It has been a while since I made a bird report about activity at the Havens. I feel a trifle derelict in my duty, since the stated purpose of my land is to provide me (and my family and friends) with organic food while also providing a suburban wildlife habitat. We’ve been pretty successful as habitat landlords, with a few notable exceptions.
One was the great skunk escapade. I can report that we have reliably excluded them from our crawl space. Finally. They still live around here, and I find their modest grub foraging holes around the yard regularly.
Last summer we had a ground hog move into the pile of dirt the covers our root/storm/wine cellar. I don’t think I wrote about that little episode. I was happy to have him live there, there was lots of clover and stuff for him to eat, but he decided that the vegetable garden was far superior in the gourmet offerings, and spent no considerable effort digging under the fence to get to it. We countered his efforts with a trap, which he rather insolently reacted to by digging in at another place. So we got a second trap and he dug a third tunnel. It didn’t take us long to figure out that this whole exercise was one in futility, and so our next gambit was to buy chicken wire (much cheaper than live traps) and install it along the back fence where he was digging through. Attached to the board of the fence, it extended out along the ground about two feet. So, he figured out he could weasel his way under it anyway.
We were on the point of the next escalation, which involved electric fence installation, when I went out to the garden one fine morning and found Sir Ground Hog busily eating my beans. Of course, Ruby was with me, and when the ground hog saw her he went bustling off to his tunnel, and exited the garden precipitously. Ruby was in hot pursuit, of course, but she couldn’t go through the tunnel so she dashed out the gate and around the fence. Meanwhile, the panicked and bean fattened rodent had gotten himself entangled in the chicken wire in his haste to leave the premises. He managed to get free before Ruby got there — not that she would had done anything other than bounce and bark at him, but he didn’t know that. Anyway, that very morning he packed his bags and left for a less exciting neighborhood, much to my and the beans’ relief.
I believe that the skunk has appropriated that abandoned burrow. This suits me just fine.
Of course we have tons of rabbits, which has resulted in great horned owls and barred owls hunting in the yard. This is partly why my cats live inside. The other part is that I did not go to a lot of trouble to create a wildlife habitat just so I could introduce an exotic predator. Domestic cats are one of the major predators of song birds, and my cats do not need that food source in their diet, they are plenty well fed as is.
Yesterday morning as we arose at the crack of dawn, we heard a most lovely bird song right under our bedroom window, one that we did not recognize. Very melodic and sweet, it rang out a couple of times, and was answered from the redbud tree.
“Who is that?” we asked each other in unison. We moved to the window and gently raised the shades so we could get a better view. Imagine our astonishment to observe the the birds that were singing this beautiful dawn song were a pair of catbirds. I have only heard their “Cat! cat! cat!” call, and the plaintive meowing call that always makes me want to look for the lost kitten until I realize I have been fooled by bird song. What a nice surprise to learn they have a beautiful courting song. I must investigate those shrubs to see if they have taken up residence there.
We have brown thrashers raising a couple of youngsters in the yard, as well as cardinals. The grackles are being followed by importunate chicks, who would much rather have their parents stuff bugs in their maws than find food for themselves. Yesterday I observed a mama grackle demonstrating how one gets a drink at the bird bath, after which she showed her youngster the benefits of bathing as well. Neither process impressed the young grackle in the slightest, and in disgust the mother hopped down onto the ground and began foraging again, assiduosly ignoring the brat following her around making demands for more dinner. ”I’ve done my best,” she seemed to be communicating. “Find it yourself, I’m busy.”
I have been amused by the robins. First they made a nest in the crotch of the wisteria, successfully raising three babies. This was the most disturbed robin’s nest I’ve seen in a while, since the owner thought that our regular use of the path just 4 feet from the nest was excessive and just plain wrong. So their next nest was in the elm tree by the garden shed. Fine.
Now we have new construction, again in the wisteria. Apparently, the first nest wasn’t close enough to the path. Can you spot the nest in this picture?
Here, let me give you a clue.
Yes, that is it, right there on the corner of the arbor, where the mama robin feels compelled to flee every time I go out to the garden, or carry laundry to the line, or come back from one of those excursions. Then she and her husband sit over on the wood shed and scold me. Like I wasn’t using that path on a regular basis the whole time they were building that nest.
Apparently the disturbance hasn’t been so great that it precluded some successful mating activity. Nosy neighbor that I am, I got out my kitchen step stool and climbed up there to investigate the situation. Needless to say, my activities were NOT approved of by the parents.
Lets see, the wren chicks have fledged both on the back porch and in the garden, and now that they are successfully out on their own, their parents have embarked on a new clutch. One of the sets of babies met each other and evicted the english house sparrows from the next box out by the vineyard and have been discussing housing arrangements quite vociferously.
We netted the last of the rows of grapes yesterday. While we were doing it, a robin left the vicinity. I distinctly heard him damning us as he left. They know how effective the net is, and don’t like us for excluding us from such a delicious and convenient food supply.
In other bird news, both the rock doves and ring necked doves have increased their populations to the point where they are flocks rather than small groups. That is just fine with me. I also have a large group of cardinals using the area. The gold finches and house finches are all around the place right now, enjoying echinacea and liatris seeds in addition to the niger seed I have in the feeder.
In addition to the chickadees, we have sparrows flitting about the place: song, field, fox, white throated, white crowned and chipping. A few years ago I would not have been able to tell the difference, but practice has made me a better bird watcher.
Blue jays are ubiquitous. Right now they are keeping the yard cleared of June bugs, a hunt that amuses me as I watch them pursue the flying beetles until they catch them. Then they take them to a branch and pound on them to open their hard carapace.
I found some of their moulted feathers the other day, and was fascinated to realize how different the colors are on their wings as opposed to their bodies. The first image is a small chest feather. The second is a wing feather next to the same chest feather.
The red tailed hawk dropped a wing feather the other day. I found it while I was walking Ruby out at the conservation area. A couple of days later I saw her hunting, and noticed the gap in her wing where the feather had been lost. She’ll grow another soon enough.
I was captivated by the grass shadows cast by the rising sun on the white part of the feather.
Another denizen of the Havens habitat is the Cooper’s hawk. She hunts here on a regular basis, and last year I even got to witness a hunting lesson for her fledgling which resulted in the demise of one of the house finches. Success for the young hawk; not such a great outcome for the finch. I’m not too sorry; I have know for years that I have a multi-tiered bird feeder. I feed the seed eaters which are prey for the small hawks. It’s all good.
I haven’t seen the hawk lately, but I know she has been around. I have seen several meal sites in the area, scattered with tossed feathers. She lost a tail feather just last week. I imagine she either caught it on a branch has she was jinking and turning in pursuit of breakfast, or it was time for it to be moulted and she yanked it out while perched. Anyway, it was on the ground under the elm where the niger seed feeder is. I moved it for a better shot.
Right this minute I hear a hummingbird scolding out by my hostas. As I jump up to look out the window, I see it is a mama with a baby, showing it the ropes of foraging.
I believe I shall go out to the garden and see what’s happening out there. Maybe the ants will have left. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. As if. Maybe a flock of flickers will have come by and eaten them all. Hahahahahaha.
I can dream, though, right?