By Ranger Steve Mueller
I am not one to sit. I like moving. Outdoor activity is either walking, working on trail maintenance, pruning trees and shrubs, pursing butterflies, birds, or other animals. Three days ago, I broke my leg while walking in uneven ground, in search of wetland butterflies. I fell in a hidden hole. Yesterday the surgeon installed a metal plate in my leg and said I cannot put any weight on my leg for six weeks.
I have been sitting on the back porch and noticing things that are missed daily because I move about too much. For two days I have been seeing Baltimore Orioles moving among the tree branches. A Great Flycatcher quietly landed in a tree in good view. A flock of Cedar Waxwings has been flitting about the conifer branches and I haven’t been noticing them. I have not seen any of these species lately.
Now that breeding season is mostly over, males are not singing to claim territory. It is easy not to notice the birds as they search for food. This evening a Ruby-throated hummingbird visited flowers in the butterfly garden in preference to the sugar water feeder that hangs in the garden. The hummer was actively feeding on minute insects that were flying just above treetops. I could not see the insects but the bird was clearly picking things out of sky as it hovered and darted back and forth.
Family flocks of American Robins have been feeding on creatures in the mowed lawn. Mourning Doves are one of the few birds still vocalizing with their owl-like coo-coo call. They are a bird that may still breed and produce young this late in the year.
Chickadees are not singing their two note song but like me they are contently on the move and do vocalize their chickadee-dee-dee call. I answer with my own version of their call and they come to see who is talking to them. House wrens sing continuously in spring and early summer but now only make a twittering chat.
Eastern Towhees are secretive and spend time under trees and shrubs scratching among the ground vegetation in search of tasty insects morsels. They have not completely given up their song of “drink your teaeeeee.” I still here the “your teaeeee” coming from hidden locations.
Most birds are busy in their specialized nature niches fattening for the long journey south, teaching young by demonstration, or working hard in preparation to survive locally for the winter.
The House Finches have males with red feathers on the head and body but females are brown. At the feeder this week there is a male House Finch with yellow instead of red feathers. I see a few of these annually. Studies indicate that those birds are lacking adequate carotene in their diet to provide the red in feathers. The birds are apparently healthy but display the abnormal coloring. The carotene generally comes from insects that are fed upon.
Now that I am required to sit and watch, I see things I normally miss by being too antsy to quietly sit and observe. I miss being on the move constantly but enjoy getting to see backyard wildlife activity that is quietly going about business in abundance. Don’t break a leg but sit to observe activity in the yard.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.