Posted by: A Part of the Solution | February 3, 2010

You wouldn’t believe the birding

I’m not the sharpest birder in the nest. My mother and my friend Cat are both loads better than I am at distinguishing our feathered friends by the way they fly, the sounds they make, the nests they build and even the colors and shapes of their persons. But I keep a bird list and I love to add to it–or even revisit old acquisitions.

When we came to look at the farm with our Realtor, we all went down to see the barn. It has groundhog dens inside it and out all around. We’ll have to do something about that if we want to keep pigs comfy there and set up a milking parlor for the goats. But I noticed the many, many nests of the barn swallows. And there are quite a few (more than ten, maybe more than fifteen). I’m delighted to see that the gnat and no-see-um and mosquito populations will have more than the frogs in the pond to contend with come summer.

My first week up on the farm in early January, Cat came out to visit. While we were hauling various bags, bundles and boxes around to be unpacked, I saw a woven sack of a nest right outside the upstairs office window dangling from the end of a tree branch. I called Cat over, but she didn’t know what it was (turns out they don’t have ’em in Ohio). With some internet research and a phone call or two to individuals more advanced than us in the world of birding we solved the mystery. It’s an Oriole’s nest!

I had an Oriole living in my back yard down in Maryland, but it was in a tree too far from the house for me to learn the shape of the nest. Now I know. And I can hardly wait to see the tenants move back in.

The nesting boxes mounted on the tops of the fence posts alongside the house are for Blue Birds. And they’re occupied. We have enough Blue Birds up here to constitute a mob if not an actual flock. Now all I have to do is figure out how to keep the cat, Our Buckle, from going fishing for nestlings in the spring.

Last week I was out walking with the dog and Our Buckle (he imprinted on the dog and likes to go for walks with us at least once a day–he has no trouble even with the mile and a half circuit, though he gets a little whiny if he falls behind, “mew, mew, mew”). We were on the slope behind the barn heading to the pond. A rustling noise and a smooth motion caught my attention. Out of the cattails and reeds a Great Blue Heron flapped up, and away.

None of these birds are new to my list. But come March, before the leaves are fully out on the trees, the woods will be a hive of bird activity. As will the margins of the fields, the tree line around the pond and the brambles of the spring head. I’m psyched to get down to adding warblers and little, shy insect eaters and larger migrators to my list.

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