Mother birds do not always choose a good spot for their nest at first try. At my temporary vacation spot, I recently found a wren’s nest that had baby birds in it and I think their chances are slim. It must have been the female’s first try. The babies will be lucky to fly off safely.
My favorite wren on Mount Desert Island is the winter wren. It is the wren we get to see if we’re out and about from mid-April through January. There are five different wrens you might see throughout the year on the island: the winter wren, house wren, Carolina wren, sedge wren and marsh wren.
The winter wren is one of the easier ones to see for its short, cocked–up, stubby tail and barred belly are very eye catching. The bird acts like a feathered ping pong ball constantly in motion. Look for it in brush piles, ravines, woods, tangles and in the roots along the banks of streams. A feathered ping pong ball REALLY does describe it.
None other than the blue jay can be described as bold, brash and beautiful — a feathered Rhett Butler in blue and white. (Who knows that name anymore?) This is a northern bird and often seen here on MDI year-round. It is one that easily rivals in looks any bird found in the tropics. Most of us forget about that. A birding friend visiting me from England brought that to my attention when she first caught sight of a blue jay and said, “Ruth, what was THAT beautiful bird?“ I answered, “Oh, that’s just a blue jay.”
She corrected me as a school mistress would and gave me a lesson on appreciating beauty. Few birds are as flamboyant and colorful in England. Our blue jay IS a beautiful bird and has a handsome crest. Its voice is not soothing sometimes but this bird takes on the job of being the alarm system for letting other wildlife know that “‘DANGER IS NEAR — WATCH OUT!“
A female blue jay usually takes the lead with courting males accompanying her, expecting favors. Blue jays have the reputation of being raucous, greedy bullies when actually they are unjustly accused of many things. Any large bird at a feeder is more aggressive than a small one but, given enough room, they will eat peacefully together.
Blue jays do not stay long at a feeder and any small bird intimidated by them will usually return. One way to make everyone happy is to offer more space on the feeder and a larger space on the ground and shelf.
Jays eat a variety of food and will frequently store any extra food somewhere for later use. Acorns are sought after. The cap will be eaten right away and the rest will be tucked away for later. If the bird forgets where the food was stored, something else will eat it.
After blue jays pair off, they become much quieter and almost seem to sneak around through the trees. After the eggs have hatched, the adults become noisy again. Courtship starts in late February and goes through late May. This is prime time for blue jays!
If you live in or near a field, watch for bluebirds — the bird with the sky on its back. English sparrows were unfortunately introduced into this country a number of years ago by an uninformed person coming back from a vacation abroad. He had no knowledge about the ramifications of such a stupid move. It almost was the end of bluebirds in this country. The English sparrows can live just about anywhere. They took over the nesting sites of the bluebirds by just going into the box, killing the bluebird and putting their nest on top. A giant endeavor of building bluebird houses and other actions saved the day and bluebirds are coming back in many places. It’s a memorable moment when you see them these days. I get numerous sightings of bluebirds now from West Tremont. Put birdhouses up for them. Local feed stores have birdhouses and directions for putting them up or you can get directions online.
Listen for the first call of a phoebe that returned this month. It’s like again hearing the voice of an old friend. The bird could very likely be the same one you had as a neighbor last year. When you think of all the miles it has flown to leave you and come back again, it’s quite remarkable.
Don’t miss any of the signs of spring! Hummingbirds are on their way for they have passed through South Carolina and should be expected in Maine in May. Cormorants may arrive soon.
Vultures fill the air here in South Carolina and I enjoyed watching 19 of them one day circling overhead. I have had some reports very recently of them being seen in Maine. I had a report of someone seeing a baby porcupine and I always found it interesting to know that when the mother porcupine gives birth, the spines on her newborns are soft. Early–waking bears have been seen off–island looking for food. Keep your feeders in if they come to your yard. Let me know what you’re seeing.
Send any questions or observations to [email protected].