From Our President: The Pleasures of Summer Birding

Summer birding at our house revolves around keeping the hummingbird feeders full, monitoring the nest boxes, and watching the various species of hatchlings beg for food from their frenzied parents. The juveniles are so vulnerable as they learn to fly, watch for predators, and fend for themselves. They are usually loud and rather conspicuous. Watching them is entertaining but at times nerve-wracking.

We often see several species together at the water pool we have in our yard. Juvenile juncos, towhees, House Finches, Purple Finches, siskins, goldfinches, White-crowned Sparrows, and Song Sparrows might be represented in these play groups at different times. They are exploring the new surroundings and are not yet sure of their own species identity. These young birds play, bathe, eat, chase, and explore the area. Even the young Rufous Hummingbirds engage in the chase games, since they cannot resist the chance to rev up their little engines.

Several of the young birds will fly from the water, one after the other, up to a tree branch. Then they decide to chase another bird up to a wire, and soon there will be five species of birds next to each other on the wire, looking surprised to find themselves there together.

Our nest box species are mainly swallows and chickadees. This year we did not attract a breeding pair of Western Bluebirds, although we always hope to. The Tree Swallows and Violet-green Swallows have several nests, and both Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees have multiple nests. These juveniles do not typically interact with the other birds, since the swallows are the insect aerialists and the chickadees are tree foragers.

Once the young birds are self-feeding, they begin to move away from our property. The yard, the trees, and the sky seems empty by late August. We can only hope they will return next spring to begin the new breeding cycle. We will be waiting.