MyStory: Birding is the only good reason to garden


Edited to reflect reality…*

Yesterday I tried to get super close to a bigger-than-a-crow hawk that sat perched on my neighbor’s play set. Tawny,heavy brow, white lores around the very big, very curved beak, yellow legs, brown and tawny back, white chest, several black stripes in the white tipped tail.

It was not a Coopers, and not a Red-tail.

It just rested and looked around, up and down, barely paying me any mind as a skulked closer, with either  camera or binoculars at my eye. The hawk let out a high pitched whistle, which I instantly recognized as that sound that had pulled me outside for the last month.

It let out another whistle as it unfolded its wings and drifted over the treetops. I raced into the house to examine my shots and ID the mystery raptor…only to notice that my card was still in the computer from last  photo edit. Drat!!!  Fortunately, trying to frame a good field ID photo had focused my attention enough on the hawk’s details that I could trip the empty-camera-card-slot-failure into a success.

I got really close to an immature Broad-wing Hawk!!!

And I ran out of time to weed before dinner prep.  *snaps fingers* Shucks…

Just so we are clear…Gardening is merely the prompt to birding in my backyard.  Binoculars, I have found, must accompany the trowel, or at least be a dash distance nearby, or I just procrastinate the dirt work.  Even then, birds trump plants. Like yesterday…

Night temperatures fell past dew point, and this morning’s herb garden was bejeweled in water beads, leaving even weeds pretty.  Yesterday’s chore had to be completed before the cilantro got crowded out by crabgrass and some mystery choker.  Summer contact calls were music to weed by so out I went, binoculars, trowel, weed bucket.  When I could distinctly see sage, oregano, cilantro seedlings, and thyme, I declared gardening done, and strolled around, glasses in hand, just in time to watch a mustached Northern Flicker and his partner send their sharp beaks between blades of dew-soaked grass.  In the distance, an adult male Northern Cardinal fanned his feathers wide, and a pair of Mourning Doves fluttered in to join his hedgerow morning spa.

Gardening is a gateway chore to my passion.  I relax, content.

Eye To The Future

Observing feathered  behavior is a favorite pasttime, particularly when one individual becomes part of my landscape, part of my family.

My girl’s nest building was furtive, unnoticed. But her alarm routine while I gardened prompted a determined hunt ending at a low growing pine, her nest just above eye level.  Gleefully I imagined the clutch she was protecting, and anticipated the addition of nestling peeps to our spring bird symphony.

I sat at my desk Friday, the clatter of the keyboard drowned out by alarm cries. I was driven to such distraction that I left my desk and walked out on the front porch. At least a dozen robins were participating in a flock alarm pattern, alternately swooping through the air, diving toward the ground or calling from a nearby maple.  Perched at the top of the six foot pine was a Red-tailed Hawk, leering into the shrub’s branches.  At my nest.


I joined the flock alarm, clapping my hands and shouting “HEY!!!”  My herding dog turned his eye on the raptor and added his command.  With great deliberation the hawk looked down, then around, then slowly spread her wings to a lazy lift off.  Atop my neighbors hemlock, twenty-four inches of taloned feathers observed our interspecies team for another minute before abandoning the project all together.

A short while later I held a compact mirror above the nest to glimpse the raptor’s intended prize–four blind, down-covered nestlings.  Several hours passed before I checked one more time on my nest, only to be met by a mother’s stern gaze.  We both have our eye on the future.

Project 52, May 24, 1014. American Robin on nest, clutch of four, young hatchlings, downy, blind.  No eggs observed.

Project 52, May 24, 1014.
American Robin on nest, clutch of four, young hatchlings, downy, blind. No eggs observed.