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Spring backyard birds are always interesting. You never know when a new bird will arrive in the yard.
Here in central Maryland, it has been feeling like summer lately. We have to remind ourselves that it is actually still spring. The yard has been lively, with quite a few interesting spring bird visitors over the past week. Most will not settle in to become yard regulars. They will continue on their way within a day or two, but it sure is fun to watch them while they are here.
For several days, we’ve hosted a pair of Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks. Avid safflower eaters, they park at the platform feeders for long stretches of time along with Northern Cardinals and Mourning Doves.
In the past, Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks in the yard have been pretty hesitant around people. But this pair seems fairly tolerant, sticking around even when I’m sitting on the back step. So I’ve been able to photograph them. I wonder whether they have had good experiences around people in general or if this is a pair that is visited before and knows I’m the one who puts out the safflower.
On Saturday morning, another cool bird visitor arrived, this time an Indigo Bunting. That morning we only got a quick look at him and I at first thought it was the larger but similar Blue Grosbeak. But he has hung around for a few days, long enough for me to confirm that he is a bunting. He’s been pretty shy when I’m around. He’ll pop up on the top of the brush pile but will then quickly dive inside to find the millet I’ve tossed there.
Then Sunday morning, two Gray Catbirds arrived, the first of the season. They seemed a bit nervous, probably due to being new to the yard and were easily spooked at first.
One kept doing fly-bys of the Squirrel Buster Plus feeders. I’m not sure if this was just nerves or she was having trouble figuring out how to get to the seed. Usually birds watch each other to learn how to get seeds from a particular feeder. But this one seemed to want to take a shortcut to the seed she could see inside the clear tube section of the feeder.
The pair has calmed down today and have been mostly hunting for insects along our neighbor’s chain link fence, with a few visits to the millet around the brush pile. They also are on the ground beneath the suet feeders with the Blue Jays, hunting for dropped scraps of suet.
Great Crested Flycatcher
Today’s new visitor had me stumped for awhile. I could hear him talking quite a bit somewhere in the trees but couldn’t see him anywhere. (I’m deaf in one ear. While I can hear bird calls and songs, with only one functioning ear, I can’t triangulate location.) Fortunately, my mystery bird decided to come down lower and pause briefly on a branch near the brush pile, where I grabbed a few pictures.
Flycatchers are notoriously tricky to ID, but based on the coloring and the sounds I was hearing, this is a Great Crested Flycatcher. It’s a very cool bird to have in the yard. These flycatchers are fairly common here in warmer weather, but they like to hunt for insects way up in the tops of trees so they can be hard to see. Today is a really breezy day, so the treetops are whipping around quite a bit, making locating movement challenging.
Our Regular Backyard Birds
Other birds in the yard include most of our regulars: American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Red-Winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-Headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch, House Finch, House Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Mourning Dove, and Fish Crow. I suspect the Cooper’s Hawk is around too although I haven’t seen her.
There are also still a few lingering White-Throated Sparrows eating millet near the brush pile. Most of their crowd has moved on to their breeding grounds to the north.
I’m still waiting for my first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of the year.
The Blue Jays in particular have been very active today. They’ve been around so much this afternoon that I put out extra peanuts for them, which they love. (They see me outside and go to the hanging feeder where I always toss some peanuts for them in the morning to see if I’ve added any. If not, they look at me inquiringly as if to say, “Maybe a few more please?” I’m a sucker for that.)
They’ve also been busy at the suet feeders. They are often big suet fans around nesting time, so I wonder if that is what is going on today. Suet is probably good energy for making eggs as well as a soft easy food for new nestlings.
. . . And a Snake!
As well as spring backyard birds, I also got a look at one of the snakes that lives in the yard. I was alerted to the snake by Orange, a feral cat who has claimed our yard. I started to fuss at him because he was in the feeder area but realized that what he was watching so intently was this snake. I’m not super knowledgeable about snakes, but I think this is an Eastern Garter Snake.
You never know what you are going to see in the yard in the spring!
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