Wednesday, June 24, 2009

summer birds in the backyard

I stepped out to read in the backyard -- I've been trying to do this more, because what's the point of having an amazing garden if I can't enjoy it? -- and immediately stopped to watch one of our young robins going to town in the bird bath. I have never seen a robin clean himself (herself?) more thoroughly than this one. Then he stopped to preen, and I swear he was at it for three minutes while I stood perfectly still so as not to disturb him. There's something wonderful about that kind of spontaneity in a wild animal -- that bird was definitely enjoying himself.

Then I sat down on the steps, and less than ten minutes later an unfamiliar commotion caused me to look up again (I think I've figured out why my reading pace has slowed significantly in the past couple weeks). This time it was the downy woodpecker, landing on our oak tree. I was pleased -- haven't seen them since early spring -- and then a second swooped in after her. They were clearly gleaning something off the oak; I hope they keep coming back, too, for whatever they were eating.

Even better, though, every once in a while, the female would make a peculiar noise, and the other would come in from whatever branch he (she?) was working on, and open his mouth to be fed. The young wasn't begging for food -- the mother was calling him over to feed him. Or at least, that's how I interpreted that particular interaction. After feeding, the young one would fly back to where he had left off and keep working away at whatever he was trying to eat.

Other birds in the back yard this week have included:
  • a nighthawk soaring over (hooray! first one of the season for me, I've been waiting),
  • the ubiquitous chimney swifts,
  • a very, very territorial cardinal (he never stops singing),
  • young crows begging their parents for food,
  • chickadees for the first time in weeks,
  • goldfinches,
  • house finches,
  • grackles,
  • starlings and English sparrows,
  • and a long-winded red-eyed vireo.

If we widen our net to the entire neighbourhood, my neighbour and I saw a great-blue heron land on the roof of the church at the end of the street when we were coming home from a walk the other day; on that walk were also pewees and indigo buntings, over in the local park.

Especially now that things are starting to cool down a bit, it's getting noisy out there again. It was so hot today, the middle of the day was pretty devoid of birdsong. I'm going to go out and fill up the bird bath again in a few minutes, because I'm pretty sure that robin used up more than his fair share.

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