this backyard wildlife…
a congregation awake
a new mourning dove
on the fence by the feeder
studies the others
so much thinner
than the adults
a new family
house sparrows chirping
the busy backyard
six house finches
learning the hummingbird feeder
sun-sparks in water
flap inexperienced wings
on Easter morning
This weekend, we were treated to families of lesser goldfinches, house finches, house sparrows, mourning doves and fox squirrels coming around the backyard so the adults could show their young where to find the food. The juveniles were clearly just out of their respective nests as they were following the adults around flapping their wings and chirping to be fed. It’s never long before the babies figure out how to find food on their own at which point they will be indistinguishable from the adults.
I’ve seen this in the backyard with black-crested titmice, common grackles, mockingbirds, cardinals, Carolina chickadees, and Bewick’s wrens, and it’s one of the joys of feeding birds (and squirrels) but I’ve never seen so many at once. It was, quite simply, stunning and humbling. Songbirds don’t live long and most don’t even make it through their first year, but I like to think that at least some of these birds will be out there for a while, maybe waiting for me to count them one day down along the pond trail.
Publication announcement: My haibun “The Grackle Tree” from my Birds Nobody Loves series is in the latest issue of the ‘zine Nothing. No One. Nowhere. Thanks to the editors for publishing it along with so many other wonderful poets. It’s an honor to be included.
The hawk is an acrobat and an impostor—
he flies with vultures and when he banks
his lighter plumage blazes in the sun,
betraying him to anyone down below with
eyes to see and secrets to conceal. The butcher
hides in plain sight among the forensics birds;
it’s a good procedural crime drama. I search
the woods for evidence, but these guys
are too good, too thorough, and I wonder
how I stumbled into this perfect scheme.
across the pond.
A great blue heron
along the reeds.
He snags a fish,
from the water.
He flips and swallows
the fish, which falls
down his gullet
like a rabbit
through a snake.
His neck straightens;
the fish is gone.
He shadows dark
along the shore.
Don’t you wonder
if that fish
This post in included in I and the Bird # 149 over at Twin Cities Naturalist. Sadly, this looks to be the last edition of I and the Bird. I’ve been participating off-and-on for 5 years and even hosted it once. Sad to see it go…
Stretch your arms, rock to and fro
on the abandoned tracks, imagine
you’re a great ocean bird. Swoop,
dive, fly up to dizzying heights, peer
down to a rippled carpet, the ocean,
far below. Lean into your dive, feel
gravity’s pull, the insistence of textbook laws,
the water miles away. Accelerating,
you race until at the last moment,
wings straining with the effort, you pull
up. Soar away from collision, use
momentum to regain the sky. Eager
you test yourself against another drop.
Open your eyes. Disoriented, you’re standing
on the broken tracks, arms outstretched.
A flock of gulls about their business stays
a safe distance away. They have no idea
you flew with them. They watch
you with aviator’s eyes, making sure
you never attempt to get too close.
Walking home, you wonder if the sky is
farther away than ever, if you’ll ever belong.
A month ago, I wrote that all of the usual suspects had made appearances in my 2010-2011 Project FeederWatch counts except the northern cardinal. Within days of that post, the cardinals seem to have remembered the fine seed in my yard and started coming back, thus all of the usual winter visitors have now made at least one appearance in my yard this season.
About two weeks ago, I started catching glimpses of something that wasn’t one of the regulars. I would see out-of-focus of underwing stripes on a bird among the chipping sparrows or a quick flash of yellow (and not enough for a lesser goldfinch) in a tree. I couldn’t make a positive ID, but I saw enough for me to think yellow-rumped warbler. I kept looking and getting short flashes that reinforced my hunch. Then one day, I guess he just decided not to hide and for the past two weeks this warbler has joined the backyard crew.
It’s not really surprising that there should be a yellow-rumped warbler visiting the yard. They’re quite common around the pond down the street this time of year, but I’ve never seen one in my yard until two weeks ago. Now, I get to watch him more closely and regularly than I do when they’re high in the trees around the pond. It’ll be interesting to see, too, when he leaves. One of the things I love about doing Project FeederWatch is the way it tunes me into migration by making it quite clear when different species come and go. For instance, according to my records, I’m unlikely to see much of the ruby-crowned kinglet after this week, and I’m very curious to see if he follows the same schedule he has the past few years.
Here’s what I’ve recorded so far this season. The numbers in parentheses are the highest numbers of the species seen at one time:
I stroll the streets and dodge mangy grackles,
fluttering birds in trees, those angry grackles.
Black feet and dark beaks snap at my sandwich—
I’m surrounded by the grabby grackles!
I sit a bench and study pawns and queens
‘til “checkmate’s” called by the cagey grackles.
At dinner parties, I near drop my drink
shocked by the sins of the feisty grackles.
I hang for hours on back porches, strumming
old guitars, swapping lies with folksy grackles.
At night, I roost in city trees and sing
croaking wild songs, toasting jolly grackles.
This is in response to Big Tent’s prompt about alliteration. There’s some in there, but the process led to a ghazal and some grackles.
Go to the Big Tent to see what others came up with.
For those who may not know, grackles are, like blackbirds, members of the icterid family. Here in central Texas, we see two species: the common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) and the great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).
Most all of the usual suspects have checked in for this year’s Project FeederWatch. The orange-crowned warbler and ruby-crowned kinglet came back to the suet feeders last weekend, and the goldfinches finally returned as well.
The lesser goldfinches are year-round residents, but they typically leave the feeders in October and return late in November or early December. This year it was late December before one came around. Especially exciting, though, was the fact that a few American goldfinches also came by. I saw them regularly during the 2008-2009 Feederwatch season, but last year I only saw one, and he came very late in the season. Hopefully, the ones I saw will tell their friends, and I’ll see them fairly regularly over the next few months.
The only species I haven’t seen yet are Bewick’s wren and northern cardinal. The Bewick’s wren is around. I see them several times a week, but I have yet to see one on Saturday or Sunday, which are my official count days. Perhaps they like to take the weekends off. I know I do. As for the cardinals, I’m not surprised that I haven’t seen any since summer. Some winters they’re around the feeders, and some winters they aren’t. If I don’t see any, I’m sure they’ll show up come spring. Down here, that means next month.
Here’s what I’ve counted. The numbers in parentheses are the highest single count for that species:
I don’t think it’s too late to get involved with Project FeederWatch, which is good because citizen science projects rock.