In a previous post here on Out There with the Birds, I told you that I moved—not far from my previous residence, and even closer to the big, historic cemetery that I consider my patch, where I walk, bird, and meditate several mornings a week.
Now that I’ve settled into my new abode and unpacked (mostly), I’ve had more time to spend outside on my newly rehabbed deck and in my yard, which overlooks a small, unmanaged (i.e., wild) city park, with tall trees and lots of undergrowth (i.e., habitat). I’ve gotten serious about paying attention to the birds I hear and see in and from my property.
It’s fun starting from scratch on a yard list. Common birds gain new importance. (I’m pretty sure I’ve seen and heard house finches, but did I remember to write them down? Why haven’t I even heard a song sparrow yet??)
Who would think that a move of two blocks would result in species that never, in seven years, visited my previous yard? Several of the first 21 bird species on my new yard list never made it onto my old one. I live about a mile from the nearest riverbank, but a great blue heron flew over my roof and landed in a treetop just down the street! That was a shocker. A scarlet tanager sang noisily a few days ago from the trees surrounding my deck. I’ve been enjoying the sights and sounds of summer tanagers for much of the spring and summer in the historic cemetery nearby, so the scarlet in my yard was also a happy surprise.
My nectar feeders have managed to attract up to three hummingbirds at a time—which is one more than at my previous location. Other species among the first 21 recorded on my new yard list are common nighthawk, chimney swift, gray catbird, and the hairy woodpecker that foraged on a branch right outside my kitchen window! The most numerous birds here are blue jays, tufted titmice, mourning doves, northern cardinals, and house sparrows (from the parking lot next door). A house wren has taken up residence in a nest box hanging from my front porch, which pleases me immensely. It’s still singing almost constantly in mid-July.
From my front door, the walk to “my” cemetery is only about a quarter mile, but in that short distance, I’ve seen brown thrashers on numerous occasions, and I hear white-eyed vireos just about every day. Those species aren’t on my yard list—yet. I hope they stop by before they head south.
At my old house, a bald eagle flew over once (once that I witnessed, that is), and Cooper’s hawks frequently dined in my yard on the neighborhood rock pigeons, leaving piles of feathers (and not much else) as evidence. Red-shouldered hawks were even more common, perching, flying over, or just vocalizing in my neighborhood. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for all three of those birds on my new yard list (but not for rock pigeons).
Before then, I’ll probably add American robin, which I probably have seen or heard here, but tend to block out in favor of less frequent sights and sounds. Because dead and dying birds have turned up in large numbers here in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recommends against feeding birds right now. Where I live, such sad and disturbing events have not been reported. Still, I haven’t hung my tube or platform feeders yet. Just imagine how my yard list will grow when it is okay to do so!
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About the Author
Dawn Hewitt is the editor for Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She has been watching birds since 1979, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald Times newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.