Are you fascinated by birds, their ability to escape the confines of earth with flight, their marvelous color patterns and not in the least, their song?

Have you complied a life list over the years? What are your favorites among those birds you have seen and heard?

Having watched and studied birds most of my life and compiled a substantial life list from various parts of the country and beyond, I have my favorites amongst the group and they are now prominently displayed on the wall in my great room as seen on the right.

It might even be fun to include your state bird in the center of that group. I am in the process of including all the state birds in my collection. Enter the gallery by clicking on any of the images or on the gallery link above, and see what you like.

Robins galore!

It is the first day of April and this is no fool’s joke. My backyard and the pasture are quite littered with robins. They are passing through our neighborhood to parts known only to them. Several will stay to take up residence in ideal robin nesting locations. The group is comprised mostly of males with several females along for the journey. The ground is barren devoid of last winter’s snow and an ideal hunting ground for worms and a variety of bugs. When they discover my garden bed covered with mounds of last fall’s leaves, there are at least thirty of them who delight in turning over the leaf litter with their beaks to uncover hidden morsels that found seclusion and security during the winter months underneath. Tomorrow or the next day, they will be gone and we wish them safe travels along the way.

Sky diving

It’s still March, but the weather has turned warm as spring knocks on the proverbial door. The sky is a leaden winter grey and blustery with the March wind evident. Looking out toward the hill behind the farmhouse beyond the pasture, now devoid of snow, I happen to notice the raven pair who have taken up residence on the mountain hillside over the past many years taking advantage of the air currents as they boil and buffet high over the crest of the hill. They fly in unison as they dive close together and then swoop high aloft side by side. Presently another raven appears and joins the aerial ballet. Then three more ravens appear and join the play. Before long, I count thirteen ravens diving and swooping as a group, sometimes in twos and threes and at other times, meeting together to swoop, dive and roll with the air currents. They continue this behavior for several hours, sometimes disappearing beyond the ridge and then again soaring high above to catch another breeze.

The seasons are changing

In spite of the bitter cold temperatures over the last week or so, there is the promise of spring in the air. Three male Red-winged Blackbirds have arrived at my feeders. The males are the first to head north so as to check out the local landscape and compete for the best nesting sites. The females will show up after these guys have set up shop. One lone male Common Grackle has also arrived ahead of his flock. This morning I had about five Common Redpolls show up along with the single Hairy Redpoll that has been with us for most of the latter winter season. These birds will be loading up on their fat reserves by visiting our feeders stocked with sunflower meats. This should see them through to their far northern nesting grounds. Safe travels and look forward to your return next winter.

Today’s the day!

Today is the day the barn swallows fledged! Morning arrived sunny and warm. While hanging bedsheets on the clothesline, I overhead the familiar squeeks and warbles of barn swallows. (I affectionately call them “barnies”.) They are one of my favorite birds and I anxiously anticipate their arrival in May. This year, they chose various mud nests in the horses’ run-in shed from years past ; once selected, they updated and improved them. After laying eggs, brooding and feeding youngsters, today was the day for the young ones to try their wings. Can you just imagine being snuggled tightly in a nest with your siblings, squirming and jostling for a good comfortable position, competing for the insect tidbits brought by parents. As the space becomes too difficult to manage, the young birds will look elsewhere to reside. Today with encouragement from their parents, they hesitated, but finally spread their wings and dropped into the air. I can imagine what it must have felt like to go from such cramped quarters to the freedom of the air and the wide world outside. There were eight of them swooping and diving, benching and turning, up high and then down low over the ground to just rise again over the pasture fence. As I hung my sheets, they would fly low over my head, squeaking exuberantly to each other; the sheer delight was evident. It appeared to me that the parents were showing them how to swoop, dive and rise in the air. Sometimes they would land on the farmhouse roof, and then just as quickly, take off again, enjoying the aerial acrobatics that are their nature to own. What a great start to one’s day, both for me and them.

Yin and yang

Boy was I wrong! I thought spring had won control over the climate a week or so ago. Now, every day the weather vacillates between spring and winter. Yesterday was beautiful, a cloudless sky, warm 59 degrees and perfect for raking leaves and uncovering flower beds to see what has poked up through the soil. I was encouraged to see the daffodil leaves clustered together and spikes of hostas ready to burst forth. Then today, it is 25 degrees, overcast with snow flurries and a very brisk wind. This has been the pattern over the past week. I am hopeful as I know the end of this tale will be where spring wins out in the end.

Resident Kestrel

I was thrilled to see a male Kestrel take up residence in my pasture. I believe he was here with his mate last year. He has been making use of the bluebird houses in the field to scan for mice. He returns to his favorite perching house time and time again. He sometimes varies his outlook posts by sitting on the upmost vertical branch of a sapling. I have not seen a female as yet, but I am hopeful.

COVID-19 Virus masks

My state, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has requested that we used masks when we have to venture out into the world. As mentioned, they wish we would use homemade masks whenever possible as the surgical masks and N95 masks are critical for the health care personnel. I found a site on the internet which I used to create a mask for myself using a cloth napkin and two rubber bands. When complete, I inserted a section of paper towel to the inside as recommended from another source. It works very well and rather stylish if I do say so myself. Good luck with yours and stay safe and well.

Mellow yellow

It is the first week in April here in the Berkshire hills. The snow has lost the battle with spring which has now gained a firm hold on the land. Trees are still bare, but if you look closely, the leaf buds are swollen and ready to burst forth. The blackbirds are competing for nesting territory with their rancorous song. Male robins are scattered across the pastures possibly moving further north leaving a few to settle here to raise families. The greated contrast came , however, with the American Goldfinches. The females have melded into the background with their soft yellow and dusky feathers. The males are in various stages of their formal brilliant yellow dress for summer, some in full attire while others are transitioning from their winter drab garb.

Betwixt and between

It seems as we move haltingly between one season and the next, winter is loathe to give up its grip. One day the ground is warmed by sunny, cloudless skies. The battalions of returning migrant robins, grackles, blackbirds and starlings take advantage of the exposed brown earth as they spread out over the pasture searching for grubs and insects. They search endlessly, poking the earth, turning over leaves and small sticks in hopes of finding a delicious morsel to consume. Then the air turns cold and one wakes up to a world of white covering the fields and the bare branched trees under a leaden sky. This contest for seasonal dominance continues weekly through the month of March and into April. We know what the eventual outcome will be as spring aided by its constant ally the ever present sun wins out in the end.

Spring has sprung!

I have been tracking bird spring migration arrivals since 2000 when we moved back to the farmhouse. This year the daffodils began poking through the soil the last week of February on the warm south side of the house. What a surprise and I giddy with expectation of things to come. Then a lone Common Grackle spotted my bird feeders in the honeysuckle bush on March 1st. Here again, the arrival was about 2 weeks early at my 1730 elevation in western Massachusetts. The following days saw the arrivals of Red-winged blackbirds, a Song Sparrow and the rest of the black birds who announced their arrival with a cacophony of trills, squeaks and crackles (music to my ears!) As the second week of March rolled around, the temperature climbed into the high 60’s and dropped into the 20’s at night (perfect for sugaring with the sweet scent of maple syrup in the air). The robins are beginning to return and one female bluebird has been scouting out the summer accomodations located strategically in the pasture.