Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The next generation is here

I came home from my trip last week to find a yard full of young birds. Fledglings were everywhere it seemed, and their voices resonated from every tree and every likely perch.

When we had left on our trip, the Red-bellied Woodpecker babies had just left their nest. They were still very dependent on their parents to find food for them. A week later, I returned to find very competent young woodpeckers visiting the feeders on their own and feeding themselves without any instruction or assistance from parents.

Before we left, I had seen one or two young Northern Cardinals following their papa around, but now everywhere I look in the garden there seems to be a cardinal with a dark beak marking it as a youngster and they are feeding themselves and obviously are on their own. It's hard to count just how many there are, because, of course, they move around a lot, but I feel certain there is more than one family here. Cardinals tend to be somewhat less aggressively territorial than some backyard birds and their territories sometimes seem to overlap; thus, I often have a very large population of the birds in my yard.

I haven't actually seen any Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that I can identify as youngsters, but the female is definitely still with me. I was sitting in my backyard a couple of days ago near a large cuphea plant that is a favorite of hummingbirds. The plant was just about a foot or so from my face.

Suddenly, the female hummer swooped in and started feeding from the blossoms, paying no attention to me. But then she broke off from feeding and came and hovered just a few inches from my face! I don't know if she thought I might be full of nectar or if she was just saying "hello" but she did that a couple of more times while she was feeding from the plant. It's quite exciting and a little disconcerting to be so close to one of these tiny creatures.

Interestingly, I also have a male hummer in my yard at present. I've seen him around for a few weeks now, so I'm guessing he's spending the summer here. I don't often have a male staying in my yard in summer. The male and female separate after mating and he goes his way leaving her to build a nest and raise the family. But this year it seems he stuck around even though he doesn't participate in family life. He and the female appear to have divided up the yard - he has the front and she has the back.

Meantime, the White-winged Doves and Blue Jays continue to flock to my feeders, as do the Carolina Wrens and Carolina Chickadees. The Eastern Bluebirds seem to be incubating another clutch of eggs. I haven't actually checked the box, but I know the female is in there most of the time throughout the day.

The Carolina Wrens have decided to raise their next family in one of my hanging baskets outside the den window. It makes it more than a little difficult to water that plant. I'm not sure the poor plant will survive the experience.

The traffic at the feeders is pretty constant throughout the day now and I find that I need to refill them at least every couple of days. The increased pressure from all those young birds as well as the continuing big flocks of doves is making me very popular with the sellers of bird seed.

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