By Patti Muzny
A world without Mockingbirds would be a dismal world indeed. I don’t think I could handle their absence very well. We have been picked by a pair of impudent Mockingbirds that I can’t imagine living without. Throughout the bitter cold days of winter they stationed themselves under the heat lamp we provided and waited for pecans and raisins. When the weather improved, we quit offering the messy pecans and only put out a few raisins in the morning, at noon and in the evenings. These birds had us trained.
Now if the raisins don’t appear on the patio table by around 7:00 AM, they make their displeasure known by perching on the back of my lounge chair, flipping their tails and scolding while looking into the den window at us. As the weeks flew by, we were operating on their schedule and one of us always had raisins out at least three times a day.
When my schedule permits my favorite place to be is on the back patio watching morning approach while I sip my cup of coffee. One morning I was sitting in a chair with my feet on the patio table when one of the Mockingbirds landed on the edge of it and peaked around the potted geranium at me. It was only slightly startled and gingerly hopped down onto the patio to flip its tail and glare at me. I got up and went into the kitchen to get a few more raisins while it waited. I put out the raisins and before I could clear the kitchen door, it had swooped down and started gobbling. For days we followed this scenario and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Then one day the raisins weren’t eaten and I noticed a male Cardinal eating them. I knew the mockers had fledged some young because I would hear the youngsters begging to be fed in the yard next to ours. Then I realized the exuberant singing had also ceased to echo through the neighborhood. For about a week our yard was strangely quiet and I was beginning to be concerned as to the well-being of my raisin-munching feathered friends. After all, there is the pair of Cooper’s Hawks that nest across the street. And there is the fact that I saw the male Cooper’s zip across our front yard with a bird clutched in its talons. I think it was one of our many doves. I willed it to be so, anyway!
A few days later, I suddenly heard a burst of “mocking” song from every available perch! The Mockingbird seemed to be everywhere. The Mockingbird is still singing, but does not come for raisins as often. All appears to be well in SW Oklahoma City.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, we escaped the city and headed for our McClain County property. It was cloudy and cool – perfect weather for being out in the country. Although we have not had runoff rain in our area and our pond is critically low, we have had nice slow rains, so the pasture is beautiful and green and the wildflowers are everywhere. Bees are buzzing and birds are singing. And speaking of birds…I managed to be in the right place at the right time to observe a pair of Painted Buntings performing the first step in raising a brood of another generation. I saw a flash of green and raised my binoculars just in time to see the second flash of green, red, blue and all of the hues in between that make the male Painted Bunting a spectacular specimen of color. I had located his mate and he had just flown in to mate with her. Pretty cool.
In front of the cabin there is a dead branch that seems to be the favorite of our Phoebe, Bluebirds and Painted Bunting. Each of these species takes turns and uses this perch to watch for an easy meal in the short grass below the branch. During this weekend, the Painted Buntings seemed to be the most vocal, although the White-breasted Nuthatches weren’t exactly quiet. I spent several hours just watching the activity on and around that branch. If it ever falls, I wonder if we can glue it back up there?
I slept out on the screen porch so I could hear morning explode into song. I was not disappointed. The first burst of song before dawn each morning was that of the Cardinal, followed a few seconds later by the Chuck-will’s Widow. They seemed to compete as to which one could sing the loudest. Before long the “Porch Phoebe” joined in and it was difficult to hear much of anything else. The Painted Buntings can hold their own with the Phoebe, tho. The Eastern Bluebirds are pretty quiet, probably due to the fact that the female is incubating a nest box full of eggs.
The butterfly weed (chigger weed) plants were blooming and a nice variety of flying insects and butterflies collected on each plant. The Indian Paintbrush and Coneflowers also attracted nectar feeding creatures. These spring events don’t really last that long, but quite the natural show is available to those of us who enjoy getting away from our concrete jungles.