Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Favorite Garden Bird

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.


  1. What a wonderful assortment of birds you have in your area. I've seen pictures of wood ducks and think they absolutly gorgeous. Hope you get a photo of one of those!

  2. I would LOVE to get a good picture of a Wood Duck. They are absolutely gorgeous.

  3. Hi Sweet Bay, it was so interesting to hear of your passion for birding. I love the birds too but really know very little beyond those who live around my house. We do have the wood thrush though, he even comes up on the deck just inches from the sliders and the cats love watching from inside as he hops around. As for the photos, a certain type of camera with a high zoom is needed, I lack that too, but maybe someday. :-)

  4. Hi Frances,

    I think it may be time for that lens upgrade... :) I have a Pentax K10, which is a good camera, but a 18-55 kit lens isn't going to cut it for bird pictures.

  5. You have so many many birds down there! Did I tell you my daughter is an equestrian? She's in college now, riding there, too. We owned a lovely thoroughbred-draft cross mare, Kitty. She was 16 hands, and so gentle and sweet. A jumper. My daughter loved her, but changed her interests to include less jumping, so we sold her. Then we had a smaller pony, my daughter is just 5'. He was wonderful, too. She showed him and he was used in her riding team as well; When she went to college we sold him, too. She's fine with it. Boarding was up to $800/mo. and way too high.

    Anyway, I have gone swimming in Lake Jordan, boating!! My sister lived down there for years, she just moved however. She lived in Apex, and the lake was wonderful.

    It's so nice that you have all of these wonders of nature at your disposal!

  6. Hi Jan,

    No I didn't know your daughter rode horses! That's wonderful that she can still ride in college. Board has gotten absolutely sky-high in a lot of places, along with the price of everything else. The price of timothy went up from around $9 to $15 last year; with the price and the rarity, I've switched to coastal year round.

    My TB/Hanoverian is 16 hands, and I also ride our 13.2 hand Half Arabian pony. I'm small too and we're actually a good fit. Honestly I think she's too hot for a kid to ride. If a kid did ride her I think she'd dump them and run off with them a lot. :) Plus her trot has so much suspension they'd find it difficult to handle.

    That's so neat that you've been to Jordan Lake! My husband went to Apex High School. Small world! :)

  7. Hello Sweetbay,

    I am going to visit your links~~i want to hear what the Thrush sounds like and see if it has ever visited my garden; maybe I will recognize his song.

    I just got a new camera with a nice zoom quality...but there is a whole new world of super zooms that bring you closer then a DSLR zoom lens on a tripod can! Ah technology!


  8. Sweetbay,

    Oh what a wonderful song he sang...I had to google it but it was very lovely. I will listen for it when we walk in the parks.

    Thanks, Gail

  9. I don't believe I've ever seen one in my area. I envy you.

  10. Gail,

    I just put a link to his song -- it's probably the same you listened to.

    What is this technology to which you are referring?? I was thinking of getting a 55-300 lens, although a lot of bird photographers think a 400 or 500 is better.


    You must just be a bit too far west for the thrushes. Their songs are lovely.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...