Thursday, March 25, 2010

Five Birds I Saw This Morning

I don't know much about birds, and am not a serious birdwatcher, but it's hard to ignore them at this time of year in Maine. Even the birds that spent the winter here are suddenly louder and busier, and the first birds have already started coming back from warmer climates.

Dizzy's genetic heritage would make him interested in birds, but an unfortunate puppyhood experience trained him to ignore them, mostly. He's more interested in land mammals. The deer we saw in the woods behind the cemetery last week almost gave him an embolism; he wouldn't chase them (I don't think), but he needed to let me know they were there, even after they'd run far away.

1. Chickadees. The Maine state bird, and they're ridiculously cute. They don't fly as much as bounce, and since they nest in cavities, they're here year-round.

2. Blue Jays. Maine Birding calls the blue jay a "noisy opportunist," and there's one that lives in a neighbor's tree and bullies all the smaller birds around a nearby feeder. In the bird world, too, the good-looking ones think they're entitled to everything.

3. Ravens. Ravens look a lot like crows, but are bigger, and can be more than two feet long. They too stay here year-round, as they're famous for eating anything. A colony of feral cats lives in the ruins of the old Gardiner Paperboard factory, and I suspect that the ravens even prey on kittens. They're also famous for their intelligence, and the sounds they make to each other in the mornings sometimes sound a lot like conversations.

4. Bald Eagles. A nesting pair lives along the Kennebec south of Gardiner, but I don't often see them. It's a beautiful morning, the smelt are running, and one of the eagles was cruising above the Cobbossee. Today it didn't come very far down, but I've seen one perch on a tree; they are enormous — bigger than I'd imagined, close to three feet tall. Seriously, I'd be worried if I had a smaller dog, although I think they prefer fish.

5. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Yes, really. Their arrival is an unmistakable sign of spring in Maine. I heard him (or her, I can't tell the difference) before I saw him, in a tree behind the D&H Motors dealership. They too are cute; they're medium-sized birds with long, sharp beaks and distinctive red markings on their heads. This coming weekend is Maine Maple Sunday, but the sapsuckers are equally interested (if not more so) in the insects the sap attracts.


Richard said...

A few years back, a member of the Maine Legislature proposed to eliminate the chickadee as the Maine state Bird as it was a member of the tit family, and that was not appropriate.

AnswerGirl said...

Oh, dear.