Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.
Some days none of them come, some days some of them come, and some days they all come.
I guess we wake up expecting the middle ground and — somewhere in the back of our minds — we hope for the higher ground. Isn’t it great when we hope for the best and it happens?
That can hold true for just about anything in life, but I’m talking about birds. What else?
One day last weekend was one of those days when all of the birds in the neighborhood were in my backyard. My bedroom window affords views of only the tops of trees and, before heading downstairs to make the morning coffee, I had already seen a downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee and white-breasted nuthatch.
The birds just kept on coming. There’s a feeder hanging outside of the kitchen window and, before the coffee was done brewing, tufted titmice, house finches and hairy woodpeckers joined the list of bird species I’d seen in my yard that day.
I glanced out the kitchen window onto the backyard and noticed white-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos were hopping around the grass and mourning doves were hanging out beneath the feeder. Suddenly, I heard a blue jay and saw it perch on a branch just outside the window.
Not that I was counting, but I had seen 10 species of birds and hadn’t even stepped foot outside yet.
As I was thinking about how nice it was to have seen so many birds already, I looked out a kitchen window that faces a different direction and saw a red-tailed hawk practically right in front of my face. It sensed the movement from inside the house and flew off to a safer perch about three trees away, but still within easy watching distance from the kitchen.
I was surprised that so many of the songbirds were brazenly flitting about when a big, bad hawk was so close by. Had it been a sharp-shinned or Cooper’s hawk, it may have been a different story.
So that made 11 species, including a hawk, and the coffee was just getting poured into the mug. It could have ended there, but I had the whole weekend day ahead of me.
I never set out specifically to look for birds that weekend, but the sightings kept presenting themselves.
I went to get something out of the car and a pair of cardinals hurried into the brush. On my way to the mailbox, a house wren hopped along the stone wall. As I made lunch, minding my own business, I was serenaded to the kitchen window by a Carolina wren singing its heart out, even in winter.
Red-bellied woodpeckers climbed up tree limbs and uttered their strange calls several times throughout the day. It had been days since I’d seen a red-bellied woodpecker in the yard.
It was an odd day, indeed. Odd in a good way, of course. Nothing too out of the ordinary came to the yard, but I was more than happy to welcome the common species that did show.
Sure, it could have been even more spectacular. I didn’t see a brown creeper, goldfinch or kinglet. Come to think of it, a red-breasted nuthatch, fox sparrow or pine siskin wouldn’t have been out of the question during this time of year.
Sure it would have been nice if they would have stopped by, but trust me, I’m not complaining. I had plenty of company that day.