A Homestead “Bird Count”

By , April 24, 2019

Around the homestead, we don’t so much bird watch as bird listen. At least at first.

We host a lot of birds on our property, more so in the spring and summer. We love the company, as one sees reflected in our blog posts about them, such as Birdsongs 101: a Class that Bears Repeating and Songbird Central to name two.

Right now, we’re noticing new arrivals, and the absence of some we usually hear and/or see this time of year.

Pacific wren

A Pacific wren holds forth near the veranda (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger)

The earliest arrivals are, of course, the ones that never left. Many birds, including Pacific wrens and chickadees, live here year ’round. We tried to reduce our brush heaps on the beaches ahead of the Pacific wren nesting season, as the little males like to build several nests each in a brush pile. They apparently take their mates on a tour of them, choosing one to lay eggs in, while the others provide decoys to predators. Last weekend, a tiny wren stood tall atop one of the brush heaps and sang his challenge, so now we’ll leave that pile alone till next autumn (see an old Pacific wren nest here).

Pacific wren

The same Pacific wren, having made its point, fades back into the undergrowth (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

We’re hearing ruby crowned kinglets and varied thrushes in our forest now. The kinglets have taken over the dooryard for the moment, zipping around in pursuit of each other as they try to establish dominance. They’ll soon get edged out by hummingbird wars.

We’ve been waiting for the hummingbirds to arrive. Friends in town are already seeing them at their feeders, but we’ve only seen a single one at this writing, which showed up Monday during a 50-knot storm. He could barely hang onto the perch long enough to drink from our feeder!

Robins, while not so eager to visit our shady eastern location, love Mud Bay. One recent day I glanced up as I approached the road, and casually counted at least 12 individuals foraging in the beach grass. I’m not used to seeing robins move in flocks!

The surf scoters have begun to raft up on the waters out front. We have yet to see the large gatherings that will come soon, but the process has begun, at least.

In addition to the ducks, we see more loons lately. When we begin to see the black heads of the Bonaparte gulls, we’ll know the herring are here, or will arrive very shortly.

Aly and I may have found a new sapsucker nest just above our trail where it passes behind the cabin. We might have seen a male excavating a cavity in the tree. We probably won’t know for sure until the brief period when the fledglings fuss for feed as loudly as a car alarm. That will prove interesting if they really do nest that close to the cabin. We’ll have a couple of weeks at least when things get really noisy!

This will all explode in the coming days, weeks, and month. Quite likely, this “bird count” has become obsolete between writing and posting. But, consider it a snapshot of what we’re seeing—and hearing—at this particular moment.

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