Commentary by Ward Degler
We have an odd assortment of birds this year. Along with the usual chattering flock of sparrows, finches, robins, cardinals and wrens, we joyfully announce the return of eastern bluebirds.
We had bluebirds when we first moved here. But that was more than three decades ago. Then, something happened that killed the birds. Virtually all of them.
For several years we had no birds of any kind. The sparrows were the first to make a comeback. The others followed over time. This year the bluebirds are back.
We also have red-wing blackbirds. They showed up a month ago in the corner of my lawn where I hadn’t cut last year’s tall weeds.
A red-wing has the uncanny ability to know if a slender stem will hold his weight. He’ll land on it and sway back and forth while singing triumphantly.
As usual, the wrens found the one hanging basket of last year’s dead flowers that I had neglected to take down in the fall and set up housekeeping in it. Now I have to leave it hanging there until the youngsters fly away.
Of course, it’s right by the door, so when I come and go the birds scream at me. Trust me, you haven’t been cussed out until you’ve gotten it with both barrels by a Carolina wren.
My friend the gardener has given me plans for a bluebird house, and I plan to get a couple of them put together and installed in the yard. My daughter who lives in Missouri tells me I need two, set 50 feet apart. The female is apparently picky. She’ll check out the first one, reject it and move into the second one. Women!
I just put out the hummingbird feeder and wait for their buzzing air battles to begin. Ruby throats spend so much time chasing other birds away, I don’t know how they ever get anything to eat. Still, the bird books tell us they eat like a gazillion times their body weight every day.
The most remarkable birds visiting us are a pair of sharp shinned hawks. Their nest is high in a tree across the street, and I think this is the third year they have returned.
Last summer their offspring, a single juvenile, learned to hunt in our back yard while his parents screeched instructions from the maple trees. This spring the parents are already scoping out the territory as a fruitful hunting ground.
On a related side note, I have noticed very few chipmunks this spring. And even the squirrels are keeping a low profile.