Living Columns & Blogs

Joan Carson: Nursery activity and more

A bird cools off in a puddle next to the sidewalk at the Interior Department in Washington.
A bird cools off in a puddle next to the sidewalk at the Interior Department in Washington. AP file, 2010

Activity among the birds is mixed during the month of June. There is the expected nursery activity throughout our yards, parks and all those places that maintain a healthy bird population. It seems that every other day another family introduces their youngsters to the world.

It’s always interesting to see who is first. Robins are often in the running, and I think that’s who was first to launch some aggressive, heavily-speckled juveniles in our yard. However, it could also have been the juncos. Their offspring have been learning to forage on their own for more than a week.

A few days ago, the bird bath was overflowing with the bushtits’ bouncing brood. It looked like they had five or six youngsters. When these tiny birds are dipping and dunking in the bath, they’re a challenge to count. Right along with these species there were signs that the chestnut-backed chickadees had also brought off a family. The parents were introducing the fluttering little creatures to the lard/oatmeal mix. A family of white-crowned sparrows has been calling their warning note from numerous areas. They’re warning their babies when crows or cats might be in the immediate area.

The hummingbird situation is more difficult to sort out. The Anna’s have their offspring out and about, but I’m not sure about the rufous. There appears to be a lot of juvenile hummers throughout the yard and at the feeders. The actions of two tiny spitfires suggested this when they buzzed me while I was walking across the patio. Hummingbirds have approached just inches from my face and body to look me over. Some have flashed past by shoulders as I walked through the yard. One of these hot rods was really rude. It came close enough to fly under my chin to where I could feel the breeze from its wings. That does give you pause.

While all these young families make things interesting, other activity is equally captivating. Birds that arrived later this spring, and nest later due to needed insect and seed supply, are just beginning to claim their territories. Most have already acquired a mate but are still deciding where they will nest.

Black-headed grosbeaks are singing from the treetops and descending on feeders. That robin-like call, which doesn’t sound quite like a robin, could be a grosbeak. It could also be a Western tanager. Many reports from around the Puget Sound and on the Olympic Peninsula have assured me they are back and in good numbers. Both of these species will be feeding ripening fruit to their youngsters, as well as bringing them to feeding stations.

Our American goldfinches are once again bounding through the air and dining on black sunflower seeds. The pampered ones are enjoying black thistle seeds. It’s their merry calling that makes their presence in the yard an extra treat. So far, we have only one pair, but in other areas where there are thistle patches and open fields, their numbers will be greater.

There is a surprise when it comes to the nesting birds, and I’m not sure just who they are. A pair of flycatchers were checking out a porch light that serves the patio area. I think they are the birds I’ve been hearing for a couple of weeks. To see them considering nesting was exciting. A pair once nested on my sister’s porch light but this has never happened in our yard. I’m hoping they come back and I can get a better look at them. My guess is that they are the Pacific-slope flycatchers.

June is a busy month when it comes to both the resident birds and the summer visitors. Here’s hoping some summer weather will provide us the opportunity to enjoy them.

Write to Joan Carson at P.O. Box 217, Poulsbo, WA 98370. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Or send an email to