Jackpot

Sometimes when we drive along Mississippi River farmland we see very little. On our last drive, however, we hit the jackpot. A field dotted with beautiful Great Egrets and a single string of White Pelicans fishing in standing water graced the landscape.

“A philosophy of life: I’m an adventurer, looking for treasure.” ~Paulo Coelho

Flitting In the Treetops

Walking along the boardwalk, you could hear the lively chirping of birds as they fluttered among the branches high up in the tops of the bald cypress trees.

One of the most visible was the Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler which weaved in and out of the branches, flashing its bright yellow rump and sides as it searched for insects.

An energetic female Red-winged Blackbird clung to branches and did acrobatics as she used her beak to pick treats from among the greenery.

The most flashy of the birds was the Prothonotary Warbler with its bright yellow feathers. Migrating here in early spring, it spends the breeding season nesting and hunting for its favorite diet of insects and snails.

What a delight to be able to hear and observe these busy little birds.

“Spring would not be spring without bird songs.” ~Francis M. Chapman

Recent Sightings

Reelfoot Lake and the land along the Mississippi levee are favorite places to go for bird-watching. While some birds live there year-round, others migrate in and out at various times of the year, so you never know what you’re going to see. Here are some which were spotted between January and April.

Expect nothing.  Live frugally on surprise.”  ~Alice Walker

Common Grackles

The grackles are a boisterous and bossy bunch at the feeders, and yet their behavior is suddenly forgiven when the light hits their glossy-black feathers, and beautiful iridescent colors magically appear.

When not feeding, they often sit in groups in the treetops, bellowing a loud and rather unmelodious song.

“The grackles are here and that is quite clear.
The morning is ringing, – not with their singing,
But with their talking, they’re piping and squawking . . .”
~Clarence Hawkes

Cedar Waxwings

I’m always glad to hear the shrill whistle of Cedar Waxwings. We’ve had a small flock sitting in our bushes and drinking from the bird bath this week.

“If you can hear the birds singing, you’re in the right place.” – Benny Bellamacina

Then Came the Sandhill Cranes

Late on a cold, crisp afternoon, I stepped outside to get a breath of fresh air and take in some of nature’s sights and sounds before nighttime fell on our little part of the world.

A small flock of cedar waxwings, with their high-pitched whistles, flitted about in the sky before temporarily settling in the top of one of our maple trees.

A group of grackles shared an adjoining maple tree, the males puffing out their feathers and bellowing out raspy squeaks in an attempt to outdo each other.

A robin peered down at me from its perch in the top of a neighbor’s tree.

Then I heard them — the faint and familiar sound of a bird that I have been looking forward to seeing since they returned to their wintering grounds at a nearby refuge.  Flying high above, they slowly came into sight — my first seasonal glimpse of the Sandhill Cranes.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” ~Maya Angelou

Watching the Birds

One of my favorite “relaxing places” is on a bench in our backyard.  From there, I can sit and watch the birds as they busily search for seeds and berries or perch on sunlit branches to soak up the sun. I enjoy hearing the different songs they sing and watching their interactions with each other. It always amazes me how quickly they scatter at the first sound of danger, and then just as quickly, reappear as if nothing happened. I find that these little breaks with nature can be calming and uplifting for the soul.

“I don’t feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them.” ~Kathi Hutton

Tailless Wren

Whether from molting or escaping a predator, this wren has no tail feathers. That doesn’t seem to hinder him from doing normal activities such as flying and eating. Over time, his tail feathers will begin to grow in.

“Well, either a tail is there or it isn’t there. You can’t make a mistake about it. And yours isn’t there!” ~A. A. Milne

Lying in Wait

One afternoon I went out to change the hummingbird feeders which hang up outside our back screen porch. As I started to reach across the rose bush branches to replace the bottles, I saw it. Stretched out and wrapped in neatly among the stems, lay a non-venomous gray ratsnake.

I immediately jumped back, and may or may not have let out a startled scream. As I studied the situation, a little hummingbird came and landed on a branch a few inches from the snake’s mouth. Then it hit me. This snake, which is handy to have around because it kills rodents, was probably also after the hummingbirds.

I was hoping that the snake would be scared by my presence and slither away. But it remained motionless and resolute. My husband came out and encourage him to move on.

I hoped that that would be the end of his hiding on the branches near the feeders. But the next evening, there the snake sat again. As I mulled it over during the night, I realized what I had to do. So early the next morning before the hummingbirds showed up, I went out and cut back the branches of the rose bushes which provided the snake a place to lie in wait.

This turned out to be an unpopular decision with the hummingbirds, who lost their favorite branches to perch on and guard the nearby feeders. And I do miss having a front row seat from my rocker inside the screen porch. Now after getting a drink from the feeders, they tend to fly away to bushes further out in the yard. But still, the more I think about it, the more I know it was the right choice for the hummingbirds’ survival.

I’m pretty sure that I now know why the cardinal eggs disappeared from their nest at the end of the porch a couple of weeks ago.

“Decisions are the hardest move to make, especially when it’s a choice between what you want and what is right.” ~Unknown