Feathered friends: Enjoy summer

Enjoy your yard or nearby woods and thickets for many great sights of nature where often the birds provide the most activity

By Hans Kunze
Special to The Spectator

It’s hard to believe that we are already deep into the summer with the end of July not far away.

“Time flies when you are having fun.” I hope that all of you are enjoying the vast array of nature’s beauty in the wild, in your garden, and in your own back yard. There is much activity to witness if you are willing to pay attention to it. And that means taking a few minutes here and there to do so.

Many people are enjoying the steady visits of the rose-breasted grosbeaks to their sunflower feeders. What a beautiful bird! Combining its striking plumage with its familiar pleasant whistling warbling song makes it a perfect bird to enjoy. These birds are generally quite tame if you don’t make any quick movements.

Another great summer bird that is fascinating so many people is the popular Baltimore oriole, along with the increasingly common orchard oriole. If you have continued on with feeding the orioles – especially grape jelly – you are having some great viewing of both species bringing their young by for a meal. Feeding orioles has been so much fun as the orioles seem to be watching for us to refresh the jelly supply in the several small dishes on our deck railing. Several dishes allow several orioles to eat at once. If you have the male orchard oriole coming (a dark brick-red bird) then you also probably have the female and the young coming which look quite similar to the Baltimore female and young. If you pay attention, you can tell them apart. We are gradually learning some of the different calls the two species’ young make while they are feeding.

Right now, it is challenging keeping the ants and wasps away from the jelly but it is workable. If you ever spray an aerosol, make sure that your jelly is not getting any residue! Be very careful! The variety of other birds that are discovering the grape jelly is also quite entertaining and includes woodpeckers, catbirds, mockingbirds, and several others.

Many of you have been enjoying the various woodpeckers bringing their young to the peanut and other feeders. We have had downy, hairy, red-bellied, and even flickers with young. It’s quite entertaining to watch the adults feeding the young the tiny bits of raw blanched peanuts. Some of you are fortunate enough to have the large pileated woodpeckers stopping by with their young. Watching the adult transfer food deep into the mouth of the young is fascinating. Young woodpeckers learn pretty quickly on how to feed on their own, though it’s much easier to follow the parent around! Sapsuckers are also around and can be mistaken for a down or hairy woodpecker. Look for a distinct vertical white wing patch. Sapsuckers’ characteristics include irregular pecking that sounds more like Morse code and their habit of pecking rows of small holes on tree trunks. Red headed woodpeckers are quite uncommon – not to be confused with the very common red-bellied woodpecker.

A female Baltimore Oriole at an orange.

Hummingbirds are always adding much excitement to the mix as they zoom around the yard and often try to take control of the hummingbird feeder. If you have lots of flowers in your yard, you may not even need to use a feeder. The feeder obviously brings them closer to your porch where you can watch them easier. But seeing them work the flowers gives one a rewarding feeling for the work that goes into keeping those gardens blooming.

Though many birds have nested by now, several species are on their second or third nestings right now. Recently I trimmed the lower branches from several of our trees that get in the way of our lawnmower and I found several active robins nests tucked up in there. Cedar waxwings are nesting now that many wild and cultivated berries are ripening. If you pick blueberries, you are likely to see quite a variety of birds that are also picking blueberries. We have had to enclose our blueberry patch to keep the deer out in winter and to keep the birds out in summer. I don’t mind sharing a few berries with them but they can devastate a blueberry patch as they often peck into several berries instead of just completely eating one. But with only their beak to use it’s difficult to get a good grip on the dangling berries.

In summary, it’s summer, so just enjoy your yard or nearby woods and thickets for many great sights of nature where often the birds provide the most activity. It’s a great time of year and summer is flying by. Thank God for the much beauty and the bounty of the gardens and the wilderness. Happy birding and ENJOY SUMMER!