Iím enjoying all the bird activity in the yard, with so many colors and so many pretty songs. When asked what bird sings the most beautiful song, I always say that itís the song of the bird Iím listening to at that moment.
As soon as I heard the first oriole song in the Valley, I went to the corner grocery for a couple of dozen oranges. If thereís one thing Iíve learned, itís that orioles love oranges and canít resist them. If you think thereís an oriole nearby and you want to get a closer look at it, put half an orange (cut side up) where you can watch it from a window. Other birds like oranges, too. If it were just the orioles who were eating the oranges, a couple of dozen would last quite a while. With other birds eating them, too, they only last 10 days. The price of oranges has gotten a little steep, but if it means getting to see these beautiful birds close-up, itís worth it.
Iím not surprised to see the red-bellied woodpeckers eating the oranges. They always get the biggest share, especially when their young have hatched. The adults will fill their beaks with orange pulp and take it back to the nest for their babies.
Catbirds are shy, but their songs make up for it. They will venture closer to the house if there is a juicy orange for them to eat. Catbirds add a lot to the bird concerts in the Valley. They are full of themselves, and they are living proof that even gray can be beautiful.
Pretty little goldfinches donít pay any attention to the oranges. They stick to the familiar sunflower seeds. Their cousins, the purple finches always take advantage of the oranges, however, even though they donít eat very much.
A half dozen cowbirds come to the feeders but donít think much of the oranges. Like goldfinches, they prefer sunflower seeds. I try not to think about their lazy nesting habits. Itís kind of an ďout of sight, out of mindĒ attitude, I guess. Thatís when I thought Iíd peek into a robinís nest to see how big the little ones were. To my surprise, there was only one half-grown baby bird in the nest, a cowbird chick. I didnít intervene, but stewed about it for a while.
There are two different male red-winged blackbirds that come to the feeders. How handsome they are. I caught one of them eating next to a rose-breasted grosbeak and a red-bellied woodpecker this morning. They all looked so different from each other, yet they seemed to get along with the same objective in mind: get something to eat. The bird feeder is a common gathering place for all the birds. There are few battle lines drawn and fewer squabbles. Birds that wonít go near each other in their own nesting territory all stand next to each other at the feeder. A few years ago I counted 11 different kinds of birds in a two-by-two foot space at a platform feeder. When it comes to getting food, the old adage ďbirds of a feather flock togetherĒ does not hold true.
Mostly male birds come to the feeders, since most of the females are tending their nests, Iím still seeing female grosbeaks that are either in the process of laying a clutch of eggs or havenít started yet. Guess Iíll know when I donít see them around anymore.
A sandhill crane stands at the edge of a field. Itís a good place to patrol for insects. He doesnít wander far from this area while he waits for his mate and their new family to arrive. No doubt sheís sitting quietly on her nest, out of sight in the tall reeds. Itís a waiting game. Usually, two small, leggy chicks will be the result of all that waiting. Theyíll follow their mother wherever she goes. They are able to run within an hour of hatching. The little crane chicks are only a few inches tall the day they leave the nest, but their weight will nearly double each day for the first couple of weeks. They need to be very well fed! For now, Iíll be watching for a pair of adult cranes and, if Iím lucky, I might see the two little chicks at their feet.
When the sun is out, turtles are out. Like snakes, turtles need to soak up some rays once in a while. You can see them on any sunny day along the Kickapoo River and its backwaters. A large snapping turtle has crawled up on the bank. A softshell turtle suns itself on a half submerged log. I rarely see a Blandingís turtle sunbathing, but there are always lots of painted turtles to see. I keep my eyes open for turtles when I drive the River Road.
A few bright red poppies have opened up and the rest will follow in a few days. There should be a hundred or more, so it will be quite a show. Other than the poppies, thereís not much else blooming in the yard yet, except for some pretty dameís rocket near the stream and the honeysuckle vine at my back door. Iíve seen a hummingbird at both of these plants but havenít been quick enough to get a picture of one yet. Stay tuned!
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