Birds in the garden

Jim McKenney
Thu, 12 Jun 2008 08:04:40 PDT
More bird stories. 

We have loads of birds in this garden, not only in terms of numbers of
individual birds, but also in terms of variety. The garden is situated along
Rock Creek Park, a heavily wooded area which extends a score-plus miles from
the Potomac River deep into the near-rural areas of Montgomery County. Any
local bird which frequents woodland, field, streamside or brook is likely to
appear in the garden now and then. The only broad category of birds we do
not see are those frequenting salt water. 

Earlier this year I mentioned the visit of a great blue heron: I have not
seen the biggest, oldest goldfish in the pond since then. 

Because the weather here is usually too cold for insects during half of the
year and too hot to allow open windows during the rest of the year, I long
ago took the screens out of the windows. During the brief periods now and
then when the weather is clement, I keep the windows open. We get bird
visitors: typically wrens but occasionally sparrows or starlings, rarely
things such as kinglets or cedar waxwings. 

Fortunately, ducks rarely visit the tiny pond; when they do, they make a
real mess of things. Canada geese are resident in the area: fortunately they
have not visited the pond. 

I've had to delay rebuilding part of my collapsed pergola because mourning
doves have nested in the cross beams. 

Occasionally a Cooper's hawk decides to hang around for a few days. I find
the remains of its lunches (usually wings) here and there around the garden.
The Cooper's hawk sometimes sits on the deck railing - that's when we get a
good look at it. Earlier this year the hawk found the mourning dove sitting
on its nest on the pergola. The dove had placed its flimsy nest in a thick
tangle of rose canes. The hawk danced and fluttered in the air right over
the dove nest, but it was unable to get to the hen dove. 

I live in suburbia of the endless lawns, and it's not unusual to see a
flicker anting on someone's lawn. Last week a neighbor excitedly called me
over to tell about this amazing bird event: a bird having convulsions on the
ground and then getting up and flying away. I asked her if there was an ant
hill in that spot; there was...

The local crow population shrank dramatically with the appearance of West
Nile disease in the area a few years ago. It is slowly building up again,
but is nowhere near what it once was. I enjoy watching the crows gather
behind our house in the early evening before they leave en masse for their
evening roost. In the past, thousands of them would sit back there cawing
and croaking before the big departure. After the crows leave, there is
sometimes something interesting to see: a Cooper's hawk will bolt for its
night roost. 

Sprekelia formosissima is blooming today: I expect the hummingbirds to visit
it often. Lilies are also blooming, and the hummers like those, too. 

One of the local buteos has built a nest near a friend's garden. The other
day there was a huge commotion: there are two baby hawks in the nest, and
they are almost full grown. But a barred owl attacked the nest the other day
in broad daylight and there was a fearsome racket as the parent hawks and
the owl fought it out. Evidently the young hawks survived. 

One of the local woodpeckers has taken to drilling (or rather drumming) on
the metallic siding of a neighbor’s house. It’s amazing how much noise this

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where Brodiaea californica, no doubt perplexed by the local weather, is
trying to bloom. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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