The virus may have shut down much of the rest of the world, but it sure hasn’t bothered the birds on Charlie Brown Road. Maybe it’s because I’m not physically able to do much else other than watch them, but if we’ve ever had as many songbirds in our yard as we’ve had in 2020, I wasn’t paying attention.
During June we had nests of wrens, cardinals, bluebirds, tree swallows, robins and three different species of sparrows at the same time, all within 75 feet of our front porch. Mockingbirds, northern flickers, orioles, goldfinches, eastern kingbirds, bluejays and a pair of black billed cuckoos apparently nested in the tree lines on either side of our yard and within 200 yards of the house.
We heard the cuckoos (I call them rain crows) far more often than we saw them. In fact, until recently, I had not actually seen one in years despite hearing them almost daily every year we’ve lived here. Google black billed cuckoo sounds and turn the volume up. The call is very distinctive and if you spend any time near the woods, chances are very good that you will recognize the sound. If it looks like rain, you may also hear one late at night. They are usually very reclusive and generally reside in dense woods. I have no idea why this pair decided to become more sociable but I hope they intend to stick around.
Before you drive to our place with plans to observe the ever elusive black billed cuckoo, please be advised that I’ve seen one or both of them about half a dozen times since early May and been close enough to make a positive identification. On all but one occasion, I heard one of them calling from one of the half dozen fruit trees in our backyard and I snuck around the house enough to see it.
I’ve seen two at the same time twice in May, which leads me to believe they were nesting nearby. Then, early one morning last week, one of them flew into the birdfeeders outside our dining room window and proceeded to perch there for a minute or two as if it owned the place, before flying off to wherever rain crows like to go.
And speaking of owning the place, we’ve had a pair of cardinals and another of barn swallows that have no qualms at all about making themselves at home and acting like family. They don’t light on our hands but they are totally unafraid when we walk within reach of them. The swallows got a bit perturbed for a couple of days when their brood of three fledglings was learning to fly, but the young cardinals simply left without incident and are already coming to the dining room feeder. They look so much alike that I can’t tell whether there are three or four of them.
At least two or maybe three young bluebirds are in the yard every day and they are already helping their parents prepare for another brood of siblings. Three young eastern kingbirds show up at the feeder around midmorning with just one of their parents and one big male bluejay often flies onto the porch rail as if he’s trying to see what I’m smoking. He snatched a bill full of Captain Black from my porch swing tobacco pouch one morning when I was headed back indoors and apparently did not find it appealing. At least he has not tried again.
The only bird that has me a bit concerned is the self-proclaimed king of the front yard. If I’m watching the feeders and suddenly every bird in sight flies off in alarm, I know what’s coming. The largest, most arrogant mockingbird I’ve ever seen will fly onto all the shepherd’s hooks Loretta has scattered about to hangs stuff on and systematically light on top of every one of them sometime during the day. Then he will wait until he sees me watching and poop on anything below them.
He will flog at any bird that dares stay on the feeders. Even bluejays, nearly twice his size, take off in terror. We have 25 tomato plants that my brother, Andy, has caged in the garden and they are all setting fruit that is two or three weeks from ripening. He checks on them daily.
Loretta loves the rascal but she doesn’t know how much trouble that bird is going to be in the first time I catch him pecking at or pooping on a ripe tomato.