Finally, the smell of rain is in the cool morning air, and it's a welcome scent. I water my gardens the old fashioned way, a pail of water at a time. I prefer the natural way, of course, a nice Spring rain.
Hopefully the cool weather has passed, as we drift into June. Time to plant some flower seeds now that the night-time soil is warm. The valley pastureland is lush and green, and the hay fields will soon be ready to mow. I've been doing some spot surveys of the nesting grassland birds in the area. Birds like the Red-winged blackbirds, Meadowlarks and Bobolinks have declined in numbers drastically over the past ten years. It's getting hard to find a colony of nesting Blackbirds. The birds that nest here are spread out, going wherever they can find the tall grass cover they prefer. It's getting rare to see a Meadowlark, a grassland bird that was common along the roadsides just a decade ago.
The Bobolinks, on the other hand, seem to be making a comeback the past couple of years. In fact, it's been a long, long time since I've seen so many here. That's not to say that their numbers are up everywhere, but it's good to see so many of them so close to home. It's not unusual to see 2 or 3 males perched together in a fence line, but this morning I counted 11 sitting together just inches apart—all males. The females are on their nests, hidden in the tall grass of the pasture. I thought it kind of strange to see so many males during the nesting season. They must be very busy, tending to the needs of their mates. Each male may have 2 or 3 females with nests.
Another strange sight was a flock of 18 Sandhill cranes grouped in an open pasture. I don't know if they were all adult males or first-year, none breeders. An adult male usually stands alone, not far from where his mate incubates her two eggs, which will hatch any time now.
I know the Hummingbirds have returned, because I've had several people tell me they had seen one. I heard one buzz over my head two weeks ago while I was on my knees in a flower bed, but I didn't see him. This evening, I was watching a couple of beautiful Orioles as they pecked at the orange halves I put out for them. The truth is, I put the orange halves out for whoever wants to eat them. This spring, I've seen several different birds at the oranges, including catbirds, Red-belleid woodpeckers, Downy woodpeckers, and two kinds of Orioles. From out of nowhere, a little hummingbird appeared. She hovered in front of the orange for about 15 seconds, and zip! She was gone.
The price of fuel has caused a steep hike in the cost of bird seed—not just a modest rise in price, it doubled. The price tag on a dozen oranges? Eight dollars!
To give you a little comparison, I came across a budget list for the month of May, 1967, that noted a 50# bag of sunflower seeds—$5.00—and a dozen oranges, $2. This week's bill for both was $34. Putting a price on Nature is finally beginning to be noticed where it hurts. So what next, do we work harder to make more money and pay for our expensive lifestyles, or do we learn how to cope?
Let me be the first to say that I will go without some other comforts before I give up having the wild birds around me. That alone is priceless.
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