Bird Watching

Cardinal-LoveWe still have the birds and bees thing going on in our backyard. And me, being the low rent avian voyeur that I’ve become, capture it on video, and present it to you. I haven’t gotten a cease and desist order from the birds’ lawyers yet, so everything’s cool.

This is the best example I have seen of the Courtship Feeding that Cardinals use during breeding season. I noticed this behavior for the first time in late April. Our Cardinals are residents that live here year round, and this year’s weather has been mostly really nice since February. The dark eyed Juncos have already produced, and lost their first batch of young. It seems they took advantage of the unusually nice weather, and when their young were ready to fledge, we got an extended rainy and cool spell that did them all in. Mother Nature ain’t got a soft spot for, anything, really. But people that grew up in the country and on the farm already know that. We’ve also spotted a Bobwhite Quail male that has a broken leg. He showed up at the feeder on May 24th. I have been amazed that he has made it this long. And I think it’s probable that him having access to easy food has made all the difference in his survival. Every time he shows up, he seems to be getting along a bit better.

This whole bird watching thing has kind of caught me by surprise. I have always been a keen observer of nature, liked being outdoors and liked eating what I harvested from hunting. I have mentioned, a couple of times I think, the reason for the feeder in the backyard was to fatten up the squirrels and have them in an easy location to invite for lunch. Squirrels are good eats and tend to be somewhat batsh*t crazy in their antics, so fun to watch, too. The birds just added to the ambiance of the backyard.

Then we entered into the bird migration season. This part of Kansas is a major corridor for anything going South to North and vice versa. I had located the feeder so I could see it from my chair in the kitchen and kept a binoculars and notebook close to hand. My game camera got pulled off of trapping duty and set up at the feeder, and now it’s a party. Every day, I swap out a 32 Gig data card from the game camera and review the video during morning coffee. In April, the data card would have to be changed again at noon, there was so much activity. Around the third week of May, most birds had switched over to their summer diet of bugs and fruits and the level of activity dramatically declined. Mostly just Mourning Doves, Cowbirds, Cardinals, Crested Titmouse and Indigo Buntings are daily visitors.

In April, when things were wild with activity, droves of Sparrows would descend and gobble up the seed. I would hatch evil plans in my mind and occasionally speak out to the kitchen help with “will no one rid me of these meddlesome pests?” To which the kitchen help would purse her lips in such a way that you knew to put a sock in it and change the subject. Perhaps she does not appreciate being referred to as the kitchen help. In fact, every now and then, I would hear her mumble something that sounded like “Kitchen help, my *ss!”

Back to the birds, come mid May, I had a bit of a surprise. We had only one or two sparrows coming to the feeder. The rest of them headed for some other hills, because these hills were occupied.

What took their place was the brown headed Cowbird. They show up in groups of three to five males, hang out at the feeder Cowbirdsmost of the day and are quite genial to themselves and other birds. Their call is very liquid and they have an amusing way to express themselves. One of them will puff themselves up, much like an 18 wheeler’s air compressor, then when suddenly reaching their designated release point, let all that air out, into a beautiful call. I did not know anything about them, so did some research. To my dismay, they are on my meddlesome, rid me of, list. The Cowbirds are known as a parasitic species, where the female does not even bother to make a nest, she just lays her eggs in other song birds’ nests. And she’s a prolific little hussy, too. She will lay up to 40 eggs in a season, those eggs will hatch sooner than the other bird eggs in the nest, and the foreign hatchlings will grow faster and be more aggressive about smothering their hatch mates, or pitching them out of the nest. You’re thinking, why don’t the bird mothers just throw the weird eggs, that suddenly showed up, out of the nest. We go back to Mom Gaia don’t give a rip. Remember the old saying “she’s bird brained.” You see, most of the birds that find new eggs that don’t even look like their own eggs, don’t recognize the problem, and will raise them as their own. The ultimate in affirmative action.

So the stork shows up, again, and drops off some odd colored bundle of joy, that starts edging your own bundle of joy out of the crib. You see where I’m going with this. Maybe I should have a quiet chat with the Sparrows, make an arrangement for a series of accidents… well, the less said, the better, I guess. And since Sparrows don’t have lips to purse, well, you see where I’m going with this.