Welcome back! I hope you’re enjoying your summer. With the days arriving earlier, James and I have been going on longer walks (he walks while I run). Every morning it seems as if we see more and different types of birds. I have a feeling that James doesn’t like it when I try to catch them, but it’s fun to chase them. (No treat – I was right.)
Well, being an Old English Sheepdog, I enjoy the herding, if nothing else. I, for sure, wouldn’t know what to do with one of the winged creatures if I did catch one. James worries that I’d kill it – such is life in the wild. Okay, James says we don’t live in the wild, but I have to break it to him, he walks in the wild Vermont woods with me – just sayin’!
What types of birds, you ask? There are at least three families of ruffed grouse in the fifteen-acre field near the top of our hill. I keep stumbling upon them, and I do mean tripping over them as they don’t do a thing until I’m on top of them. Then they scare us as they flap, flap, flap and fly away. The little ones with almost no tail even fly over the hay that has yet to be cut and into the woods. They’re always on the edge of the field. There are around six little ones and one Mama. I should say eighteen little ones and three Mamas, but since we can’t be definitively sure there are three families, six and one will have to do.
James told me that the black bird with white on it’s back and a yellow crown is an endangered bobolink. They nest on the ground and feed on insects and seeds. Their young leave the nest before they can fly. We have at least four families of bobolinks – of that we are sure. The other day we saw something like twenty-four of them flying just above the tops of the hay in our larger field. They’re in all four of our hay fields. James is convinced that they will be fledged fully after this weekend.
There is a beautiful yellow bird James says is a goldfinch. It had been feeding in flocks until recently, because they are only now breeding. Since we’ll be haying in about two weeks, we hope they aren’t nesting in the fields, which they are sometimes known to do. We’re holding off haying until the other field nesting birds’ young are able to fly to the edge of the woods to safety.
We also have barn swallows and stunning eastern bluebirds nesting in birdhouses James has put all around our grounds. Their young have hatched (I found a swallow egg below one of the boxes three weeks ago – I was overjoyed) and the parents have been busily feeing their babies. Then suddenly, on 1-July, the swallows were gone, and so were their babies. The bluebirds then left the birdhouse nests on 7-July. James took me out on leach for a few days while this was taking place.
Some bufflehead and mallard ducks were in our pond during the early part of spring, but we haven’t seen any recently. We do, however, have five baby wood ducks speed boating around the pond when they are not dunking themselves for food. Every time I start to go play in the pond, James calls me back for a treat. If there wasn’t a treat involved, I’d be hitting that pond on a regular basis.
The downy woodpecker irritates me (James is looking at me as if I’m the cat who ate the canary). Well, it seems that all it does is knock, knock, knock, knock, knock – get my drift? – all the time. This bird is interesting in that it can be upside down on a tree limb – no thank you. It does have a sweet red cap it wears on its crown. I’m not sure where it nests, but they could do their tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tapping somewhere else.
A red-eyed vireo nest that survived last winter was nestled compactly on a striped maple tree limb about five feet off the ground at the edge of our back field. These birds typically have white-wine goblet shaped nests along the edges of the fields and our yard. James noticed this one while I was sniffing at the ground below it. He thought it was some kind of Christmas ornament that had mysteriously materialized. Check out the picture he took.
Then there is the abundance of robin red-breasts that have nested around the house. One baby fell out of its nest before it could fly. It was hurt and, well, I never saw it, but James told me about it after it had disappeared. James said that was nature taking its course. My course is to run around every which way until I’m exhausted. (Score – a treat!) I did find its brother or sister, the very next day, in a lilac bush. James pulled me away once he saw it too. (Treats galore!!!)
Of course, there is our ruby-throated hummingbird that guards his territory around our house and flower gardens. James wrote a poem (it’s included in his book of poetry, Pleasures & Seasons of Vermont), reproduced here for your reading pleasure. [Note: Trek was my much older brother who I miss terribly.)
and when a recurring whirl
causes my dog, Trek’s, ears to twitch, and my
head to twist towards the trill. Floating fixed, staring
sideways, saluting us throughout this temperate term – we
smile a warm welcome – our hummers have returned.
crowns with dark notched tails,
our resident male sports a distinctive
crimson throat tipped by an ebony chin.
Accurate angels of sunbeams polishing his
neck radiate radiant rubies.
The flora’s scarlet color attracts his attention,
yet the minuscule quantity of sugary nectar is what he
requires, hovering at 70 wing whisks a second:
A tremendous force
by a tiny frame
for such trivial fare.
Our solitary hummer vigorously defends the
blossoms within his boundary. Trek’s head swings left,
right, left, while our hummer hounds intruders. A
valiant Knight of the Roundtable, his chase chatter
saturates the air as he jousts with his
extended bill, his clashes like the crash of javelins.
Akin to our heroic hummers, Vermonters always
answer the call to protect our homeland. We are
proud of those who respond, and pay tribute to the
ones who never return, unlike the
poppies – and hummers – each May.
Such are the honorable
pleasures of our
hummers’ return to Vermont.
We have tons of other birds that frequent our grounds. We have warblers, thrushes, sparrows and hawks. You name it we’ve got it if it’s an inland bird. If you’d like, feel free to come and walk around with us (while I run) to see how many different birds you can spot. Of course, it would be nice of you to let us know you’re coming before you do so we can prepare a treat for you (and me).
I always like hearing from you, so please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post about this or anything at all.
Until next time,
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)
Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
All photos © James Stack 2016 unless otherwise indicated
[When James and I began this post, we didn’t think I’d ever get one of the baby birds, but I did. So I brought it to him and dropped it. (That is after a prolonged effort on James’ part, first using the command, then treats and finally forcing my mouth open. I haven’t decided if I’ll bring the next one to him.) Now I’ve been told we’re not walking anywhere near the fields until after they are hayed, meaning the baby birds have flown away. Well, in my defense, it’s only nature taking its course. James says he still loves me, and I still love him – score a treat! Enough said.]