My backyard has been alive with birds lately. Every time I fill my seed feeders, they get swamped with finches and, sometimes, there are so many juncos feeding on the ground that at a quick glance the earth appears to be moving.
Generally, I don’t “dead head” my gardens in the fall, instead I let the spent flower heads go to seed. Over the winter, these natural seeds have been feasted on by the birds and with spring quickly approaching, the seeds are now gone. It is probably one reason why my feeders are so active right now.
This winter, I noticed that the scrubby apple tree which sits on the property line with our neighbors was full of old apples. The deer feasted on those that fell, often showing up right at dusk. Over the winter, the kinglets and robins feasted on the apples left hanging. The few apples that remain either taste so bad they are unpalatable even for the birds, or something better is getting the birds’ attention.
Of course, all the song bird activity in our yard is attracting attention of another sort. This big guy (or gal, I can’t tell) in the photo below, showed up the other morning and sat our on back fence scrutinizing the breakfast options. The junco hiding in my lavender bushes finally lost its nerve and flew off, the hawk in quick pursuit. I have no idea of the eventual outcome.
Earlier this winter, I watched as a hawk chased a chickadee in circles in the bush beside my feeder. I was amazed that the hawk could fly among the branch like that. The chickadee, which was swifter and more agile in the tight spaces, never left the safety of the bush and the hawk finally gave up and left.
I was reminded of all this activity, when I checked my email this morning and saw that it is time again for the Great Backyard Bird Count. For the past two years, I have joined a group of birders at the Row River Nature Park for their annual count, and two years ago, I did a count myself in our backyard. If you’ve never been on a bird walk and are even slightly interested in learning more about birds, I strongly recommend one. The birders that I’ve joined locally are friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable.
The local, Cottage Grove, bird count is happening on Saturday morning (February 14). You can learn more about it on the Coast Fork Willamette Watershed Council web site. The Great Backyard Bird Count is happening all weekend, from February 13-15.