Birding time

We forgot to put the foam core “shutter” in our bedroom window last night, I woke up about 4:30, it felt like there were no blankets on the bed.

Still Winter.

But Friday I noticed our yard was suddenly a titter with birds. I’ve noticed Mocker is here every day, loading up on privet berries and running the fence tops like a little rat, snooping out everybody’s business, scrapping with the jays. Wren appeared almost a week ago – I read he has a very specific requirement for sunshine, he leaves when the days become just a few minutes too short, and as soon as the days get a little bit longer again he comes back. Friday a lone cedar waxwing stopped in my crepe myrtle tree, he seemed to be looking for his companions. As soon as he took off, the treetops filled with robins – it was like an airport at Spring Break.

Sapsucker has been work-work-working our almond tree for a couple of weeks now. Hummer and Vireo  almost always flit along after Sapsucker, he doesn’t seem to mind that they take advantage of his hard work. Have you seen a hummingbird’s tongue? It’s like a piece of spaghetti with a mind of it’s own.

One bird who never leaves is Screech Owl.  He flies over our yard every night, about 9 pm, making his namesake call. Sometimes we are lucky enough to see him, profiled against the clouds, before we hear him. If you wait until you hear Screech, he is already gone. Once we saw a pair, the second owl floating along silently after the first – is that how they hunt? One owl frightens the prey with that gawdawful screech, the other swoops in?

One morning I found  an owl pellet in my front driveway. Owls swallow their prey whole and then burp up a neat little package of fur, bones and teeth.  I see a lot of owl “plop” – which looks like white paint – draped  across the iris flowers below my remaining cedar tree. I know this is too much for Screech, who is so small he subsists mainly on big bugs.

We know we have horned owls – a couple of times a year, some lone male sits in our neighbor’s bare-top Sequoia and calls forlornly for a mate.  All night. We could look out the kitchen window and see his clear silhouette against the sky – hoot-hoot-hoot, hoot-hoot-hoot...  At this time of year we call him The Great Horny Owl.

This is the best time of year to watch birds, on a cold crisp day. They are the harbingers of Spring.

UPDATE:  Yesterday (1/30) I saw a cormorant sunning himself on the roof of a building on Manzanita, there at the entrance to Cal Park. At first I  thought he was a brass statue, but I realized – there’s no brass statue on that building!







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