Friday, June 10, 2011

The Healthy Habitat

This spring we added 5 new "yard birds" to our list:  Gray Catbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow Warbler, Eastern Towhee, and the Bobolink. To qualify as a yard bird, the bird must be seen or heard by you from your yard. Some people extend that definition to include "whatever you can see with a scope from your roof" as a yard bird too! No matter--the fun is seeing the birds and keeping the list. Our list has about 55 birds.  While none of these new birds are uncommon for the general area (except the Bobolink which is terribly exciting since its habitat is dwindling) their appearance in our yard gets me wondering. What is different this year? Is it the weather? Did our yard habitat change enough to be inviting to that species? Am I paying more attention and/or getting better at identification? Have they been here all along and I'm just at the right place at the right time? I suspect it is all of the above.

The Pileated Woodpecker sighting was a 5 second stint. From my seat in the kitchen I heard its earnest squawk, which increased in volume as it ascended slightly in pitch. My brain said blue jay?... squawk.... Northern Flicker? ...squawk..... Pheasant?.... squawk!!.... WOODPECKER!!! run! ....SQUAWK!.....I caught a glimpse of it on the side of the pear tree YES!!! and then it was gone in a flash of black, red, and white. DARN!  I saw him a few days later in a tree across the road, and my neighbor has seen him too. Maybe he'll be a regular - that would be really cool.

Another surprise was this guy in the picture - the polythemus moth. It arrived (hatched?) yesterday and hung out on the kitchen door until sometime overnight when I suspect he found a mate, did his thing and passed on to the netherworld.  That's its sole purpose in this ethereal form.  He was a beautiful specimen, about 5 inches across, with fern-like antennae, and translucent spots. I was disappointed to find him gone this morning, even though I knew I would jumped out of my skin if he landed on me.

With birds, toads, dragonflies, fireflies, moths, butterflies, bunnies, and bees, there is never a dull moment in our cottage garden (read: we let some weeds grow). We happily create a healthy habitat for all of us.