April and May 2011

by Patti Muzny

Driving east on SW 85th on my way to work one morning, a brilliant sun-drenched blue flash skimmed in front of my vehicle and down into the field beside me.  I had wondered if 2010’s Eastern Bluebirds were still in the area.  They aren’t in the Muzny’s yard, but they’re close enough.  Chickadees and Bewick’s Wrens are nesting in our back yard and their conversations are so welcome.

The pair of Mallards that have been using our back yard as a resting/feeding station came back early this spring.  At daybreak they can be found patiently waiting for one of us to put out some bird seed.  One day the lid to a plastic storage container was left at the side of our driveway.  It held about an inch of water and was about 24 inches long.  Mama Duck claimed this little “duck bath” as her own and every time they come into the yard she bathes and drinks in this shallow lid and most of the time leaves a “deposit” for us to clean out.  Papa Duck just watches and sometimes gets a drink from the end while she’s resting in it.  She will squat down and just sit there for long periods of time, cooling what few body parts that will fit in that little bit of water.  Papa Duck patiently awaits and when SHE decides it’s time to fly away, he dutifully follows.  They’ve even come up onto our patio and walked across near the den windows.

One morning I looked out the den window and noticed a new yard bird.  A Dickcissel had landed near the ducks.  Soon I saw two Dickcissils.  New yard bird for us.  Brian found a House Wren in the yard and the flock of Cedar Waxwings continues to choose one of the pecan trees for their evening stopover. Each evening they come in and land, facing west and their beautiful lemon-colored breasts would flash in the setting sun.

One of the most fun species this spring has been the little Clay-colored Sparrows.  On the morning of May 6, I counted over 30 of them busily scratching in the grass looking for leftover seed.  They are so “busy,” and their buzzing songs are just day-brighteners.  I will really miss them when they leave.  Also on the evening of May 6, while I was taking up space on the porch swing, I looked up to see two Mississippi Kites soaring over the yard.  In a few minutes a beautiful Harris’s Sparrow came to the feeder.  Then I noticed a white spot on the fence and focused on the very bright white crown of a White-crowned Sparrow.  I’d thought they might have moved on.

All winter and into late April, we had Harris’s and White-crowned Sparrows at the feeders and they were usually accompanied by Goldfinches and sometimes House Finches.  The Cooper’s Hawk is a year-long resident, so he/she make keeping all of one’s feathers a challenge in our neighborhood.  Something was also was grabbing Eurasian Collared Doves and leaving several feather puddles in the neighbor’s yard.  I suspect the Cooper’s.  On May 7th, I saw a small bird dive-bombing a Cooper’s that had come too close to something near and dear.

Brown Thrashers, Mockingbird and Cardinals are among those who add to the spring serenade.  Our Purple Martins are fickle again this year – they just come and go, but haven’t stayed.  Also on May 7th, while I was out in the flowerbeds, a Carolina Wren decided to let me know he was one happy bird.

On my way to work I had been looking so diligently for the first Scissortail.  The first one I noticed was at the intersection of SW 59th and Shields Blvd.  He was catching flying things from a traffic light arm.  Another was found near OUHSC, doing the same thing at NE 8th and Lincoln.  The Capitol grounds also has a pair and the Barn Swallows are everywhere in this area.  I love their chatter.

On May 1, many of the McClain County migrants had returned to our property and I heard my first Chuck-Will’s Widow and Summer Tanager.  An evening walk put me in the path of an upset Painted Bunting male and I was thrilled.  The bunting was also having territorial issues with a Black and White Warbler.  I just smiled to myself and hiked on.  The “Porch Phoebe” was the first bird of the morning, followed by the raucous call of the Great-crested Flycatcher.  Love it!

It’s spring.  Hope everyone is able to get out and renew old friendships with our favorite species of birds. Even if you can’t get out, maybe an open window will work.