Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Category: Birds (page 2 of 16)

My adventures watching, photographing, studying, and writing about birds

The Backyard in Spring

Common grackle

The grackles returned as is their wont around the first of the month. They spread out this time of year thus I only have five or six come around so the mockingbirds and blue jays still get their shot at the suet feeders.

I haven’t been filling the platform feeder as regularly as in the past. Too many mammals coming around and with a little boy, I’m inclined to keep it that way for a while. So it’s just suet and finch feeders for the most part, which the mammals don’t go for. And, with fewer doves hogging the yard, I’m seeing more mockingbirds and cardinals come around.

There’s also a nest in the nest box by the porch. I saw a chickadee hanging around the other morning and the nest doesn’t look like a wren’s nest, which is what I usually find in the nest box, so I’m hoping we’ll see some chickadees unless I scared them away when I opened the box to check it unaware that there would actually be anything in it (it hasn’t been used since 2009).

I didn’t do Project FeederWatch this year, but the usual winter suspects came around: ruby-crowned kinglet, yellow-rumped warbler, chipping sparrow and orange-crowned warbler. No American goldfinches this year, but the lesser goldfinches are here as always.

So spring is springing and the birds are coming around singing and each day there seems to be something new to show my son as we stand out on the porch listening to birds, though his favorite activities are waving at the dogs and laughing at the wind chimes. Through him, I’m seeing new wonders everywhere. The world is chock full of them.

Great Egrets

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Easter Morning

this backyard wildlife…
a congregation awake
discovering spring

a new mourning dove
on the fence by the feeder
studies the others

young squirrels—
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

fledgling goldfinches
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.

CSI: Sky

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.

Like an Asteroid Toward the Earth

Dusk ripples
across the pond.

A great blue heron
stalks sunlight
along the reeds.

He snags a fish,
turtle-sized,
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
ever believed
in herons?

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…

Gull Impostor

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.

An Unusual Suspect

Yellow-rumped warbler

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:

  1. White-winged dove (24)
  2. Mourning dove (1)
  3. Blue jay (3)
  4. Carolina chickadee (2)
  5. Black-crested titmouse (3)
  6. Carolina wren (2)
  7. Bewick’s wren (1)
  8. Ruby-crowned kinglet (2)
  9. Northern mockingbird (1)
  10. Orange-crowned warbler (1)
  11. Yellow-rumped warbler (1)
  12. Chipping sparrow (23)
  13. Northern cardinal (3)
  14. House finch (2)
  15. Lesser goldfinch (3)
  16. American goldfinch (2)
  17. House sparrow (12)

Grackle Ghazal

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).

This post was included in I and the Bird #142 hosted at Birds O’ The Morning.

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