Birdwatching of a Different Kind
By Brenda Kipp
In the last few weeks, I have been entertained by a bevy of birds both at work and in my backyard.
Late spring in Kansas is the time of year I see baby birds old enough to try out their wings, but still young enough to rely on their mothers as a source of food. I was on the phone with my aunt the other day and something in the back yard caught my eye. On closer inspection, I could see it was a baby robin. I wondered where the mother was. About that time, I saw a female robin hop through the bushes. The baby robin fluttered over to her and opened its mouth. Mama robin obliged by pecking at the ground and coming up with some nourishment to put in her offspring’s mouth. I felt sorry for the little one when the mother flew over the fence and the baby couldn’t fly over or squeeze through. The pair was eventually reunited.
A few weeks earlier, I had the back door open, enjoying the beautiful spring temperatures. Even from the front of the house, I could hear a wren chattering. Wrens have a melodious song that I never get tired of hearing, but they also have a scolding chatter. I went to see what the commotion was all about. I saw a male sparrow sitting on the perch of the wren house, thus blocking the entrance, and the wren was in the tree scolding the sparrow. I pounded on the screen door and the sparrow flew away. Minutes later, I heard the wren chattering again. I went to look and that darn sparrow had returned to the wren’s perch! I pounded on the screen door again and the sparrow flew away. This scene played out two more times before the sparrow gave up and went on his merry way. Once the wren flew after the sparrow, but broke off its pursuit and returned to the wren house.
This wasn’t the first time I’d seen a sparrow do this. Last year I witnessed the same scenario. About the time I was going to pound on the screen door, however, a robin swooped down and scared the sparrow away. I’m sure the wren was grateful to the robin for coming to its rescue, but I have no doubt that in spite of its size, the wren could have handled the situation on its own.
I’m beginning to wonder if each spring the sparrows are attempting a hostile takeover of the wren house, but they should have learned from one of their predecessors that the opening is too small for them (besides, they’re not cavity dwellers). I can remember my dad having to rescue a sparrow who had its head stuck in the opening of the wren house.
When I’m out doing yard work, it gives me the opportunity to observe birds more closely or hear calls I wouldn’t normally hear in the house. Once when I was cutting off flowers that had already bloomed, I noticed a robin had been hanging around. After I finished and sat back, the robin came over into the dirt, pecked at the ground, extracted a juicy worm and promptly swallowed it.
Recently, I’ve been able to observe birds of a different feather at work. The editors of Mother Earth News, one of our magazines here at Ogden Publications, have been trying out a new incubator. Over 200 eggs of different varieties were ordered from hatcheries in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas and placed in the incubator. We not only have a variety of chickens – Babcock Browns, Golden Comets, Dominiques, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and White Silkies – we also have ducks and quail.
Each day more and more eggs hatch and they are transferred to the make-shift “nursery” (a cardboard box with a heat lamp). The box doesn’t stay occupied for long though. Several of my co-workers have taken chicks home. I would love to take some of them home myself, but my current living situation isn’t conducive to having chickens.
I never thought I wanted chickens, but the longer I work here, the more I learn about the benefits of owning chickens. Now I’m interested in learning more about the different breeds and which ones would suit my needs. Thanks to some of my co-workers, this city girl (I’m really a country girl at heart) is learning about more than just the birds in her backyard.
Are you a birdwatcher? Do you have chickens? I’d love to hear about your experiences with birds.
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