For the past few years, there have been signs that Kris and I, as we get older, might become birdwatchers. Kris has always exhibited a keen eye for birds of prey, pointing out hawks and eagles that I’d otherwise not notice. I’ve often delighted at winged visitors at the feeder. (Though I take equal delight when one of our cats makes a meal of a visitor.)

We’ve taken even greater delight in birds since moving to the new house. We’re still not serious about birdwatching as a hobby — we don’t take notes, we don’t keep records — but there are times that one of us will call for the other — “Kris, come quick! Come quick!” — and we’ll watch silently while some bird plays in the yard.

One recent afternoon, we watched the scrub jays take turns wading in the birdbath, dousing themselves with enthusiasm.

Another day, we thought we saw a hawk roosting on an aerial across the street. We saw the same bird, or something similar, a few days later. This time I had my binoculars at hand so that we were able to get a closer look. Which bird of prey had we spied? A pigeon. A large, plump pigeon.

We’re not exactly expert-level birders.

Earlier this summer, I was whiling away a Saturday morning underneath the walnut tree, basking in the sun. A small bird alighted on the tree and began knocking at the trunk. Either it knocked very slowly, or it knocked so rapidly that the many raps merged into one. I figured the bird to be a woodpecker, but a glance through The Sibley Guide to Birds revealed that I’d most likely seen a Northern Flicker. (Though I’m only able to say that with maybe 75% confidence.)

Northern Flicker

While I was outside today, exterminating slugs (seventeen!), a gorgeous blue bird with a black tufted head landed in the walnut. It was a beautiful thing, with glossy feathers, and a graceful demeanor. When I described it to Kris, she suggested that it might be a jay, and indeed it was. We see plenty of Western Scrub-Jays here, but this was a Steller’s Jay. It was beautiful. I want to see another.

Steller’s Jay

There were two other minor bird incidents today. In the first, a scrub jay was harrying one of the squirrels, which was standing in the lawn, eating nuts. In the other, three large crows swooped and twined together, playing over the lawn. Mortimer, one of the neighborhood cats (who has decided he actually lives on our front porch) watched the crows intently.

“You know,” I said to Kris. “I don’t think I know a cat who could take a crow. I think a crow could kick any cat’s ass. Crows are big, and they’re smart, and they look a little mean.”

“And their beaks are hard and pointy,” Kris added.

For the rest of the day I said, “Hello, Corvus,” whenever I saw a crow.


On 25 October 2004 (07:54 AM),
Dana said:

Crows have also been observed to make and use tools in the wild.

On 25 October 2004 (12:25 PM),
Amanda said:

I want to become a birdwatcher when I get old, too. I already watch a lot–on my 20 mile drive home from work every day, I’m usually able to spot several osprey, a hawk or two and, on very rare and lucky occasions, a bald eagle has crossed my path!

Birds are cool. We have an owl who lives within a few hundred yards of our house who we hear regularly. One night, while sitting on our front porch, he granted us with a visit–landing on the telephone wires directly across from us and directly underneath a huge light! That made my whole night.

On 25 October 2004 (01:30 PM),
Denise said:

I would love to see an owl. I’ve never seen one in the wild. My parents have an owl that lives in a tree close to their back deck – I can hear him some nights, but I’ve never seen him.

On 25 October 2004 (01:34 PM),
J.D. said:

What is it about birds that’s so intriguing? They’re fun to watch, big and small. I suppose that it’s fun to watch most animals (when they’re not sleeping), but birds especially so.

On 25 October 2004 (02:08 PM),
Lisa said:

Trivia: Craig graduated from Stellar High School. Their mascot was a jay. He may have more Stellar trivia than you would ever want to know.

On 25 October 2004 (05:52 PM),
al said:

I love Stellers. They are fairly common in Forest Park. My neighbor claims to be hand-feeding peanuts to the scrub jays, but I left a peanut outside for about a week with no takers.

On 26 October 2004 (07:16 AM),
Anthony said:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Stellar’s jay. It is great that you got a chance to enjoy one right at your feeder.

“You are worthy, O Lord, to recieve glory and honor and power, for you have created all things, and for your glory they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11)

JD, this world is a masterpiece. By an Artist. I wish you could see Him.

By the way, thanks for the link to Toto’s post about catching birds. That was good.

On 26 October 2004 (08:31 AM),
jenefer said:

When we were children growing up in Alhambra, CA, Mother (Kris’s grandmother) started feeding a very curious Scrub Jay when she was working in the garden. First it was cutworms that she dug up. Over a period of time, years, Pigo became quite friendly, not just curious. He would wake us up in the morning by knocking on the glass of Mother’s bedroom window, looking for a handout. At breakfast he would stand on the window air conditioner, which was in the dining room window, and peck on that window to be let in. It was the horizontal louver-type. He became very comfortable in our house. Mother would hide pinion nuts for him around the house and he would look for them and find them. We always suspected that he watched her hiding them from the window even when the blinds were closed. He had a family and once the babies fell down the chimney in curiosity. The rest of his family and off- spring were never friendly. After about ten years, he stopped coming. We figured he was dead. Very sad, but a great childhood experience.

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