It was one of those moments when two opposing forces collide. I was coming around the corner of the house intent on watering some plants. The red crossbill was dropping down through the plum tree headed for the feeder. That’s when something moist hit my arm. The crossbill pooped on me. The chances of that happening are pretty slim to nonexistent. The incident illustrates the nonstop bird activity now taking place in our yard. Birds everywhere and most of them are this year’s young.
My earlier concern about a struggling robin population has vanished. Every day, the familiar chirp of a young robin can be heard. They are following their parents around the yard begging loudly and complaining they are starving. This has been going on for weeks and at first I thought it was “our” robins from the nest in the apple tree. However, more youngsters have continued to appear, proving there were more broods than we realized.
Lately, the first morning sound to greet us is the nuthatch chorus, or “bugle corps.” Their nasal, “enk, enk, enk” continues off and on all day. Why these young red-breasted nuthatches appear more noisy than earlier broods is a puzzle. It seems the youngsters are in constant contact with their siblings and their parents as they forage through the trees and underbrush. A good part of the nonstop calling must be the parents. After all, they have several very busy and independent offspring to monitor.
Hummingbird activity usually drops off sometime in July but not now. The growing numbers of Anna’s hummingbirds residing in more and more yards year-round is the reason. The hummingbird activity goes on all day. Activity at the syrup feeders may be down but that only makes sense. There is an abundance of flowering trees and plants providing the birds with nectar and the “bug-protein” they require. Their hot-rod chases are great entertainment but also startling. The young birds aren’t the only ones that dart over your shoulder or close behind your back. It’s often an adult male who seems to be engaging in a little “human-buzzing,” but he is probably disciplining an upstart juvenile.
While much of this summer activity takes place in the yard or at the feeders, a major gathering place is the bird bath. Everyone needs water and birds not interested in feeders will come to bird baths and other manmade water features. The common bushtits, Swainson’s thrush, Pacific-slope flycatcher and brown creeper are favorites of mine. The bushtit mob is like a swarm of bees when they hit the bath and they never fail to entertain. The other three species are harder to see even when they reside in the yard and their need for water lets us also enjoy them.
Two species that vie with the robins, finches and chickadees for the greatest numbers are the song sparrows and the towhees. Both appear to have had multiple and successful nestings. The young of both species look quite a bit alike. Right now there appears to be an abundance of “dark sparrows” wherever you look. Sometimes, they are even poking and prying around plants and flowerpots near your feet. When they are feeding young, they seem unafraid.
One group of birds absent from the action in the yard is the Steller’s jays. These wily rascals become so quiet and secretive when they are nesting that they appear to disappear. They don’t want the crows to discover their nests or their newly fledged young. Any day now, the young jays will be adding their own style of entertainment to the yard while more loud voices join the cacophony that signals late summerWrite to Joan Carson, PO Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. (or email firstname.lastname@example.org)