Posted by: Kirsten | Saturday, 9 February 2008

American robins came bob-bob-bobbin’ today

American RobinAfter a very chily morning, it warmed up quite nicely today for a few hours. My daughter and I spent a good deal of time peering out our front window at the bird feeder.  We had the usual assortment of house sparrows and purple finches loitering around, plus the bravest squirrel I’ve seen in a long time (or perhaps the dumbest), and the mourning doves were also out in large numbers looking for any seeds the squirrel might have missed (yeah, I guess the squirrel is at least a notch above the doves in the grey-matter department).

But today was also our first Robin day of the year.  Turdus migratorius doesn’t mean “travelling bird poop machine” like you might think at first glance at its Latin name.  Turdus is simply Latin for “thrush” as it turns out.  Anyway, they were hanging out in our back yard under the magnolia tree turning over every leaf in search of a good wiggly meal, and they must have been successful because there were lots of them out there.  Yet another squirrel was hanging out with the robins while a blue jay darted from bush to bush at the back of our yard along the fenceline.  Suddenly, a grackle (the poorest excuse for a bird this side of Antarctica) plopped down next to a busy robin and scared the redbreast off of him as that opportunist snatched up whatever the robin had hastily left behind. It didn’t take long for the grackle to realize it wasn’t exactly sure what it was looking for or how to go about doing it on its own, so it eventually flew off toward the front yard.  We switched to the front window and saw an entire HERD of grackles grazing in the front yard.  The bird feeder was alive with squabbling sparrows, a pair of cardinals, and in the neighbor’s crabapple tree my daughter spied a downy woodpecker scrambling up and down and horizontally along the spreading branches.  Toward the back yard we could hear the shriek of a hawk, the call of crows, and the most beautful warbling of a warbler you’d ever expect to hear on an early February day. 

Two sparrows were staring at our bird bath, cocking their head to the side, seemingly trying to decide if they really wanted to drink or attempt to bathe in the brown, leaf-ridden pool of muck at the bottom.  I went out to change the water and all the birds temporarily scattered as I poured our golden retriever’s water dish into the bird bath.  As I walked back in, the squirrel was still below the feeder, oblivious to my presence.

After all this bird excitement, I realized that sometimes you don’t need to go to the park, sometimes it comes right to you.  We put out feeders only in the winter when the snow cover makes things more difficult for the birds and take the free food away sometime between Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, depending on the weather each year.  Today was one of those days where the winter feeder was active plus there were signs of spring as the bird activity in our yard skyrocketed.  One of my goals this year is to make our yard as critter-friendly as possible (minus the mosquitos, if that’s possible).  Well, I guess having mosquitos is being critter-friendly, isn’t it?  So glad we put in that screened-in porch last year!

Anyway, if you’re also interested in a fauna-friendly yard, there are some great resources out on the web, including one where you can get your yard “certified” as a plus for the environment (http://www.nwf.org/backyard/) via the National Wildlife Federation.  Check it out, and go easy on those nasty lawn chemicals this year!

Parke Diem!
— Jon

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