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Tue, Oct. 15

Moore: Sights and sounds of nature in my yard

Lesser goldfinches have damaged the leaves on this sunflower plant. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

Lesser goldfinches have damaged the leaves on this sunflower plant. (Eric Moore/Courtesy)

Early each morning, I sit outside in my bird observation area and take in the sights and sounds of nature. While I am not experiencing a lot of bird activity at my feeders, my yard is certainly hopping with nature — literally.

A recent arrival is a large rabbit who is probably thinking he hit the jackpot when he found my yard. There is plenty of food for him, so I doubt he’ll be leaving anytime soon.

Some javelina came through our yard one night this past week and discovered my only non-native plant area — a flower garden by the front door. When I opened the window blinds the next morning, I could see the extensive damage — it looked like a roto-tiller had gone through the flower garden. I guess that is what I get for planting non-native plants!

This past Thursday, we had a beautiful common kingsnake in our yard. I absolutely love snakes and enjoy having them in the yard. Like most snakes it didn’t want anything to do with me, so it quickly slithered off when I got too close.

Recent activity — or the lack thereof — in the raven’s nest in our yard has me a little befuddled. In a “normal” year, the noise level in the nest is equivalent to a bunch of children on a playground. This year, the nest is very quiet. Only a few times a day do I hear any activity in the nest, and when I do, I get the feeling that I’m hearing only one juvenile.

Having only one youngster in the nest would explain why it is so quiet. Most years they have about four babies. One year they had six — what a racket they made! I guess if you are an only child, you don’t have anyone to tease, torment, or argue with. The nest is high in the crown of a large ponderosa pine tree, so I can’t see into it. Until the juvenile moves out onto the surrounding branches to start testing its wings, I won’t know definitively if my assumption of a lone bird in the nest is correct.

I’ve noticed in the last week that our phainopeplas are back. One of their unique vocalizations is whistle-like in quality, almost as if a person is whistling to someone nearby to get his attention. More than once I’ve been asked by customers to identify this interesting vocalization.

On a disappointing note, the spotted towhee nest in our yard got raided this past week. I’m not sure if it were scrub-jays, or ravens, or a snake. I discovered the nest a couple of weeks ago when I was doing yard work. Each time I walked through a particular part of the yard, an adult towhee would go bounding away.

I’m a little slow sometimes, but it finally dawned on me that there must be a nest nearby. I did a little snooping and found a well-concealed nest with several eggs. When I checked on the nest a week or two later, there were tiny little babies — they couldn’t have been more than a day or two old. The next day, I tried to show my wife the babies, and the nest was completely empty.

This past week, I’ve had a Lucy’s warbler working the deciduous trees that line the creek that runs along our property. I have also been watching the lesser goldfinches decimate the leaves on my sunflower plants. The damage they cause by eating the leaves looks more like insect activity than bird activity! I love seeing all of the nature in our yard each day.

Until next week, Happy Birding!

Eric Moore is the owner of Jay’s Bird Barn. You can email him at eric@jaysbirdbarn.com.

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