Talkin' Outdoors

As ill-tempered April gives way to a hopefully more docile and friendly May, things are beginning to change around our part of the country. Daytime temperatures are easing on up to the upper 80s and it’s beginning to actually feel like spring, unlike that heifer, April, that stayed chilly, wet and nasty enough to keep the turkeys from gobbling.

When April left, she took with her some of the birds that spent the winter in our part of the world. Goldfinches have put on golden coats for their trip north, replacing the olive drab we saw all winter.

Juncos, the black and white little birds I grew up calling “snow birds”, are gone as are white throated sparrows.

As May arrives, you’ll begin seeing new birds around your feeders. I saw a beautiful bird last week with red head, white underbelly and black back, one I see around town but have never seen one in my yard, a red headed woodpecker. Colors are so vibrant it hurts your eyes.

In the yard around the feeders, splashes of color catch my eye as summer residents and transients drop in to feed. Late yesterday afternoon, I caught a glimpse of cobalt blue on the ground under a feeder; it was a male indigo bunting, a species which lives and nests here in summer.

Another blue-hued bird that has arrived to spend the summer with us is the blue grosbeak. This bird is similar to the indigo in that the predominant color is blue but is larger and has cinnamon to brown wing bars.

Although I haven’t seen one in a decade, the more colorful cousin of the indigo, the painted bunting, is around somewhere; others have reported seeing these beautiful birds although none have shown up in my yard in several years. Should you see a small bird with red breast, blue head and back with an unusual chartreuse shoulder patch, you’ve been treated to a rare glimpse of a painted bunting.

However, there is one transient, the strikingly beautiful rose breasted grosbeak, that visited our feeders several times last week. I haven’t seen him in several days so I assume he’s packed up and headed north.

The male has a rosy triangle throat patch on its otherwise white chest, a black head, white spots on the wings and a heavy white beak. The female actually looks like a large brown striped sparrow.

Some species are here year around and there is one particular bird you find yourself wishing he’d migrate somewhere else and give us a break for a few months. Blue jays are loud, boorish, and are known to carom down onto the feeder like an uninvited party crasher, scattering smaller birds in every direction. They’re handsome but can be downright obnoxious.

Red-bellied woodpeckers are here all time as are cardinals, mourning doves, tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, and chipping sparrows. Another year round resident, the Carolina wren, is one likely to nest in a flower pot — or old shoe — on the back porch. These noisy little birds can pick the most unusual places to nest. I once had a family of wrens delay my fishing for a few weeks when they set up housekeeping under the seat of my bass boat.

Now that hunting seasons are over, I suggest that you put out a couple of feeders, get a bird book and binoculars and try to identify the birds visiting your yard. It’ll give you a fun activity to pass the time until you can get back out in the woods again.