Anne Horrigan Geary: Our feathered friends



Robins must be very patient birds. I just spent 10 minutes watching one sitting on a patch of grass. The only sign of movement was an occasional craning of the neck; but he never moved from his self-appointed spot.

Finally, he pecked the ground a few times, so I’m guessing he found what he was waiting for -- a tasty bug or worm.

There have been a lot of robins around lately. Often they come to the yard singly; but a couple of days ago, four of them were hopping across the lawn in a very animated fashion. From my vantage point inside, it looked as if they were playing a spirited game of croquet, as they followed or chased each other around one sunny patch of lawn. Do they hunt for food in groups, or were they just having a friendly get-together on a rare warm day?

We have two birdbaths in the yard and the robins seem to prefer bathing in the larger of the two, a metal bath covered with a green patina and graced with the figure of a bird on a twig in the middle. I’ve often seen robins vigorously splashing in the water, then hopping over to a nearby branch to preen and dry off. I can’t imagine plopping into the cold water; but robins seem to be a hardy bunch and are never put off by the chilly outside temperature.

While outnumbered by the robins, there is a pair of cardinals who routinely visit the yard. They have found the spot where I emptied a couple of bird feeders, and they happily sit in the white garden or in the forsythia thicket and take turns hopping down to the ground to feed. I’m hoping they are building a nest nearby as I’d love to watch them rear their young.

According to a bird book, they can have up to three broods a year, so we might be in the right spot to watch baby birds fledge and grow.

Last year we saw baby hummingbirds for the first time. The parents spent a lot of time coaxing them from one lilac twig to another, then leading them to the nearby sugar-water feeder. Then they would zoom over to some grapevine twigs under the pergola and then continue in an arc to the evergreens at the edge of the yard.

It’s fun to be able to glimpse some of the wild creatures outside our door or across the street. On Easter Sunday, a cottontail rabbit hopped across the lawn, twitching his powderpuff tail in our general direction. Then there’s a gray squirrel who is fond of climbing up and down the maple trees.

Once the feeders are hung, he hops excitedly from tree to bush and even climbs the pergola in search of toothsome seeds and nuts. There are several crows in the neighborhood who seem to keep the squirrel population in check, mobbing the squirrel when they don’t like what he’s doing.

Another feathery visitor last summer was a large pileated woodpecker, who very much resembled the cartoon Woody. The noise he made was quite amazing, and the number of perfect holes he bored in the evergreen were masterful examples of precision.

We try to provide a welcoming habitat for wildlife, even on the small scale of our half acre, and are grateful when the birds choose to visit for awhile. For robins especially, the green welcome mat of lawn is always out.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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