This post was inspired by Layanee's post at Ledge and Garden asking if her fellow bloggers had a favorite bird. I found her through Lisa at Greenbow.
I love birds, and am a bit of a birdwatcher. Years ago I worked in an ornithology lab and went out in the field with a graduate student who was a very knowledgeable birder, and I learned a lot from him. So then of course I had to get binoculars and I listened to the Peterson Field Guide Tapes in order to try to tell the warblers apart. Every free weekend my husband and I went out to Jordan Lake to look for bald eagles and all sorts of birds. In addition, our apartment building was at the edge of a beautiful wooded neighborhood with a big lake, so there was quite a lot of bird life there too. Not as varied as at Jordan Lake, but there were wood thrushes, barred owls, red-shoulders hawks, scarlet tanagers, summer tanagers, and lots of different warblers in the spring and fall. It was a wonderful place to walk the dog.
We live in a place now that's almost as good as Jordan Lake for birdwatching. I haven't yet seen an osprey here (surprisingly), but my husband actually saw a mature bald eagle fly down the middle of the driveway last year. There's wood ducks and prothonotary warblers in the sloughs, and barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, indigo buntings, blue grosbeaks, summer and scarlet tanagers, orchard orioles, ovenbirds, pine warblers, yellow-throats, yellow-breasted chats, redstarts, pine warblers..
It's apparent that spring is approaching. The red-shouldered hawks have been performing their courtship flights, and the woodcock has begun his nightly wing dance. We have a number of woodcocks here, and although I hear them often, I rarely see them. This year a male has taken up residence in the woods beside the horse paddock -- I can hear him making his nasal "peent" calls, then he hurtles out of the woods like a round bullet before ascending to begin his ritual flight. I have to admit, I've never actually *seen* this courtship flight, only his exit from the woods. I've searched the twilight sky in vain, and can only hear the woodcock. I can't see a thing.
This excellent description comes from Birds of the Carolinas by Potter, Parnell and Teulings: "Rising from an opening in the woods to a height of perhaps 300 feet, twittering all the way, he then zig-zags downward, uttering a series of descending bell-like notes accompanied by some twittering. Returning to the same small plot of ground, he almost immediately begins calling again. This performance may be repeated many times in a single night, most often in he hour following sunset or the one preceding dawn".
My favorite garden bird of all is the wood thrush. I love his song. The quality is both like bells and rushes, and it has an ethereal otherworldy beauty. The wood thrush can be distinguished from the other thrushes by his song, the chestnut coloring on the top of his head, and his distinct breast spots.
Here is a link to his song.