Bird Roll Call: March 19, 2018

  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Blue jay
  • Common grackle
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • European starling
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

It was a raining this morning, and I had things to do that didn’t involve observing birds. Still, I saw a few. It was fun watching them come out to eat and play when the rain stopped. The red-winged blackbird was absent, as was the case yesterday. I assume he’s moved on. I put grass seed down yesterday afternoon, and the birds (mainly the juncos with a little help from the white-throated sparrows) ate it all today. So it is when your yard is full of birds. The bunny who has been munching on the grass at night made a daytime appearance at the back of the yard, where old iris leaves were on the menu.

Location — in my backyard.

Bird Roll Call: February 5, 2018

  • American crow (overhead)
  • American goldfinch
  • American robin
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Blue jay
  • Canada goose (overhead)
  • Carolina wren
  • Cooper’s hawk
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Eastern bluebird
  • European starling
  • Gull sp. (overhead)
  • House finch
  • House sparrow
  • Mourning dove
  • Northern cardinal
  • Northern flicker
  • Pine siskin
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • White-throated sparrow

I woke to rabbit tracks crisscrossing the yard, along with areas where the snow had been nosed away so the rabbit could graze on the grass beneath it.

The male and female bluebirds returned. Our birdbath must be one of the only sources of water in the area. I saw them three times throughout the day. Each time, I clapped with joy.

At least one dozen mourning doves took off suddenly and flew over the house. The Cooper’s hawk was perched high in my neighbor’s silver maple. When a Cooper’s hawk arrives, the term birdwatching becomes literal: You are suddenly watching just one bird, the one who has scared off all the others.

After about an hour, the littles started making their way back. They didn’t realize the hawk was still standing sentinel in the tree. Dark-eyed juncos, house finches, northern cardinals, and white-throated sparrows hopped along the fence railing and kicked at the ground. Both chickadees visited the feeders. I was happy to see that they made it through the frigid night. (I saw the Carolina wren later as well, another species that’s especially fragile in extremely cold weather.) One of the chickadees saw the hawk and mounted an attack. It was mob behavior without the mob. Though there wasn’t another bird in sight fighting off the hawk, the chickadee wasn’t deterred.

Birds shot through the sky, veering off course as soon as they saw the hawk. Blue jays arrived and sounded their alarms in unison. The hawk flew off to the east.

A blue jay landed in the sweetgum and found the red-bellied woodpecker’s stash of food in the jagged remains of a branch. I knew that spot wouldn’t remain concealed for long. I suppose the jay earned a reward for protecting the other birds and getting the hawk to move on.

I started taking pictures of the birds. Alarm calls rose and fell throughout the morning and into the afternoon, leaving the yard bereft of birds for swaths of time. But overall, the yard was bustling. By the end of the day, twenty-one species had either come for a visit or flown by overhead. It was a good day.

Location — in my backyard.

Twitter: Midfield

Midfield, / attached to nothing, / the skylark singing. — Basho

First snow, first junco tracks.

A spot of clean ground. This is where the rabbit laid while snow fell.

Sapphire sky beneath a sheet of vellum.

The winter sky has netted a colony of ring-billed gulls.

The chill carried a pine siskin to my yard.

Christmas morning. The Carolina wren sings.

At the top of the sweetgum tree, a tail flicks.

Winter: The dogwood blooms with finches.

House finch: Your crown is dried blood.

Northern flicker: You carry the sun under your wings.

All day I saw the Carolina wren. Still, I felt such loneliness.

We’ve been apart for so long that I can finally think of you fondly.

A little boy rides his new toy up and down the street.

One of the juncos drags its long toenails through the snow.

There and then not there: the chickadee.

The blue jays have me surrounded.

Now the blue jays are gone. They’re off mobbing a hawk.

No shadow like a hawk’s shadow.

When I’m with birds, it doesn’t matter that I’m not with people.

The songbirds exit stage right. The Cooper’s hawk enters stage left.

Winter: A great blue heron slips on a frozen marsh.

Today, a man touched me on the arm. I did not know him.

Twitter: Sewage Creek

I came home to a downy woodpecker, a chipmunk, and a baby bunny. They were all in the yard together.

Walking leaf, you don’t look like the trees in these parts.

Praying mantis, I see you’ve come to my window again tonight.

I was offered a gondola ride on sewage creek. I said no.

Weeds teach me about the wind.

Daylily, how many fragile ribs guard your seeds?

Fall: Leaves flutter in our sentences.

Rain has turned the sweetgum bark tobacco brown.

My friend is standing in a field painting animals.

That perfect time in the garden when everything is dying but nothing is dead.

Lawn moths are the angels of this abandoned prayer labyrinth.

At the old golf course, two kestrels hunt for grasshoppers.

October: The old crabapple’s leaves are dipped in red wine.

Little blue heron, the lake has made a shimmering replica of you.

Night: We move toads off the road so they won’t get run over.

Beneath the harvest moon, the syncopated call of a great horned owl.

In their appliquéd ballgowns, late-blooming azaleas wait for suitors who never arrive.

Twitter: Tack Coat

The tack coat of dawn gives way to the scumble of morning.

Dawn. Hot pink rubbed over midnight blue. Sudden lightning. My dog in my arms, trembling.

A rabbit appears out of nowhere like a lost thought. I think of an old friend.

Some folks decorate their porches but never sit on them.

Little man down there putting away your grill, come out of your garage and look up.

Some people kill birds. Others put out bird feeders.

Tonight’s sunset turned the sky into a cauldron. Below, a thrasher the color of depleted soil foraged quietly beneath a sapling.

Birds define the air.

How do you see the air without the bird? Assume there are no trees.

The cowbells follow one another / Into the distances of the afternoon. — James Wright

In the sky, a great heron goes unnoticed by lovers on a picnic.

A tender young boy watches a pair of red-winged blackbirds as his friends taunt him.

A scissor-tailed flycatcher perches on a stop sign until I get too close with my camera.

The verses are in the land, in the trees before they became paper, in our hearts before they were rewritten by language.

I used to think to be not alone meant / never having to walk through the high wheat / or struggle in the water. — Allison Seay

I just saw a man texting while driving a tractor down a major thoroughfare.

I might be getting too involved with the animals who live in my yard.