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

Summer Tanager

I heard an unfamiliar song coming from the treetops.  As I looked up, there sat an adult male Summer Tanager preforming one of his chatter calls.  Not normally one that I see in my yard, he was an unexpected and welcome surprise.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and … perhaps a singing bird will come.”  ~Chinese Proverb

A Little Wren

Last year, a little wren built a nest in the eaves of my back patio to raise her young.  This year, she decided to relocate to a patio table and tuck the nest between a bale of straw and two wicker flower baskets which are sitting against a wall.

One afternoon I was sitting out on a bench a short distance from the patio, unaware that she had relocated, when she decided that it would be a good time to work on the new nest. My presence, however, was intruding upon her plans.

Despite my proximity, she proceeded to bring pine needles, dried leaves and bits of moss to form her new home. 

I have to say that I admired her courage and tenacity.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”  ~Nelson Mandela

A Sunning Blue Jay

This week I saw a Blue Jay sunning on a log in my backyard. It fluffed its feathers, spread its wings, fanned its tail feathers and tilted its head to the side with its beak open, and soaked up the sun.

“Some old fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Picking out the Seeds

A male Indigo Bunting busily picking seeds from the heads of tall vegetation along the roadside.

I’ve learned to keep things simple. Look at your choices, pick the best one, then go to work with all your heart.”  ~Pat Riley

Red-winged Blackbird

In the spring, the sound of the male Red-winged blackbird echoes out across grassy fields and marshy areas as he noisily defends his territory, puffing up and proudly displaying his ornate red and yellow shoulder patches.

The song of the streaky-brown female can also be heard as she moves stealthily through tall grass in search of food and weaving material for her nest.  Her dull color helps to provide camouflage as she sits in her nest, located close to the ground.

“In spring more mortal singers than belong
To any one place cover us with song.
Thrush, bluebird, blackbird, sparrow, and robin throng.”
~Robert Frost