Love is in the air

Spring is upon us and suddenly the woods are alive with avian romance. White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos that have kept us company throughout the winter have have migrated north and we welcome back songbirds that spend half their lives elsewhere. Seeds and suet, rich in protein, were ready for their arrival to provide the energy they need.

Two mated pairs of rose-breasted grosbeaks recently arrived from their winter in Panama and northern South America and are being well-fed at separate feeders.

Two male ruby-throated hummingbirds arrived a week ago and each claimed a different feeder as his own. They fuss across the branches but no fights yet… and, sigh, no lady loves either. It may take a week or two before the females arrive. Instead of hovering and guarding their food, they spend time staking out the best territory for breeding and sit high in the treetops as if scouting for the arrival of the first female. Then the fights may begin.

One male is very approachable and will hover inches from me each time I drag out the hose to water the baby grass or fill the birdbath. All he wants is a nice mist shower. I follow him to a branch where he flaps his wings and washes every feather for at least 5 minutes.

Male Ruby Throated HummingbirdOne of my favorite bird species, the gray catbird, is now frequenting the feeding area, flitting here and there, in a shrub, on a limb, running across the ground, on the suet, and then the feeder. The pair is vocal, mewing and repeating the calls of a number of other birds, as they forage for insects and enjoy sunflower seeds. I added a ground water bath that they especially love.

gray catbird in the ground bathFour varieties of woodpeckers, all paired off, visit the suet along with pairs of nuthatches, titmouse, bluejays, and chickadees.

Whether watching plump mourning doves, two by two, pad quietly beneath the feeders looking for spilled seeds or the sweet affection of a male cardinal feeding his mate, we both agree that birdwatching is an amazing experience in the spring.

 

4 thoughts on “Love is in the air

  1. We love this writing. Other than gardening, our favorite pastime is watching, recognizing, and listening and talking to our bird friends. We were excited to see on Friday a pair of brown thrashers, which are rare in this yard. We see them every year, but they disappear. Their habits of ground-scratching while foraging for food make them particularly susceptible to the (my) enemy: the house cat.

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    • Because we didn’t have robins on the Virginia seashore, we are intrigued with them, too. It makes sense that they’d like to nibble the suet bits that fall on the ground but it surprised me when I saw them fly to the suet and eat it like a woodpecker! I’m sure others have seen this behavior.

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    • Even if you don’t feed them, it’s great fun to watch them and learn more about species and behaviors in the different habitat. We always take binoculars on walks. We wouldn’t want to miss all the warblers that are arriving!

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