Birds

I was sitting down to dinner in early May when I felt or saw a shadow flash down the window beside me. I leaped from my chair and peered out the window.  An eagle had plunged from on high and had pinned one of our ducks on the lawn.  I dashed out the back door clapping my hands, shouting in a loud voice. The rush and noise from its blind side must have startled the eagle because it released the duck and flew into a nearby alder tree.  The very relieved duck ran wildly to the pond amongst sheltering rushes.  The eagle had stayed too close to our flock of ducks, so I grabbed a broom and ran onto the lawn waving it above my head.  The eagle flew away. The duck was okay.

There seems to be more blackbirds around this year, including Brewer’s blackbird, the Redwing blackbird and Starlings.  I’ve been quite amused to see bold Brewer’s chasing away much larger crows, and even some raptors.  Last year, some were dive-bombing any dog that came too close to my neighbour’s hedge.  Not so amusing, this year they have been diving at me! Shades of Alfred Hitchcock! The first time I was mowing the lawn.  Later, watching these birds from the safety of my living room, I observed a couple of greyish immature blackbirds being fed by their parents. I believe these parent birds must have been protecting their young. Interestingly, the parents were feeding on the lawn alongside a number of robins and very much resembling the robins.  Recently I was startled by a female blackbird near a dense shrub on the lawn.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say I must have startled the mother blackbird. Then she seemed to flutter away, close to me to distract me from its nest.  Its excited chirping attracted the father blackbird which also came to distract me.  By watching the opposite direction I was able to discern the location of the nest. One of the reasons these blackbirds are so visible is that they seem to like sitting on the backs of our sheep. A little observation shows why the blackbirds are so successful in our area.

Spring would not be complete without the antics of male hummingbirds.  These little fliers will sit in a high tree, dive straight down, then pull out and up while making chip, chip, chip noises.  Apparently they do this to attract a little female hummingbird who is watching from a nearby bush.  But why do they wait until someone is walking by to do this?   I have been dive bombed several times this year, in several different locations.  There hasn’t been any likelihood of being struck by these diving acrobats, but they really seem to come close.  Are they just trying to impress their lady friends?

We also seem to have more tree swallows this year.  Tree swallows are my favourite bird, with their acrobatic dashing and swooping, as they snatch insects out of the air.  The tree swallows arrived here on the last week of March, which was at least one month earlier than I usually see them.  This coincided with the couple of weeks of hot weather we had in April.  However, just now I see them taking in nest building materials into the birdhouses we put up.  They seem to like the feathers of other birds, of which there are plenty around here from ducks and chickens.  One day, years ago our family was watching some swallows carrying feathers, when a swallow dropped the feather it was carrying.  But it swooped down on the errant feather and caught it in mid air.  My son picked up a feather off the ground, and timing the return of the swallow flicked the feather into the air.  Sure enough, the bold little swallow, who does not seem to be afraid of people, flew down and grabbed that airborne feather!

There is a new bird in the neighbourhood this year.  Called the Eurasian collared dove, it is considered to be an invasive species, like starlings.  The male dove appears to be setting out a territory as it flies from tree to power line to tree, cooing.  It coos throughout the day, loud but difficult to locate. The sound is a very distinctive coooo-coo-coo, with the cadence for the morse code for letter D. But sometimes it sounds like the letter G, so who knows what they are saying?

Posted in A View from the Outside, Columns, June 2013

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