A wonderful thing happened this morning - I woke up to a robin singing. And he wasn't the only one. Did all the spring birds fly home together? All those lost-for-the-winter sounds echoing around our backyard was almost orchestral.
Then I heard our Mystery Bird. In February?? I usually don't hear this bird until April. It's an elusive one. It always sounds like it's in our cottonwood, but nobody in the family has ever been able to locate it. We're hampered by the fact that we don't know what we're looking for. It sounds like a dove/great horned owl mix with a pigeonesque warble at the end. Since the cottonwood is currently bereft of leaves, I thought I might have half a chance of actually seeing the bird this morning, but no. Not even with field glasses. I'm beginning to think we're dealing with a bird that has ventriloquist abilities. Maybe it isn't a bird at all. Perhaps our backyard hosts a family of rare Northwestern Whooing Frogs.
When we lived in Seattle, we had all the usual birds like robins, song sparrows, house wrens, and crows, to name a few. We had occasional encounters with them, beyond the birdfeeder. We extracted a juvenile crow from a rose bush once, while the parents expressed their alarm by swooping around our heads. When we moved to South Kitsap, we began to see a far greater variety at our feeders. At the appearance of a new bird, someone would sound the New Bird Alert and we'd quickly grab the identification guide.
The neighborhood has provided some bird sightings apart from the feeders. Our kids came breathlessly into the house, one summer afternoon, to report that a tropical bird was in one of our trees. It was squawking loudly. We figured that somebody's pet had escaped and, sure enough, as we stood there watching it a neighbor came up and asked if we'd seen her bird. The bird grew silent when she approached - this was one savvy bird that didn't want to go home. Traitors that we were, we pointed to it. It flew off and landed in one of her trees. Her family spent the next several days trying to catch it. This was a seriously-expensive bird, so the whole neighborhood went On Watch - somebody always knew where the bird was. It finally flew right to her, presumably due to hunger.
Another time, I was gazing out the window while washing dishes and was startled to see a male peacock sauntering down the street. I called the neighbor two doors down and let her know that a peacock was headed her way. Hers was a well-behaved four-child household and I thought they might like to see it. They liked it very much. We watched all evening to see if it would return, but it didn't.
Last summer, I looked out the window just in time to see a mother duck and nine very young ducklings lined up behind her, walking up the street. My first thought was Oh no! because our arterial street is a dangerous route for wildlife - due to dogs, cars, and children - but they made it safely into a neighbor's garden. That garden is a wildlife paradise, with lots of shrubs and low plants for cover, and a small pond. It's a good place to raise ducklings, except for the fact that it's only partially fenced. Later that summer, a roaming Beagle discovered the little family and scattered them far and wide. Several of us spent the next few hours gathering them back together. One neighbor snagged the Beagle, marched him home, and made sure that the owners put him back on his tether. This Beagle is not well-loved by the neighborhood. He visits all of us, rampaging as he goes. I frequently see him on unescorted walkabouts.
My kitchen and dining room windows look out onto the neighborhood. It's the sunny side of the house and I'm usually near one window or the other when I'm home. I could easily turn into the classic Neighborhood Busybody because I can see everything that happens on the street. I can hear nearly everything too, if it's said outdoors. Our house is located in an acoustically-odd spot and our garage door acts as a sound board. We discovered this shortly after we moved in so, when we introduced ourselves to our immediate neighbors, we mentioned the peculiar sound-collecting ability of our house, in the spirit of just so you know.
Anyway, birds. If you'd like to hear some North American Bird songs, click on the title of this post.
Next time: more thoughts about birds. Ah, Spring! Stay tuned.