You remember the random post from last November when a bird wouldn’t let my daughter back into the house? I finally found out what kind of bird that was!
It’s called a Dark-Eyed Junco. And I found it while spending a couple hours online looking at bird photos and information.
You’ll recall my
dismay joy at the fox my Mom saw in her yard? And a few days later a new hawk started hanging around? Let me be clear: my mother does not live on a farm. Our homes are exactly one mile from each other. We have the same floor plan. We have similar decorating styles (ok, not so much, but we do share decor now and then).
So I keep
harassing asking her how she’s so lucky to have all this wildlife and I’m not. There’s one big reason: three lots in her neighborhood are still undeveloped. My entire street has a house on each plot.
It makes sense that God’s creatures would enjoy dirt burrows, trees, even tumbleweeds. There’s not a lot of stealth options in my chain-linked yard. So the fox, the hawks, the quail, and yes, even the bobcat are more welcome at her house than mine.
Big smile on my face!
Today was the first really nice-weather day we’ve had all year. (I know, I know… it’s only mid-February. But seriously, folks. This is the desert!) After our morning coffee together, I left Mom’s house and spent an hour in my own yard before I even went inside. I weeded. I hula-hoed. I picked up rocks and old boards that were in place long before I moved in. I unburied the fence edge. I outlined the new flower garden site. I tested sprinklers. I ran sprinklers.
Our neighborhood birds know when they’re getting fed. They didn’t care that I was working on beautifying my yard. I was invading their space. And they were hungry. And they kept telling me so.
So when all the work was done, I fed the birds. [Note to self: stop singing the Mary Poppins song every time you write “Feed The Birds”.]
Mixed seed in the right feeder. Sunflower seeds in the middle. And peanuts in the left. Scrub Jays love peanuts. Cactus Wrens, as it turns out, do too. I sat on my loveseat in front of the large picture window and took in the show.
Two large Crows courted from the high wires. They flew together, landed together, and I watched as they pecked each other’s beak constantly. It wasn’t a battle; it almost appeared as if they were kissing, or perhaps one was just showing the other how to feed the kids a good meal.
The Cactus Wren nest in the Joshua Tree stumps to the right of the feeder tree. Once the sparrows and red finches spilled enough seed on the ground, the Wrens scurried out and took claim. It was comical to see them wait until the Scrub Jays flew away with one or two peanuts in their mouths. During that absence, the Cactus Wrens found remnants under the tree and quickly retreated back to the Joshua Tree.
The Scrub Jays returned often, squawking their ownership of the peanuts. They left quite a few in the feeder, but at first they worked very enthusiastically to hide them for later treasures. What they didn’t count on, was hiding them in the Cactus Wrens’ territory. Bite! the Scrub Jays flew with their snack. Scurry! they landed at the base of the Joshua Tree. Slip! they tried to bury it under the spiked leaves. Then they’d disappear with another peanut to the backyard. The Cactus Wrens are smart. They learned the pattern. And as soon as the Jays flew to the back, the Wrens kidnapped the peanuts and put them in a different place around the tree base, or even in the winter’s dead growth of the lilac shrubs. Time and again, the Jays returned only to squawk loudly in a failed attempt to reclaim their stores. The Cactus Wrens never flinched. So the Jays began to find other hiding spots.
During this dance, I became aware of two more Crows coming into the trees. Into the trees! That’s fairly unheard of. These large black birds generally hop on the ground or sit on power lines. I’ve never seen one in a tree, especially when that tree is being populated by little birds like people to a New York Deli at lunch hour.
The Crows flew back and forth. After a third round above the yard, a new bird entered. I cannot explain to you what it felt like to see this incredibly huge bird, to hear its wings, to know it was previously unknown to my yard. I saw it land in the corner trees.
All I could think about was calling my mom and telling her I had a new bird. But she’d ask me what it was. And I didn’t have a clue.
So I did the only thing I could: I put on my fuzzy slippers and took my cell phone out into the yard. I wasn’t in a rush, but I also wasn’t stealthy. I wasn’t sure what I’d see, and I was excited-nervous-wowed.
About ten feet past the Joshua Tree stands a Fruitless Mulberry in the corner of my yard. On the neighbor’s adjoining corner is a very large, very tall Pine tree. I walked past the spikey Joshua Tree (and almost impaled myself by not paying attention!). I walked under the bare branches of the Mulberry. And I peered into the Pine branches.
There it was. This most magnificent, incredibly large bird: slate blue-grey on the back, creamy but orange-y on the belly. And the most piercing, dramatic incredibly red eyes. I tried to take a picture but it flew to another tree farther away. Just then I realized its partner was in the second tree. It just looked at me with those eyes. I was so appreciative of the bright sun that prevented this from turning into a horror movie. They were those kinds of deep red eyes.
My mom’s phone was busy so I quickly drove over to look at her bird reference books. There were several options and none seemed to fit perfectly. So I came home and that’s when I spent hours online looking at bird photos and websites.
AllAboutBirds.org is a great website but I’ve learned nothing beats typing in keywords into Google and searching photos. Once I see a close call, I verify.
My beautiful blue-yellow red-eyed monster is a simple Cooper’s Hawk. But there was nothing simple when I stood under it’s 15-inch majesty, or when it stared at me with its horror-movie eyes. I have never been that close to a bird that big. I was enthralled.
As I write this late Friday night, I can still hear the Scrub Jays claiming more peanuts for their morning fiesta.
And I can’t wait for them all to come back. Maybe they’ll even pose for a picture.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!