birds, seasons

the birds

Is it still summer? Yes, technically. But not really. We know it, don’t we?

The bugs are merciless and the cicadas are still noisy. The birds? I haven’t seen it just yet, but the same robins who would almost fight to the death over a strip of land in July, gather like one big happy family in September. A bunch hanging together on the gutter, looking down at another group picking the yard for worms. In my imagination, it’s something like happy hour. The offspring are hunting the lawn, and the grown-ups are up there standing guard, smoking, and telling the summer’s war stories. Bad talking the feral cats. Mocking the hawks. Like … hey, you remember the morning that loudmouth blue jay helped us fight the accipiter hawk? Chased that guy right out of the oaks, almost knocked that napping sap-sucker from its nest in the poplar, and we didn’t let up til our squawking hawk friend crash landed somewhere inside the big sycamore.

Territorial lines are gone now, I guess.

Not the hummingbirds though. They’re still in it to win it. I’ve never seen hummingbirds willing to share. I’m not sure they even share with their loved ones. That nectar must be something worth fighting for.

It happens every year. The catbirds finish nesting there, and the hummingbirds take over. One guy (the defender) claims the feeder and sets up perch inches away. And waits for interlopers. I can see the bird there right now.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but hummingbird competitions are fun to watch. One zooms in from nowhere for a sip of that intoxicating nectar, and the defender guy moves at light warp speed to intercept. Where do they get those reflexes? All that sugar, I guess. And the fight is on. They fly off after each other, at unbelievable speed. You’ve seen hummingbirds, you know what I mean. Synchronized turns. Timing. And angles that defy aerodynamics. Then the original defender guy returns to its perch.

The roses are fading, and the tomatoes are struggling to redden. But there are warm days left, and the hummingbirds have energy in the tank to fight on. One day soon, one day in September, they’ll leave.

And that … that is the end of summer.

birds, hydration

staying hydrated

It’s not fancy.

A small solar fountain, a plastic planter dish, and some clean water. I can’t remember if I got it for me, for the gentle watery sounds. Or if I got it for the birds.

But the little fountain definitely attracts birds. Robins especially, but the towhees too, catbirds, cardinals, and blue jays. Sometimes they perch nearby, or along the side of the dish, and they stare. As if they’re getting up the nerve.

Sometimes they fly toward the water. Then they retreat. Some never take the plunge…they just fly away.

But most eventually hop in and start splashing. They dunk, and splash, and flap, and they dunk and splash and flap. It goes on, and on.

Then they hop out, fly off to a branch, fluff, pick their feathers, dry their beak. Just when it seems they’re satisfied with the results, they fly back, hop in the water, and start the process all over again.

Staying hydrated.

Not the best pictures, but I think it’s a female towhee.
music, nature, plants, sounds

evening

It looks like these trees and this brush are endless. Sometimes I feel that way too. But they’re not.

I was hunched over, trying to get a picture of the flowers and the green and a bit of the sunlight still coming through. It was getting close to eight, and there was a towhee doing what towhees always do at sundown. It was ‘drink your tea’ time. They sing those notes over and over, part of the evening ritual.

But this time there was music too. Human type music. Past all the green, up a hill, there was a house and the glow of flames in a fire pit, and somebody was out back. None of my business, but how could I not notice? He was playing folksy music, and it sounded so good I wanted to yell, “Hey, what’s that you’re playing?” Of course I didn’t. I thought it was somebody sitting by the firepit playing a guitar or banjo, and singing one of those folk songs that feel like springtime, and good times, and flowers in a field. Eventually I realized the music was too good, it must have been a recording.

I didn’t want to move on, but I started walking slowly along the path, around a bend, and the music playing behind me faded in the distance, past the trees.

Photographed May 29, 2020

bird watching, birds, life

the birds

It’s the beginning of May, the perfect time for bird watching, and with so many bloggers writing about the birds in their yards, I couldn’t resist adding something to the conversation. One of the positives about being cooped up at home is there’s more time for sitting still with a cup of coffee, time to listen and watch the birds coming and going, and handling all they need to do over the course of a season.

The cardinals have a nest in the bush right next to the gadget that holds the garden hose. She (the mom) lands at the top of the hose, every single time, before she returns to the nest. She perches there on top of the hose for about ten seconds and makes those cheep cheep noises. Like here I am, I’m gonna go to the nest now. Seems like a rather blatant announcement to the crows, but hey, I’m not a bird, I guess she knows what she’s doing. Based on her back and forth trips, I think there are babies she’s feeding.

The cat birds have a nest in the burning bush, not far from where I sit. They nest there most years. Cat birds sing beautifully at times. They sing like they invented music. Such incredible improvisational melodies. But now I mostly hear that unpleasant call that sounds like an angry cat.

I love the catbirds. [pictured]

The robins are nesting somewhere further back in the yard, on the left. I’ve seen some particularly nasty territorial encounters with an intruder, a male I assume. When I sit outside after dinner, though, the robins sing their settling down songs … it’s evening, this is my territory, I’m happy, we’re almost ready for sleep. Robins are so comforting. If you watch them, you can see that whatever is happening in this artificial existence we currently call life, the robins just do what they’re supposed to do.

The humming bird feeder is ready. No takers yet. I hear the towhees, I see the blue jays.

I have too many bird stories, and my bird stories aren’t ever short. Or sophisticated.

If you never watched birds, isn’t this the time to do it?

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Watch from a distance. Never get too close to the nest if you can avoid it. Crows and other predators are smart hunters.

bird watching, birds, life, nature

birds

I’m a casual bird watcher. I don’t study the books, their feathers, their habits. I’m just a backyard observer.

But if you have the time right now, if you have a porch, if you have trees outside the window, then this is the time.

Now. Like NOW.

The thing about bird watching is that it takes time and it takes patience. You can sit there, reading your book. You can relax. But you have to get the observational part of your brain ready to notice. Notice the repetitive movements of a bird flying back and forth. Or a song. Oh, those sounds. Those sweet, sweet songs…going on, and on, and on. If you want to embrace the best meaning of passion and purpose. If you always wanted to get in touch with that part of our existence, this is the time. There are robins already with nests, making their ‘time to rest for the night’ songs. There are frantic cardinals making their nests. And if you’ve never seen a female bird hell bent on getting a nest ready by the end of the day, then maybe you don’t know the definition of focused. Or goal-oriented.

I know I’ve spent too much time looking at a computer screen. Tomorrow, yes tomorrow, it’s time to get part of me outside. Safely, appropriately, socially distanced and all that. But the statistics won’t change because I look at the maps or the circles on the maps or the numbers. I’ll have no impact on the way the world spins as long as I keep my distance.

Birds have bird brains. They’re not smarter than humans. But they can show you something about life that you didn’t quite get. About trying with everything you’ve got. About constancy and determination.

Anyhow, just my pitch for bird watching.

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But … an important but … don’t interfere. Watch from a distance. Don’t draw attention to a nest.