From Our Backyard, A Monthly Column Written by Charles

From Our Backyard

It’s raining on the sunny side of the street. The brilliant light reflected off the downpour with promises of a chance of a rainbow, somewhere. At this time of year, nature can be both sublime, chaotic, and sometimes violent. Blinking fireflies quietly compete with earthly rumblings, swirling clouds, and flashes of animated lightning. A stoic Great Egret perches high above the roaring, muddy Red Clay Creek. Bluebirds secretly nest regardless of the mischievous raccoons banging on the baffle below their house. During the summer, nature’s beauty abounds whether it be in the electric storms or the silent hour before dawn. It’s also the best time to observe the birds in your yard and at local parks. The key to seeing particular birds in any setting is habitat. The right habitat that provides food, and shelter is important to each species of bird. When I see birds in my yard I know they’ve found reliable food sources. Those sources could be natural like insects, seeds, fruit, nectar, nuts or what I offer at my various bird feeders. A place to raise their young be it a bush or a birdhouse guarantees future generations of birds. Without nest boxes or rough landscapes where would a bird nest? Certainly not on the shorn and vacuumed lawns. By providing habitat you ensure that it will be sunny and you’ll have bird song in your life.

When you see juvenile birds it demonstrates which species found your yard suitable for nesting. Families of birds are a gauge as to the health of nearby natural habitat. In addition adult birds most likely wouldn’t be traveling far from the nest to eat at a feeder. They need to stay in close proximity to feed the fast growing young. If the adults are at our feeders or bringing their young to the feeders, they most likely nested nearby. It’s quite obvious where the Catbirds and the House Wrens are nesting as they become quite noisy whenever we get close to their nesting sites. One family of Catbirds has chosen our raspberry patch for their nest. The parents scold us quite vocally when we pick the berries. Think about it, what better place to raise a family than a dense, thorny, berry laden bush. The Bluebirds are raising their second brood and both parents can be observed plucking insects from the ground and air. Tree Swallows have finished nesting for the season and House Wrens are bust with babies in their house full of sticks. Nesting continues for most of the summer season. Hummingbirds are nesting now, Bluebirds could have a third brood, and Goldfinches don’t even begin nesting until last July.

You bird feeders are a good place to observe the next generations. If you witness one bird feeding another it’s probably an adult feeding a fledgling. The fledglings follow the adults around for several weeks after leaving the nest. By continuing to feed them the parents are showing the young how and where to find food. It’s always comical to watch a fluttering baby bird standing in a pile of seed noisily begging to be fed. Parenting doesn’t end when the nest is empty

A common misconception is that new fledglings will be of a smaller form of their parents. In truth, juvenile birds need to be of full size in order to fly and they don’t appear at your feeders as a miniature version of the adult. We started seeing young Cardinals last week. They had the crest and silhouette of a Cardinal but their coat was a drab brown and they sported a black beak as opposed to the orange beak of an adult. A juvenile Red-bellied Woodpecker landed on the peanut feeders this morning. I could tell it was young because it head was completely gray and lacked any red. The new Jays will be missing the black collar around the neck.

Happy Birding, Charles Shattuck