I am especially happy to see bluebirds setting up housekeeping in the bluebird house by the arbor garden again. (Click on the link for tips on attracting bluebirds.) This is a  newly refurbished house, and it should provide them with a secure, safe home, as safe as it can be out in the wild. The Cooper's hawks have returned to our garden, and, unfortunately, songbirds are on their menu. Today I watched one swoop down for a kill. I think he got a vole, which is fine by me. Just leave the bluebirds alone. 

Voles are on my hit list, because they consume plant roots. I have lost so many hostas to them that I hesitate to plant these beautiful shade-lovers, except in pots. The hawks will have competition for this particular tasty meal. Autumn, our cat, is extremely affectionate and outgoing toward humans, but she is a fierce tiger at heart. She loves to hunt. She will catch chipmunks and play with them, carrying them around in her mouth like a kitten, them setting them free in heavy foliage for seek and chase. She will repeatedly catch and release the same chipmunk until she grows tired of the game. The poor chipmunk, if he doesn't die of fright, has a good chance of escaping in the end.

Not so a vole. This creature is dead meat within moments after she catches it, and she will consume it in just a few bites. We feed her well, but understand, this is a delicacy she will never forgo. Autumn was in hunter mode when I took this photo.

This vole would be a tasty meal to either our cat, Autumn, or to the Cooper's hawks who live in our garden.Our weather continues to see-saw between pleasant sixty to seventy degree temps one day, down to upper twenties the next, but the increased activity of birds and other wild creatures, both the hunter and the hunted, is one of the signs of approaching spring. Every day more bulbs emerge. Flowering quince and hellebores are blooming. Surely spring will be here in just a few weeks!