Gardening Tips: June 2, 2010

Thirty-Four Species of Birds
I know this is supposed to be a gardening column but I seem to get more e-mail responses to my columns about birds than my usual “tips.” Actually my tips are often reminders of chores I tell you to do but often fail to do myself! This week I will revisit our feathered friends. One of the things I enjoy very much at this time of year is seeing and hearing the birds as they either return here for the summer or pause on their trek that will take them even farther north. On May 15 my friend Lester Gass stopped by my house and since I was out in the woods turkey hunting, he decided to sit, listen, look and record the species of birds that he noted. Lester is an accomplished birder and can identify almost all species of local birds by their songs. I am lucky if I recognize a dozen by sound but I am pleased to note that I still am able to learn a few new ones each year! It seems like I learn a new bird but then forget the Latin name of a plant I should know well.
In a period of slightly more than two hours Lester and I noted the following bird species at an elevation of about 1,400 feet. Tree swallows, (returning to the nest box in my garden that I put up for bluebirds) Cooper’s hawk, (looking to feast on the songbirds) Phoebes, (nesting, as always, in the exact same spot above my bedroom window and flicking their tail characteristically) Robins, (seemingly plumper this spring than most years) Blue jays, (loud mouths of the bird world) Chestnut sided warbler, (singing “pleased, pleased, pleased to MEET YOU”) Common yellow throat, Northern Oriole, Scarlet tanager (a species that feeds on hairy caterpillars such as gypsy moths and forest tent caterpillars which sounds like a robin with a sore throat) Rose breasted Grosbeak, (a series of dissimilar calls and whistles repeated loud and rapidly) Ruby throated humming bird (reminding me that I need to put up their feeder) Wood thrush, Catbird (meowing at my own cat) American redstart, Ovenbird (calling “preacher, preacher, preacher” over and over) Purple finch, Yellow shafted flicker (rather large woodpecker like bird) Northern cardinal (becoming more common every season calling “birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie”) Junco, Red eyed vireo, Yellow bellied sapsucker (not my favorite bird since they damage some of my favorite trees) White breasted nuthatch (seemingly happier walking upside down a tree trunk then right side up) Cowbird (looking to lay its eggs in another bird’s nest) American Goldfinch, Eastern wood pee wee, Common Raven (similar but bigger than a crow with a raucous call) Black capped chickadee (a year-round resident) Black burnian warbler (got to trust Lester on this one!) turkey vulture soaring overhead, pileated woodpecker (the basis of the cartoon character “woody woodpecker”) ruffed grouse (heard drumming which sounds like a tractor starting up slowly and then accelerating) wild turkey (spotted strutting his stuff but, unfortunately, out of range of my 12 gauge! I also flushed an American woodcock (probably a female sitting on her ground nest) and heard mourning doves cooing in the distance.
We are very lucky to have such a wide diversity of both plant and animal life surrounding us for most of the year. I sometimes find it hard to understand how so many people can be happy living in a city or urban environment but I suppose that particular environment offers its own rewards. My brother, who lives in suburban Connecticut, cannot understand how I can live in such a wilderness! I wonder the same about him.