Free Bird

Warm weather aside, you can sense summer beginning to lose its grip just as it does almost every year at this time. The Rufous Hummingbirds rely more on flower petals than plastic feeders now, and as the plants fade away so too will the amazing little birds. We haven’t heard a Western Tanager in a while, although they’ve dipped in the bird baths a time or two. The Goldfinch kept the yard bright again, but they, too, are dispersing. Black-headed Grosbeaks were abundant and, judging from the many young birds around, will be again next year.

On the flip side, we were disappointed at the total absence of Evening Grosbeaks to our feeders, the first year we haven’t seen them. We also missed the Pine Siskin, which is related to the Evenings. Coincidence? We actually felt sorry for the male House Wren: he was industrious in his building and enthusiastic in song, but didn’t attract a single female while he was here. We had five busy nests near the house last year.

I’ll remember one bird in particular from 2006, a young Steller’s Jay that we helped put back into the wild. He’d been nursed to health at a local wildlife rehabilitation center, and because we’d brought injured birds there before they felt we’d make a good go-between for his flight back to the real world. When we opened the basket he flew straight up into a fir tree, took a quick look around, and kept going. The perfect goodbye. And good memories to tide us over until next March, when the hummingbirds return and the cycle we know starts anew.

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