By Bruce Stambaugh
We are fortunate to live where we do here in northern Ohio, especially in the Holmes County area. Our manicured farmlands, brushy fencerows, dense woodlots, numerous lakes and the wetlands of the Killbuck Valley provide an abundant variety of habitats that attract an equal abundance and variety of birds.
In our busyness, we should stop, look and listen to the free show that is all around us. The many birds, some just passing through, others that will make their summer home here, can fill our senses with amazing music, incredible color, and entertaining activity. No admission charge is needed.
Even before sunrise, the chorus of songbirds begins to warm up like a pre-concert symphony. Usually the American Robins are first to welcome the new dawn with their varying songs. Soon others like the Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows join in. By first light, a cacophony of warbling fills the morning air. Everyday brings a new chorus.
Once the morning brightens, the birds mix a paint palette of colors into the recital. Now at their height of intensity for procreation purposes, the colors of the birds are positively stunning. Their appointed markings are a pleasure to behold.
The male White-crowned Sparrow, with its alternating bold black and white stripes atop its head, could serve as a referee amid all the commotion and scramble for seeds at the backyard feeders. Instead, it is intent on fueling up for its long flight deep into the Canadian northlands.
Pairs of Cardinals forage for their breakfast of cracked corn and oil sunflower seeds. Like two teenagers in love, the bright red male feeds his adoring but duller mate in their courting ritual.
Without hesitation, the impressive Rose-breasted Grosbeak sallies onto the feeder hanging only inches from the kitchen window. Even in a brief glimpse it is easy to see how this bird got its name, its rosy breastplate all too obvious. The female, on the other hand, is awash in rich creams and browns, all for protection against hungry predators.
The Baltimore and Orchard Orioles enjoy quick snatches of a grape jelly concoction housed in upside down bottle caps on the porch railing. A couple of quick gulps and they are gone, but never far away. Their liquid warbling says they’ll be back later for more.
The regal Red-headed Woodpeckers command attention from humans and aviary audiences alike. Without being bossy, they clear the feeders all to themselves. No doubt their brilliant red, white and black attire and their size have a lot to do with that.
The Red-bellied Woodpeckers are bolder, both in sound and behavior, their iridescent red head stripes as flashy as strobe lights on patrol cars. Their noisy chatter serves as a warning siren announcing their arrival.
Even the little Black-capped Chickadees come dressed for the dinner party. Their tuxedo-like coloration is fresh and ready for the spring prom. They zip back and forth from tree branch to feeder, neatly holding the seed with their feet, while their tiny beak chisels for the main course, the sunflower heart.
One hates to turn away from the aviary activity to see what might be passing overhead. An American Eagle, a Great Blue Heron, flocks of Mallards? It’s springtime in Ohio. All options are open in this intermingled habitat.
It is amazing what we can observe, especially when our feathered friends enter our life space. We just need to stop, look and listen.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012