The ending of a school year is equal parts chaos, frenzy and excitement. It’s hard to wrap up loose ends while at the same time easing into relaxation.
My kids are looking forward to summer and the freedom that comes along with it. Swimming, biking, fishing, archery and just relaxing are their top choices.
My favorite summertime hobby is what I call “front porch sitting.” Our front porch has become a sanctuary of sorts again. It sits on the second-story level above our walk-out basement.
We can see hummingbirds resting on the branches of the trees. They swoop in to visit one of the two feeders, sometimes even fighting over the nectar. I refill the hummingbird feeders weekly adding to the supply of nectar already available in the fuchsia hanging baskets.
Baltimore orioles are a little more demanding; the grape jelly they love has to be refilled daily. The oriole feeders in my yard have both male and female visitors. Their feathers are strikingly different in color. The males are bright orange with a black hood, while the smaller females have a subtle peach-ish yellow color.
There’s a lot of chatter when the orioles are close. I can usually hear them before I see them.
One species of bird does not fit into the relaxing vibe of my front porch. The intruder is beautiful but bold and bossy. It swoops in to steal cat food and then returns to the trees.
Blue jays are unusual birds; Their vivacious colors match their personality. Blue jays are also uncommon in the aviary world in that the males and females have similar plumage.
Unlike the Baltimore orioles with strikingly different colors on the males and females, all the blue jays are bright blue with white feathers on their chests. Their crest is very prominent and the coloration around their neck resembles a black necklace. The females are slightly smaller in size than the males.
Not everyone is a fan of blue jays, especially after watching their behavior at a feeder where they seem to bully other birds. They will on occasion eat eggs, hatchlings and other birds. However, their primary diet is insects and nuts.
In a study on bird dominance, several species of woodpeckers and mockingbirds are more dominant than blue jays. Blue jays have never been designated as the state bird of any state in the United States.
Not surprisingly, northern mockingbirds are a fan favorite. They are the state bird of five states. Mockingbirds are also on my personal list of favorite backyard birds. What they lack in impressive plumage, they make up for in songs.
Often called the American nightingale, mockingbirds can learn the songs of hundreds of birds and mimic musical instruments. Unnatural sounds like car alarms are also learned by mockingbirds. I’m impressed by their volume, but not late at night.
It is thought that lonely bachelors often sing ballads late at night hoping to attract a mate.
Another bird has created a stir, but not by song. A female robin decided the best place for her nest was behind a sconce by my front door. I have to disagree with her logic if robins think logically. Every time I open the front door, I hear a rapid fluttering of wings.
I would assume that she would worry about us being close to her eggs, but we don’t seem to bother her even when we climb high to see the four eggs tucked into her nest.
She might be free from worry, but I cringe at the thought of her chicks falling out of the nest into the paws of our outside cat.
If I asked my family about their favorite summer activities, my kids probably wouldn’t enthusiastically say birdwatching. Their actions tell me something different. They will often choose to slow down, even if it’s just to have a snack, with me on the porch.
It’s hard not to appreciate the beauty of birds while observing their interesting behaviors and listening to chirps and trills. I think people are naturally drawn to nature if they set aside distractions and take time to watch and appreciate.
“The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind,” Carly Simon surmised the greatest benefit of being surrounded by birds and birdsong.
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