Sunday, March 30, 2008

Seeing Red

I have been watching the dozens and dozens of Red-winged Blackbirds who come to my yard; good sized, dark colored birds with pale median covers creating a lovely chevron on each side. At first, I didn’t even see their beautiful red shoulders and was convinced they were some other kind of Blackbird. They mob my feeders and work the areas where I spread chicken-scratch for them while keeping the red quiet. I find that amazing and wonder if the term ‘Seeing Red’ is somehow connected to this behavior. They keep their red politely under wraps while they genially feed and roost in great masses. This behavior is decidedly different than the red-topped Cassian’s finches I watch regularly peck and run-off others with the same, bright-red heads.

I notice some of the dark birds are Starlings with striking lacy, gold-speckled backs and occasionally a very large, bright-eyed Grackle shows up, too. I have seen both the Common and Great-tailed Grackles here; which I find to be a stunning bird with that iridescent purple head.

The little Grape Hyacinth are up and edging a step in blue in spite of crushing snows that have browned leaf-tips, Oriental Poppies are thick and bushy already and the old apple trees look ready to burst into a froth of blossoms. I want to go play in the dirt, but it’s a bit early for this part of the country. Heck, on and off it looks like it could snow today, in-between the glorious sunshine that has raised the temperature to the mid fifties. I took advantage of the sunshine to spread out a couple of soaker hoses that may relax their coils in the warmth.

I wonder if it was the earlier cloudiness that brought a dozen or so Evening Grosbeaks to my feeders. The males are beautifully gaudy birds with dark heads and bright yellow foreheads and bright white patches over dark edged wings and an overall bright yellow body. They have large, conical beaks which turn greenish this time of year…making even the demurely colored females seem exotic to me.

Now that its afternoon, the Blackbirds have gone to another yard but the Eurasian Doves have taken to the lawn like lambs to new grass; I spread more corn for them. The Blackbirds will be back again this afternoon, en mass.

The Juncos are here in smaller and smaller numbers; as it warms up, I think they go north to breed, but the nuthatches and chickadees continue to fly in and out for a fast grab at a sunflower seed or a nut. My constant companions are the Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches and the poor House Finches, so many with pox and blind eyes and open sores. I wonder how it is they can get around, and in fact some have such a difficult time. I almost wish those hawks more often frequented the yard.

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