Shawnee News-Star Sunday May 20th 2018 Becky Emerson Carlberg Last Saturday was the Multi-County Master Gardener Association plant sale.   The same day Deep Fork Audubon Society had a field trip.  The night before I transported my plants to a truck going to the sale so the next morning I could join our birding group.   We […]

Shawnee News-Star Sunday May 20th 2018

Yucca in Bloom

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Last Saturday was the Multi-County Master Gardener Association plant sale.   The same day Deep Fork Audubon Society had a field trip.  The night before I transported my plants to a truck going to the sale so the next morning I could join our birding group.   We drove past patches of wide open pink Evening Primroses in cool, partly cloudy weather.

Our rendezvous spot was at a house on100 acres south of Tecumseh.  The birds should still be around until the heat of the afternoon hit. Sitting on the broad porch that overlooked two birdseed feeders, we could also monitor a deer feeder which periodically dispensed corn now eaten by the crows and nectar feeders defended by possessive ruby-throated hummingbirds.

We watched butterflies flit over Barbara's Buttons.   Here too the Buttons were plentiful with green milkweeds, Indian Paintbrushes and white Achillea in bloom.  Our host recommended we download the Merlin Bird ID App from Cornell Lab to help with bird identification.   To emphasize how effective the app is, as we watched a Bewick's wren fly to the Chinese Pistache in front of us, she played the recorded song of another Bewick's Wren. When our wren heard the canned Bewick's Wren, the little bird became quite excited, flew closer to the porch, and sang even louder.   Seems that the male Bewick's Wren can have a repertoire of 9 to 22 separate songs with high notes, burrs and trills.   Now I don't feel so bad about trying to figure out birds by their songs.

In the fall the Chinese Pistache trees had been saturated with Great Crested Flycatchers, Red-bellied woodpeckers and Downy woodpeckers eating the fruit. Today the trees were relatively quiet, except for the wren.   Jamie, a large rescued Greyhound, sat patiently on the porch while we stared at the trees and feeders, pointing and sharing observations. On our bird list went red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, goldfinches, nuthatches, chickadees, blue jays, and mourning doves. A pair of bluebirds sat on a wire by the driveway and we heard a Phoebe in the distance.   This is great I thought.   Sit in a comfortable chair in the shade and let the birds come to us.

Bird feeders with a Goldfinch

We heard the story of the leftover sausage rolls.   Leftover sausage rolls were put outside for the wildlife.   The crows picked up the rolls and flew to different places to hide them.   As Jamie the greyhound was walked around the property, he sniffed out and dug up each sausage roll.   Jamie raised his head and perked up his ears upon hearing his name at the same time a squirrel climbed onto the birdseed feeder.   Our host jumped up and said, 'watch this.'   She shouted 'squirrel, squirrel' expecting the squirrel to jump and run as it usually did.   The squirrel just stared at her chewing. Once again she hollered 'squirrel, squirrel.' This time the squirrel turned upside down and vigorously went after the seeds in the reservoir.   Next thing we knew, she hopped up from her chair, threw on her hat and sunglasses, strode quickly past the dog, opened the gate and descended the stairs heading to the feeders.   The squirrel realized she meant business, jumped off and scampered across the grass.

When back on the porch she asked if we knew about the Bob technique. Nope.   On the porch sat Bob, a stuffed scarecrow in a chair.   The artificial face looked oddly human and the body wore overalls. To get up close and personal with birds, place seeds in the dummy's hand to attract the birds.   After the birds have discovered the food, the dummy can be replaced by a real person sitting in the same chair with food. The birds will continue to come and eat out of their hand.

All good things must come to an end.   Reapplying sunblock and grabbing binoculars, we walked to the expansive deer pen surrounded by a 10 foot tall tagged fence.   White plastic rings were spaced along the top wire to alert birds to the wires.   Birds, especially quail, have high startle points and can die if they unknowingly encounter the fence.

In the pen Jamie could run free while we checked for birds.   Through the pear orchard we wandered and sat at the shaded picnic table.  The sweet melodic song of a bird met our ears.   We searched the trees, fence and ground to locate the source of the music.  Thirty feet away moving in the grass was a pair of Painted Buntings. The female was olive yellow with rings around her eyes.     The brilliant male appeared to have been splashed with bright primary colors. This was the first male Painted Bunting one bird watcher had ever seen. He was certain these colorful little birds were figments of the imagination.   Made his day.   Even more exciting was when the lone-star ticks discovered we were there. After picking off several trying to climb up our legs, we beat a hasty retreat.

Pink Evening Primrose

On the return trip to the porch we passed several native yucca flower stalks lined with large white blooms.  A bird slightly smaller than a mockingbird flew rapidly overhead repeatedly singing the same note.   Our host suspected it was a Great Crested Flycatcher.   The Merlin App was brought back into play and after hearing the call of the Flycatcher, three of us agreed that was indeed the fast-moving singing bird.   Technology is amazing.   The clouds were breaking as the sun's heat built.   The morning had been a success and we bid our farewells.

Two days later I said farewell to the snapping turtle that had been deliberately run over on the country road after Mother's Day.  A kind soul moved her to the edge.   She had not had time to even lay her eggs which were scattered around her body.   The eggs would have hatched in 9 to 18 weeks.   The baby turtles would have overwintered in their nest.   This turtle eats insects, larvae, dead animals, plants, fish, birds and small mammals.   Yes, just like people they strike out when they feel threatened.   They can live as long as us.   This female was only going to her nest and not bothering anyone.  This cruel act was senseless.

Do not destroy that which you do not know or understand. Remember the Golden Rule? No?   Look it up.   Take time to learn about nature. Knowledge is a powerful tool.

My Squirrel