Off the Porch with Judy and Don Self
There are some days when you get up and just aren’t in the mood for birding. But then, while the tea is brewing, you take a quick peek out the kitchen window to see who might be hanging around your feeders. After all, it’s the middle of spring migration and you might just pick up a new species for the yard list! Well, the usual crowd is there: numerous cardinals, two Carolina chickadees (with recently fledged youngsters demanding to be fed), a tufted titmouse, three mourning doves, a downy and a red-bellied woodpecker, two chipping sparrows, the lone white-throated sparrow, the mockingbird who has commandeered both suet feeders, and four squirrels!
But there is blue on the tray feeder . . . two male indigo buntings and a male blue grosbeak apparently arrived early this morning! And, yes, the rose-breasted grosbeaks are still here, but now there are more females than males, guess the fellows who were here last week have moved on to grab the best breeding territories up north.
Tea’s ready. Not a cloud in the sky and the temperature is in the mid-60’s. So we decide to spend the morning out on the golf course, not birding.
But when we arrive at the course, we’re distracted by the pair of barn swallows busy renovating last year’s nest under the eaves of the cart shed. Then on our way to the first tee, we are treated to an aerobatics display by a pair of eastern kingbirds who’ve decided that the tee markers make a great launch pad for their pursuit of insects. A first year male orchard oriole singing from the hackberry tree above the first tee and a couple of great crested flycatchers chasing through the tree tops further conspire to break our already fragile concentration on the game. A par and a bogey.
A pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers over the second tee, and red-winged blackbirds building a nest in the cattails beside the lake, bogey-bogey. Indigo buntings, eastern towhees and a brown thrasher at the third green, bogey-bogey. More orchard orioles and a red-headed woodpecker on the fourth fairway, a bogey and a double bogey (ugh!). At the fifth tee, is that a Mississippi kite at one o’clock? No, a Cooper’s hawk. Sixth tee, awfully quiet, no birds, guess the Cooper’s is still in the vicinity, bogey-double bogey. Seventh green and a major question regarding proper golf etiquette has arisen. Your partner is preparing to hit a delicate downhill putt; is it proper to interrupt his putt and direct his attention to the pair of summer tanagers that just flew into the pine tree next to the green? Or must you remain silent and risk that they’ll move on before he finishes putting?
If a pair of summer tanagers aren’t sufficient to cause an interruption in play, what about an osprey circling the water hazard or an adult bald eagle that just lit in the tree beside the lake or the swallow-tailed kite silently hawking dragonflies directly overhead? OK, raptors are really neat and you have to interrupt play. But what about smaller birds like brown-headed nuthatches or yellow-throated warblers? Golf is such a complex game!
And so it goes for eighteen holes of golf, not birding.
Then back to Almosta Farm for a bite of lunch and a quick check the feeders, just in case. It’s the mid-day lull and only the female fox squirrel is there, lying in the bird bath, her chin on the edge and a foreleg dangling languidly over the side. Ah, life is good when you’re not birding.
The day’s only half over, so why not grab a cane pole and spend some quiet time by the lake and see if the blue-gills are biting? The fish are apparently taking a bit of a siesta and the reflections of birds flying back and forth across the lake make it difficult to keep an eye on the bobber. Most, like the gray catbirds that nest here each year and the soaring turkey vultures, can be identified without looking up, but the orchard oriole just draws the eye up for a moment of appreciation. The quiet time we craved is not to be. A pair of noisy brown thrashers clucking incessantly from the bushes sees to that. Are we near their nest? Do they have fledglings in the thick underbrush? And if that weren’t enough, the belted kingfisher flies in for her afternoon visit and spends the next half hour moving from perch to perch scolding us for fishing in her lake!.
Yep, it’s nice to spend an April day in the piney woods not birding . . . but somehow it happens anyway.