I posted here awhile back about my newly discovered fascination with (and delight in) the many birds who inhabit my backyard and neighborhood. I see a lot of small songbirds at the feeder along with larger birds like cardinals, woodpeckers, and the occasional comical mourning dove who’s always a little too round of belly to perch long enough to get his fill. I often hear an owl hooting in the early morning hours and sometimes catch sight of the hawk that lives in the neighborhood. While the bird feeder gets heavy use all year, my pleasure so far this spring has been to observe the birds as they prepare nests and get ready to bring new birds into the world.
I’m especially happy to see this year, for the first time, Eastern Bluebirds appearing at the feeder. To encourage them to make a home in the back yard, we’ve put up a special bluebird box. The instructions tell us not to be discouraged if the birds choose not to nest there the first year but it’s looking hopeful for young bluebirds and I couldn’t be more excited. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, everything starts with the male bluebird depositing bits of nesting material into the box which he then stands on top of and madly flaps his wings. Once this breathtakingly suave display has secured him a mate, it’s up to the female to actually build the nest and incubate the eggs. Last week, I observed a male bird in full flap on top of the box and since this weekend I’ve seen the female going in and out. The bird box instructs one to check it regularly to be sure rival birds such as house sparrows aren’t squatting (so to speak) but this morning’s monitoring confirms that the box is holding the small, cup-shaped nest made up of fine grasses that is the hallmark of the Eastern Bluebird. Hooray!
Here lately, the only thing that makes me happier than seeing one bluebird is the thought of seeing a lot more. Though bluebirds are migratory, those that live in the Southeastern states often stay put all year. You might have bluebirds in your neighborhood too! Do you want to know more? Check out the North American Bluebird Society for more information or visit the University of Georgia’s site for its Museum of Natural History for facts related to bluebirds in Georgia.
If you’re new to bird watching or if you are, like me, mainly a “Whats that outside the kitchen window?” bird watcher, then you can’t do much better than Backyard Birding: a guide to attracting and identifying birds by Randi Minetor. Packed with high quality photographs and information about everything bird, the author also includes great information about creating a bird’s paradise such as providing water sources and attractive nesting materials as well as dealing effectively with predators.
For the thorough types among us, National Geographic’s Bird Watcher’s Bible: a complete treasury is everything that the title promises. Filled with exhaustive information and the type of high-caliber photography that National Geographic is known for, you will find hours worth of entertainment and knowledge about all things avian.
If you find that you want to go more deeply into birding (or already have), then don’t miss Derek Lovitch’s How To Be a Better Birder. Lovitch advocates for what he calls a “whole bird” approach to watching and identifying birds and incorporates meteorology, geography and radar along with traditional observation. Lovitch also calls upon avid bird watchers to get involved in conservation efforts—a sentiment with which I must agree.
Finally, if you’re planning a trip to the beach, don’t miss The Armchair Birder Goes Coastal by John Yow. From the Outer Banks to Florida’s Gulf Coast, Yow shares his personal journey of discovery in studying the birds unique to our seacoast. Filled with wit and anecdote, Yow’s book will appeal even if you plan to never pick up a pair of binoculars.