Friday, February 5, 2016

View from a back yard: 21 bird species

Think you have to go far to see wildlife? Think again.

View from a back yard: 21 bird species


Think you need to go somewhere ELSE -- someplace exotic -- to watch wildlife?

When I think about places to go birding, I often think of the Green Lane reservoir in Montgomery County. Or the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum.

But this weekend, my husband and I decided to stay home, take advantage of the beautiful weather to work in the garden, and simply count the birds we saw in, or from, our yard.

The count surprised me: 21. And I just KNOW there were more birds that I heard, but couldn’t find in my binoculars or identify by their song.

The highlight was an extended drama involving the courtship of a pair of red-shouldered hawks and a flock of irate crows that wanted to protect what they clearly viewed as THEIR turf.

The hawks were circling high overhead. It almost seemed they were using our house as the epicenter. They called so loudly that when my husband was sitting on our patio and talking to someone on the phone, she could hear it. She asked, “Where are you? At the shore?” (The call sounds vaguely similar to the call of a laughing gull.)

But if one of the hawks came too close to a stand of evergreens on our neighbor’s lawn, the crows that usually hang out there went ballistic. They rose from the trees in a big flock, cawing loudly, and flew at the hawk.

Sometimes, they chased the hawks until all were out of sight.

This went on for about an hour, and it was glorious.

Meanwhile, here’s the list of what we saw in a rural back yard with a stream, some soggy areas, some woodsy areas and nearby fields:

  • Tufted titmouse
  • Goldfinch
  • Cardinal
  • House finch
  • Red-shouldered hawk
  • Turkey vulture
  • Crow
  • Black-capped chickadee
  • Wren
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Northern flicker
  • Mourning dove
  • Blue jay
  • Nuthatch
  • Canada goose
  • Red-bellied woodpecker
  • Starling
  • Junco
  • Song sparrow
  • White-throated sparrow
  • Red-winged blackbird
Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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