My favorite episode on WKRP in Cincinnati was Turkeys Away. The joke is that the station manager drops turkeys out of an airplane thinking that they fly. So, when I first saw a huge bird fly across the street in front of my car, I thought, “It could have been a turkey, but since turkeys don’t fly, what could it have been?” I then learned that wild turkeys do indeed fly…
On Monday, I spotted several turkeys in our backyard, scratching at the seeds that dropped from our bird feeders. I knew that they spook easily. I grabbed my camera and stalked down our driveway to the edge of the house, not an easy feat on a gravel driveway. To my surprise, there were over a dozen turkeys in our and the neighbors’ yards. I fired off a couple shots before they spotted me and flew away toward the wooded ravine behind our house. All winter long, we did not see a sign of them but now that the days are getting longer they will probably show up more often. Years ago, I even saw a turkey landing on top of our feeder pole. More dangerous was the time when I observed three turkeys crossing the street toward the school that abuts our housing plan. Where they after the food the children dropped on the ground or did they want to attend turkey school?
During the past few weeks, I noticed some strange looking birds in our backyard. They didn’t quite look like goldfinches, yet they often visited our thistle feeder. They also ate seeds on the ground, but they weren’t sparrows either. The other day I received an Audubon Society bulletin and learned that they are pine siskins. I wish I had known this during the backyard bird count so I could have included them. On Saturday, when they were visiting our feeders again I set up my camera and took some photos of them. I was quite excited that I could finally photograph again after a long winter trapped indoors.
At the same time the siskins were at the thistle feeder, a male goldfinch showed up. Its eyes were quite shut from what I assume is conjunctivitis. A bit later, I spotted it on the ground eating seeds. I felt quite sorry for it since it will probably starve to death sooner or later. My husband cleaned out the feeder that same night to avoid spreading the disease to other birds.
Despite the recent cold spell, spring is around the corner. Really. The birds think so. I hear more and more bird songs around our house and even when I’m driving. Last week, my husband spotted a blue jay that was feeding another one.
The results of the great backyard bird count are in and I can report that we have all 10 of the most frequently reported birds in our yard. I would be happier if I could report a rarer species than, say, a mourning dove, but so it goes.
A bit more unusual are the seagulls we saw at the Pointe recently. There is no body of water nearby and I can only assume that they are raiding the garbage disposals of the restaurants. Go figure!
This past weekend, I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. At some times of the day it was like a feeding frenzy out there. On Saturday, for example, I counted 13 cardinals at once. I can explain their abundance with the wooded ravine we have behind our house. Other large numbers were: five juncos; nine mourning doves; five goldfinches, and seven starlings. I also saw three robins on our street, my first sighting of the year. Their survival instincts have not quite kicked in yet.
Our most exciting experience was on Sunday when we watched two crows land in our yard. At that same inopportune moment, a vole decided to leave its hole – only to be snatched up by one of the crows who then took off with its prize.
The other backyard visitors were vegetarians and munched on our four bird feeders and the feed that fell to the ground. Too bad I was not allowed to count squirrels. They are always in abundance around here. I was also sorry that the flock of red-winged blackbirds I have often seen lately did not show up during the count. That would have been impressive! I am anxious to see the final tally of the count. Last year, cardinals were the most reported species. No wonder, judging from my own numbers.