Crossing Paths With Guinea Fowls

While out driving in the country, we were surprised to see three guinea fowls scuttle across a roadside ditch and up into a yard. 

Also surprised by our unexpected presence, they let out a unique and rather loud bunch of screeches as they quickly headed in the opposite direction. 

Being a native of Africa, and previously only having seen them at a zoo, they were one of the last birds that we had expected to come upon. 

This raised my curiosity about why guinea fowls would be roaming around in a yard way out in such a rural area.  It turns out that raising guineas is becoming more common and has several benefits.  They roam free in yards and gardens and are persistent in their pursuit of pesky insects (including fleas, ticks, flies, and mosquitoes), spiders and small animals such as rodents.  They are also excellent at sounding the alarm if predators such as snakes, foxes or raptors or intruders such as unexpected humans are about.  And, of course, they are a good source of eggs and meat. While raising guineas has many positive benefits, it’s also a good idea to keep in mind that these birds tend to be very noisy, are not very domesticated and can harass smaller birds and chickens which also live on the property.

“I’ll see you when the road decides it’s time for our paths to cross again.” ~Ben Maxfield

Watching the Woodpeckers

I’ve been seeing a male Red-bellied Woodpecker flying from tree to tree in the backyard. Occasionally he ventures to the feeder to grab a sunflower seed. The other day, he took a seed and flew to a high branch of one of the pine trees, where an immature woodpecker was waiting. It was fun watching the two interact and then fly off in the same direction.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” – Clarence Budington Kelland

A Bald Cardinal

One day this week, I looked out of my kitchen window and thought I saw a black-headed cardinal in the backyard but then decided that I was probably imagining it. But yesterday, with camera in hand, I was able to get a photo of the bird. I have found two main theories about the baldness. It seems that after nesting season, cardinals molt and a number lose all their head feathers, revealing their skin beneath. The other theory is that the condition could be caused by mites. In both cases, the feathers will grow back in time. I found it interesting that the circle seen below and slightly behind the eye is actually an ear hole.

“I love bald men. Just because you’ve lost your fuzz don’t mean you ain’t a peach.” ~Dolly Parton

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