Bird Brains

Great Blue Heron

Over the nearly 22 years that Wonder Spouse and I have lived on our five acres, we’ve added a lot of mostly native shrubs, trees, and wildflowers to the property. In so doing, we created much new habitat for the winged ones. Birds of many species happily find lodgings on or near our property, and they conduct much of their business — food-gathering and courting/territorial displays especially — within ear- and eye-shot.

I confess that it is easy for me to lose an hour just sitting where I can watch and listen to the avian inhabitants who share my space. Of course, sometimes their proximity creates challenges. Take Carolina Wrens, for example.

I love these busy little brown bundles of energy, but they have a habit of seeking nesting sites in impractical places. I routinely chase them out of my greenhouse — it’s just not big enough for me, my plants, and a family of wrens.

Yesterday, I unknowingly closed one into my garage after I completed my chores. When I returned a few hours later to retrieve my car, I first had to persuade a confused Carolina Wren to exit through the door. This is not as easy as it sounds. The wren’s mate was waiting in nearby bushes, greeting its wayward spouse with quite a scolding.

Eastern Bluebirds are my current greatest challenge. I love bluebirds. Who doesn’t? Their cheerful burble — sort of a cross between a babbling brook and a quiet chuckle — signifies spring to my ears. Several pairs of these beauties nest on our property, which is probably why the gorgeous red-breasted males feel obliged to perpetually prove their worthiness to the demure females.

I have read about Cardinals fighting with their reflections in windows. Until last year, I had never seen an Eastern Bluebird obsessively battle his mirrored self. We had hoped it was a one-time fluke — one confused male who thought that throwing himself against the windows of our house and garage was the way to win his true love’s undying admiration. Either the same one has returned, or the obsession has spread.

Yesterday and again this morning, a male bluebird is repeatedly throwing himself at my bedroom windows, where the sun first illuminates the house. If his behavior pattern holds,  he will move to different windows as the day progresses, following the sun. The windows in our garage are still covered in wing prints from last year, the dusty film on the outside creating a perfect medium for his imprints. They are very high windows, which is why they’re still dirty. However, I doubt they are dirty enough to discourage the bird-brained bluebird from his obsession.

He talks the whole time he’s battling himself. The female sits in a nearby tree and burbles back at him. I’ve tried going outside and explaining to them that this behavior is a waste of their resources. But their brains are dominated by reproductive hormones. Like most human teenagers, only one thought rules their minds.

And finally, as I was sitting in my living room yesterday, I noticed a Great Blue Heron standing statue-like on my floodplain. He seemed to be gazing into the water of a small shallow pool, but he was too far from it to catch a fish. When he didn’t move for five minutes, I realized I should try to photograph him. But using the telephoto lens through window glass makes for less than ideal pictures. My apologies. I tried stepping out onto my deck for a cleaner shot, but I only got one before he flew off.

He’ll be back. We see his kind regularly, along with just about every other bird species you would expect for our region. That’s one of the many wonderful things about creating wildlife habitat — you never know who will stop by next.

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  1. #1 by Maya on March 4, 2011 - 3:48 pm

    It’s Karen the Heron! We saw her, or someone just like her, yesterday in our pond, too! Could it possibly be the same bird?

  2. #2 by piedmontgardener on March 4, 2011 - 5:12 pm

    Hi, Maya. I didn’t know she had a name. Yes, it is possible, given our proximity to each other, that this might be the same bird. I’m glad she didn’t go far. 🙂

  1. No rest for Mr. Bluebird « Piedmont Gardener

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