Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Birdies That Sing in the Spring

Summerland is only about 50 miles north of Oliver, so I have been surprised at the different birds I've seen here. Perhaps it's because of the lake, which is only a stone's throw away. Perhaps it's because 300 ft in the opposite direction we are cupped into the shelter of some high, sandy cliffs. These are absolutely riddled with bird holes. Right next door is a vineyard and an area of uncultivated field, which includes a derelict log cabin and an impressive pile of old trunks and stumps, field debris and dirt pushed up into a 20 ft high mountain.

So the bird population spotted here so far, in no particular order, as much as I remember:

A pair of yellow-shafted flickers. These are lovely big birds with spectacular coloration, and they don't seem to mind being watched from a distance of 10-12 feet as they poke around in the grass looking for worms.

The inevitable pair of almost fearless robins. They love to tease the cat when we are out walking, by hopping just a few feet ahead of him. They let him get within about eight feet and then take off and land in a nearby tree. I saw one teasing the neighbour's cat in exactly the same way, leading the (very fat) cat to climb a tree trying to catch the robin. He was clinging onto the branch with all four feet, only a few feet short of the robin, when it flew into the adjacent tree. (And had a good laugh I presume!)

Canada geese - a mated pair - magnificent birds, but a victim of their own breeding success here in the Okanagan. This spring a team is going around addling goose eggs in an effort to reduce the enormous population. Can't help but feel sorry for the geese. They love their eggs like we love babies. When a clutch has a dozen eggs I don't know why the "addlers" can't leave at least one or two viable eggs for the geese to raise.

Rusty blackbirds with their bright yellow "bead" eye and irridescent feathers. There was a flock of about ten of them outside this morning.

Gambrel quail - three birds - not much of a covey after our hundred or so in Oliver. They live in the field next door and only occasionally come over this way.

Audubon's wood warblers - delightful little birds who for some reason look like giants bees when they fly! They land upside down on branches and trunks, pick at something there and flit to the next branch. They must be eating ants. Listed in my ancient "Birds of North America" as Audubon's warbler, there now appears to be a fair amount of confusion over the name of this bird. It is not the yellow-rumped (aka "Butterbutt") warbler which now seems to be featured in most sources.

Pygmy nuthatches They feed in the same way as the Audubon's warbler, upside down, hanging onto a tiny stem and bobbing in the wind - Alas I found one of these uncommon little birds dead after one of our unseasonably cold nights.

Red-tailed hawk pair They soar up and down on the thermals above and next to the cliffs on sunny days. They are harassed constantly by smaller, more agile birds, who dive bomb them, peck at them in mid-air and generally try to annoy them.

Barn swallows who appear to be some of the worst hawk-bedevilers.

Yellowthroats These lemon-yellow bits of sunshine have little black masks like bandits and a beautiful song!

I have heard but not seen a saw-whet owl in the middle of the night.

Pica pica (aka Magpie) Although they are almost universally despised I find the magpie's exotic appearance and incredible intelligence endearing. We raised one from infancy about 15 years ago, and I'll never look at them with anything but affection again. For the story of our maggie see Magpie Summer.

We also have coyotes, which come quite close at night, and our neighbour says the raccoons ate all the fish from her pond last summer. There are a couple of resident beavers near the beach, dedicated to removing all standing trees in the area. I haven't seen them yet, but hope to at some point when it's warm enough to sit on the beach.

1 comment:

newwaytowrite said...

okay...me jealous...you have beaver neighbours...take a picture if you can.


Did you see the beaver photo on Cheezburger?