I know I talk about the chickens a lot. They are big entertainment for us. Obviously, it doesn’t take much to entertain us. We spend way too much time talking to them while in the hot tub and watching them while drinking our morning coffee. I have even been considering getting some other fowl to add to the mix to spice it up a little.
Then I realized this is the spiciest time of year for birds. The Dark-eyed juncos stay around all year along with the chickadees and clean up the remains of feed the chickens have left. Then the Steller’s Jays return and the frenzy begins. I was going to write a little about each bird as it arrived, but in a week the list has grown to huge and all the information is available on the web. Instead, I will tell you that the “movie” is on, the actors are arriving, and the quantity of bird feed I have to throw to the chickens is growing.
The juncos are very unobtrusive and get along with everyone else. They are by no means timid, they are just there, and the chickens tolerate them and let them be.
Then the jays show up and the game is on. They are very noisy, these birds, and seem to have a large array of squawks and screeches and whistles. The first two or three that arrive blast the small birds to the side, but seem to wait till the chickens are done and gone. Then they raid the feed. After the chickens pretend to ignore them for a while they will start a game of chase. This goes on for a while till they all get tired of it and go take a nap.
The American robins are just there one day. Surprise! they seem to say. Don’t get your hopes up, it really isn’t spring, we are just getting a head start. The robins show no interest in the chicken food or any of the other birds. I think they are in a world of their own.
Next the crows, ravens, and hawks start circling. I know they are around year round; you will hear them every once in a while or catch sight of them hanging out in a tree, but springtime seems to make them hungrier? and they make a fly-by checking for anything delicious on their way down to and up from the river. Sometimes one of them will fly right past the deck at eye level several times as if it was trying to get my attention. “See me. Aren’t I grand?” It is so close I could almost reach out and touch it.
Then come the Band-tailed pigeons and the hummingbirds. The elderberry is just starting to flower and the pigeons are here waiting for the berries. Right now we have about five of them hanging out. By the time the berries get here there will be about 50 or more. They like the chicken scratch as well. They have learned how to get into the coop and into the feeder but can’t seem to remember how to get back out. So, the chickens follow them in, spook them, and sit back laughing at the pigeons flapping and whacking the sides of the cage trying to find the doorway. The whole thing is comical. We have had to go out and rescue one several times in fear of them having a heart attack they are so frantic.
We hear the hummingbird’s return before we actually spy them. Finally, one has shown his presence in the blueberry bushes. The buzz will grow as more and more arrive.
Now the other little wrens and sparrows are arriving on their way through and descending in groups of 20 or 30 at a time. They don’t stay long, just long enough to piss off the jays and get them screeching and yelling. The rest of the birds stick around most of the year till winter.
The swallow population is already growing as well. First the violet-green ones show up and eventually the barn swallow will come. They, like the robins, are really not interested in any of the other birds. Some of them are interested in us, if we will throw them hair or pieces of wool for their nests.
As you can see, the bird population has grown enough that researching them is daunting, and the blue herons and eagles and ospreys, grouse and quail, doves and cranes, haven’t come by yet. Sometimes, when I stop and listen later on in the spring, the woods start to sound like a jungle. The sounds are so varied and get so loud it is impossible to call it the silence of Mist Mountain. It is more like the roar of the hills.
And while we are on the subject of chicken food thieves, I will mention the growing population of chipmunks. When you walk into the coop, and find one inside the feeder, and two standing there with their cheeks bulging with food. eyes wide with “Who me?”, you really have to just laugh. You have been the gift of a smile for the day no matter how pesky they are.
Note: Photos are free downloads from others. My next project is to try to photograph some of these critters. They don’t like me whipping out the camera when I am out wandering in the yard.