There are grackles in my yard.
I love it when it’s warm enough that the birds come back. In the winter, you won’t see a lot of birds — ravens, not huge and ever-present like in the Northwest Territories maybe, but still saucy in their own way; maybe some blue jays in the apple tree, soaring to and from the peanut feeder down the way; a cardinal, if you’re lucky; and chickadees. Always chickadees, singing and twittering and as sweet a bird as you’ll find. Of course, there are more, but they generally stay hidden.
But in spring, it’s lovely when they all come back.
Robins usher in the spring, and boldly stroll right past you as they look for bugs in the lawn. Red-winged blackbirds start fussing and bickering in the trees and on fences. We get the cooing of the lovely (and, frankly, not very bright) mourning doves. On very good days, you’ll see goldfinches, always in pairs, darting past in a flash of yellow. Sparrows come out in full force, although they were probably there the whole time, just hiding in the shrubbery to stay warm. And massive gangs of starlings, partying in the yard, and then once they’ve snacked on enough bugs (or whatever it is they do — possibly sharing a keg, knowing them) and tormented the cats, taking their mobile party noisily off into another yard.
But most of all, I love the grackles. They’re so pretty, in a simple, shiny way. But they’re also such comedians. They stroll about the yard like they own the joint. They get into the feeder and toss seed about like confetti. They play and fuss and plow through the grass. They’re totally the small dogs of the bird world — big birds in a small body, and big attitudes to match. And they’ll walk right up to the house and right by the window as if there aren’t actually at least two cats sitting and cussing at them.
Grackles are my favourite sign that spring is really here.
I have always had a house surrounded by trees, so bird watching is a big thing for me. I don’t go out with binoculars into the woods for hours on end — I’m not that serious about it. But I love sitting in the window and watching them do their thing. When we built this house, lots of windows facing the conservation area was a must. So was a bird feeder and bird-friendly plants. I even leave all my dead flowering plants and tomato cages and whatnot in the garden over the winter so the birds have a place to sit and seeds to feed on.
And I was really alarmed with all the reports in recent years of West Nile Virus decimating the bird population. So much so that I asked my neighbour to stop keeping a barrel of rainwater because it’s just standing water for mosquitoes to breed in. (Which she has not done, so more drastic measures are in order, like sneaking out and tipping it periodically when she’s not around.) I listen, now, for birdsong when the windows are open, just to know that they’re still around. And around here, at least, it seems they’re doing okay.
So I take time nowadays to appreciate my backyard birds.
And, if the chattering and squawking coming out of Duncan’s mouth as he sits here at the window beside me is any indication… So does he. But probably in a different way.