With turkey season ending with a bang last week, I was ready to retire to the peace and quiet of my own backyard.
But, alas, there is no such thing. In fact, my yard is more soap opera than sanctuary. All kinds of tiny dramas unfold every day. And some of what happens is just plain trashy - a female goldfinch consorting with not one but two males at the feeder. I also saw a pair of mourning doves shamelessly bird-dogging each other in the treetops.
Like any good melodrama, there are sentimental moments, too. I could almost hear the music swell when a male cardinal went beak to beak with his mate to feed her a sunflower seed. Watching a bluebird pair working together to feed their quartet of hungry mouths was sweet theater, too.
There’s also plenty of aggression on this show. For example, the blue jays are total bullies. They’ve been known to mimic a hawk to scare off the feeder crowd so they can swoop in and chow down. However, their hostility also can be a big help to the rest of the gang. A red-tailed hawk soared across the yard the other day and the jays went bonkers. It’s possible their racket alerted birds several counties away, causing the hawk to give up and glide off.
It’s not all daytime drama, though. Some of the murder and mayhem occurs when Nielson ratings are lowest – midnight to 6 a.m. when the audience is sleeping.
I was delighted when a titmouse pair decided to nest in a box just outside my office window. I got a kick out of watching them time and again literally drop out of the sky into the box.
One morning, though, I saw nest material hanging out of the bird house, unusual since they were such a tidy couple. I had a bad feeling about it. Wes investigated the matter and found raccoon fur on the box, confirmation that in the middle of the night one of the masked bandits had made a grab. Egg shells and nest scraps littered the ground.
However, with avian theater, there’s always another scene. One of the most entertaining acts are the screech owls that raise young every year in a nest box that resembles a miniature outhouse, complete with half moons carved on the side.
We know the cycle well. The adult owl first shows up in the fall, sitting at the entrance of the box. And throughout winter and early spring, it makes brief, regular appearances in the morning and evening. Then in early March the show goes on hiatus, and we don’t see the owl again until April. When it does reappear, it (or they?) hangs out at the entrance on and off throughout the day. And then, like clockwork, we see the owlets on Mother’s Day weekend.
This spring, there were at least three young perched in the front and side “half moon” holes, bobbling around like Sesame Street puppets. Per usual, we saw the whole family regularly for about a week. Then, we got a new glimpse into their life on Friday evening when we saw an owlet fledge. We’d been hearing the adults quietly whinnying in the evening, possibly encouraging the young to take their maiden voyage.
The owlet wasn’t a flying ace right out of the gate, though. There was a great amount of flapping and hopping around at first. After awhile, the novice pilot seemed to get the hang of it, though.
Now the nest box is empty again and I can’t help but glance at it every time I walk past the window. I miss watching the goings on during sweeps week. But, I’ll have to wait until next season for original programming. Until then, I’ll just change the channel and watch Birds of Our Lives.
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