For the Birds: Sights of summer

Everyone loves summer. Beaches, barbecues, beer festivals.

Birds? Not so much. At least not when compared to spring and fall migration periods, or the busy feeder activity ahead of a New England snowstorm.

Summer is a fun time to watch young birds being raised if you are lucky enough to witness that spectacle. Along with that, however, comes the fact that many birds are trying to stay hidden as much as possible until the young are ready to venture into the world.

The waterfront — with its waders and shorebirds — is usually the best place to be during the summer if you want to see birds. That was true the other day when Katie and I took a walk and heard yellowlegs in the distance and spotted a great blue heron on the top of a pine tree. The dusk sun gave the heron an orange glow.

But this summer is also hopping away from the water. Catbirds, blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves, nuthatches and Carolina wrens are constant companions in my yard. Goldfinches are coming around in force now as well.

Speaking of backyard birds, Stephen from Keene offered a tip in response to last week’s column about cleaning bird feeders. He cleans his feeders regularly using vinegar instead of bleach as he feels it’s safer for the birds. It’s a good and timely tip as feeders should be cleaned frequently in the summer.

In the woods, I’ve heard more veeries than I can ever remember hearing. The veery is a type of thrush with a strange up and down flute-like song that reminds me of the old Space Invaders video game. I’m glad they aren’t invaders from another dimension because I’ve heard so many of them this summer. Every walk seems to be accompanied by the strange song.

One day last week, I pulled into a parking lot and scanned the scene. A black-crowned night heron flew across the far side of a pond and settled into a tree. Grackles and red-winged blackbirds provided action in the foreground. A Canada goose caught my eye in another area of the water. Then I noticed a male wood duck sitting on the grass just beyond the goose. Wood ducks are notoriously wary, but this guy seemed fairly comfortable in close proximity to the parking lot.

Most wood duck sightings are from great distances or of the back end of one flying away with the duck’s “oo-week, oo-week” call tauntingly fading away. I was grateful for the close and long view of this beautiful duck, which was still (or already) in its gaudy breeding plumage.

It also seems to be a good year for eastern kingbirds. I’ve gone entire summers when I’ve seen one or two of the handsome, fierce birds. This summer, it seems, I’ve seen dozens of them in different locations. I think of kingbirds as a rural bird, but several of the sightings have been in very suburban — even bordering urban — locations. I’ll take the sightings where I can get them.

Here’s hoping summer keeps it up. If nothing else, August is a great time to wander into New England’s fields and meadows. The bobolinks are much quieter, but the butterflies, dragonflies and other insects are fun to observe and photograph.

What are you seeing out there this summer? Drop me a line and let me know

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