Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in several New England newspaper.
Sorry, but I have to go back to writing about bluebirds. After several weeks of writing about bluebirds that other people had in their yards, I finally got some of my own.
I would imagine no apology is necessary, however, as who doesn’t like to hear, read and talk about bluebirds?
I walked into my sunroom and saw through the window just a flash of a bird out of the corner of my eye. The bird had been perched on one of the arms of the feeder pole system and disappeared into woods behind my house.
That was a bluebird, I know it, I told myself, even though I got only the shortest of looks in my peripheral vision.
I’ve heard of bluebirds dining on suet, but I didn’t think this one was eating the suet. I think it was checking out the feeding station to see if there were mealworms being offered.
At the time, there weren’t. I had a bag of mealworms stashed away in my seed container but they weren’t being offered outside because I had never had any luck attracting bluebirds. I had long given up on them, to be honest.
Other birds, particularly titmice, enjoyed mealworms when I had previously offered them, but no bluebird takers. I figured my wooded location was working against me enough to prevent me from getting them. But I kept an eye open as I have seen them briefly in the trees in my backyard before, mostly in winter. It had been a few years though. My alertness has been higher as of late, however, as so many people have written in this winter to tell me about the bluebirds they have been seeing at their feeders. Now I can officially, in my very unofficial capacity, call it the Winter of the Bluebird. It joins past “Winter of” birds such as snowy owl, barred owl, American robin and dark-eyed junco.
After seeing the bluebird flee, I rushed to sprinkle some mealworms on the railing of the deck. Within 15 minutes, a bright blue male bluebird landed on the deck and started helping himself. His stay was brief, maybe two minutes, but a female took his place and remained much longer. They dined together that day only once and for a very brief time.
They visited periodically throughout the day and I wondered if they would return the next day.
My question was answered immediately as I woke up the next morning to four bluebirds, two female and two male, on my deck railing. I was so tempted to wake up my 16-year-old son, who had missed the previous day’s visit. He’s a bear to wake up for important matters, let alone to see a few bluebirds. I mean, bluebirds at the feeder is a big deal to me and he would find it interesting, but not nearly as cool as I found it. I let him sleep and hoped the bluebirds would still be around when he woke up. They were and he found it interesting, but as expected, not as significant as I did. Oh well, I was happy to get a least a little response out of him.
Will, my 13-year-old, had the next day off from school. I had to go to work, unfortunately. I left him with the camera and instructions to get some photos if any bluebirds showed up. Not blue jays, I told him, bluebirds. I made sure he knew there was a difference. He said he did and was as annoyed as you’d expect a 13-year-old to be when told something he already knows. Since bluebirds and titmice have somewhat similar colors and I get tons of titmice at the feeders, I felt it was necessary to explain the differences between the birds. He disagreed. I got it, Dad, he said, this time a bit more annoyed.
“OK, OK, I’m going to work,” I said.
To my pleasant surprise, Will called me at work a few hours later and had a tinge of excitement in his voice. “Dad, your birds were here. I got some photos.”
I got home later still half expecting to see photos of tufted titmice. Again, to my pleasant surprise, there were several nice shots of Eastern bluebirds. I should have trusted him from the beginning. He got some nice photos of other birds too. That’s my boy.
After all your wonderful sightings and reports I finally got some of my own. I appreciate your input on this Winter of the Bluebird. You kept up my hopes through the years and months of not seeing them. I appreciate it.