This post is mostly about birds. Now that I’ve admitted that, I can just hear the eyelids drooping, the yawns starting. Sigh.
Birds are fascinating! How come every kind of geek is now cool, but not bird geeks?
I learned bird watching growing up, with my family, and they have usually been the only people in my life who have shared this interest with me. Often, a friend would visit, and I’d say, “Ooh! A rose-breasted grosbeak!” and point toward the feeder. Instead of being delighted by the beauty and striking variety of colors on this bird (the fat yellow beak, the splash of raspberry red on the chest, the contrast of white on the belly and black on the back), they’d be like, “Yes, it’s a bird.”
I haven’t had one come to my window (nor has Melissa Etheridge) this year yet, but here’s a photo of one (taken by, and copyright of, Terry Sohl, used with her kind permission):
The one wonderful exception to my anti-birding friends is my friend and former roommate, Laurel, who took an ornithology class at Mt.
Holydyke Holyoke, which got her into bird watching, too. That was fun, because we could get excited about birds together, in the same household, and call each other over if one of us spotted something neat outside.
Except, now there is a member of my household, for the first time since Laurel, who is just as fascinated by birds as I am: Barnum. I have a window feeder up, as well as a suet feeder in a lovely flowering ornamental tree outside my window, and a decorative bird bath, and it’s just a parade of birds all day.
I put a stool next to the window so Barnum can watch the birds without having to jump on my bed or on the windowsills. He used to try to eat them — snapping at the birds in the window feeder — but he has learned that is a pointless endeavor, so he just watches, and yearns. Oh, how he yearns.
One of my favorite moments this spring, when the feeder was newly out, and Barnum and the birds had not yet completely gotten used to each other, was when there was a tufted titmouse at the window feeder. Barnum was looking at the titmouse, up and to the left, his snout pointing at it, with his head titled in that way he does, like when a dog is really trying to grok something.
And then the titmouse — I know, it sounds unbelievable, but it really happened — saw Barnum, and hopped over to the edge of the feeder and looked down at him, tilting its head to the side, with his beak pointing down. So, they were like mirror images of each other. They just looked at each other in fascination. One of my PCAs witnessed it with me, and it was hilarious and magical and adorable all in one.
I wish I could show you a picture of it, but alas, I did not have my camera at hand. Here is a reenactment that totally does not do justice to that marvelous moment:
Anyway, I’m all atwitter (pun totally intended), because I just saw and identified a bird I’ve never identified before — in my life! That’s saying something, as I’ve been bird watching as long as I can remember, and I’m fortymumble years old. It’s not a rare bird. I’ve just never seen it before and gotten a good look and then found it in my bird book. Probably because it’s a ground feeder, and I’m usually looking out my window into the trees.
It is . . .
The Eastern towhee!
How many different birds have I seen out my window this spring (not counting birds I saw last year or down the street or birds I’ve identified by call, such as the barred owls, which are unbelievably loud, or the drilling of the pileated woodpecker, also very loud!)? I’m glad you asked!
Here’s the list of birds I’ve seen in May 2011, all from my bedroom window (with the exception of a couple from the backyard):
- Black-capped chickadee
- Tufted titmouse
- Chipping sparrow
- Pine siskin
- Eastern towhee
- House finch
- Purple finch
- Mourning dove
- Blue jay
- White-breasted nuthatch
- Red-breasted nuthatch
- Downy woodpecker
- Hairy woodpecker
- Sharp-shinned hawk
- Magnolia warbler
The last one, the magnolia warbler, was also a really exciting find. I’ve never seen one before. It was hopping along on the ramp railing one day, and I had to try to memorize its distinctive features so I could look it up. I knew it was some sort of warbler, and not a yellow-rumped warbler, which I used to see quite often at my previous home, but almost all the warblers have yellow on them, so they can be hard to identify. Fortunately, I was able to memorize “two white wing-bars on black wings” and that turned out to be unusual among the warblers. Here’s what one looks like (again, this photo is courtesy of the kind and generous nature photographer, Terry Sohl, used with permission):
I’ve also seen red squirrels, gray squirrels, a rabbit, and a red fox, although I don’t think we can count these as birds, can we?
I’m hoping to do a regular “Birding Thursday” post where I post a photo of a bird from outside my window. It’s all part of my diabolical plan to convert some of you mammal snobs. Heh heh.
Here is the first of my Birding Thursday photos. A male yellow goldfinch in my window feeder:
-Sharon, the muse of Gadget (dreaming of wild turkeys), and Barnum (bird watcher more than bird chaser anymore)