On the road…again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
And Now On Stage …In Order Of Appearance
Let me introduce the actors, as they appear on stage. From somewhere beyond the green curtain of shrubbery comes a red-headed woodpecker. He appears stage left where the biggest bird feeder is perched atop a metal pole. Next appears a female cardinal, off on the silvered feeder at the right of the stage, the one hanging from the native persimmon tree. She is joined momentarily by a brightly colored male North American Cardinal, an audience favorite. As the state bird of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he comes quite frequently, often singing his distinctive melody. A goldfinch joins them for a brief moment, but soon is gone. But the feeder is never idle too long. Stage right then is filled by a house sparrow and a chubby little English Sparrow.
As the entire stage begins to fill with frenzied activity, another cardinal appears at the big feeder, stage left. Two black–capped chickadees join in the feast of seed corn, sun flower seed and field grains. They usually take turns coming and going, but sometimes one or two of them will occupy the narrow shelf on one side of the feeder, while another bird or two occupies the other side. The large wooden feeder with plexiglass sides and a deep, generous canister is easy to spot from afar. The actors know at a glance when it is full and when the rations are depleted.
Finally, center stage draws the attention of the audience, as the guest star red-headed woodpecker finds the center bird feeder dangling from the loblolly pine tree. He is alone. It seems fitting that his brief soliloquy is acted out on center stage, where our eyes momentarily focus; and the supporting cast fills the stage in quieted movements.
Other actors come and go, moving to the rhythm of the grand dance that has been set into motion. There are black birds, sparrows, chickadees, grackles, other cardinals … so many familiar ones that they sometimes go unnoticed. At today’s performance, the audience was also pleased to see two budding actors, costumed in the finery of Carolina Wrens. They are quite new to our stage, but we expect to see them back. In addition, yesterday one of our favorite actors showed up, perhaps for rehearsal. A bright and healthy bluebird posed for a moment on the support stake where the transplanted kiwi vine is taking hold in its new abode. The blue bird has not yet appeared on stage with the others, but we are hopeful that such talented actors will delight us with many more appearances on our back yard stage.
Another day, another performance. Other actors show up to play their roles in ways that are familiar. Yesterday it was a red-winged blackbird, one of the actors whose familar voice has always been a harbinger of spring. Today a dove was noticed, quietly searching for fallen seed under the big feeder at stage left, while high above a flight of blackbirds temporarily took over pecking inside the wooden rails of the homemade feeder. A little later, a real star made a cameo appearance ... it was a Baltimore Oriole. Although the city of Baltimore is not so far away, we have seen only a couple of Baltimore Orioles in the past three years. As spring advances into warmer weather, we expect to be honored by the visits of other distinguished visitors. It may not be possible to remember them all, but we are delighted when they appear on stage, even if it is only fleetingly.
Sometimes it takes a direct comparison to tell one woodpecker from another. Today, for the first time ever, we were thrilled to see a red-headed woodpecker in the morning hours and a red-bellied woodpecker in the afternoon. Not only was it a first sighting of two regional woodpeckers at our new home, but the fact that they appeared on the same day was a pleasant surprise. The Footloose Forester had to look them both up with a Google search of woodpeckers, just to be sure that he was not mistaken. No mistake....we have them both. The red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) is on the left; and the red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) is on the right.
These chronicles that relate to the sightings of birds are updated, as necessary, to include details that make the saga more interesting, as it develops. Just like a soap opera, there is always another episode being scripted. Yesterday it was about two different species of woodpeckers on the same day, one in the morning and the other in the early evening. Today the soap opera took an unbelievable twist; something that you just can't make up. At about 7:00 AM, the Footloose Forester saw the red headed woodpecker perched on a rung of the metal birdfeeder that dangles from a loblolly pine tree while a red-bellied woodpecker was snacking at another feeding station about five feet away, at the same time. That feeder is suspended from a cord higher up in the same tree. Another first in bird watching at our new home! The story gets better and better, but until we have photos of the birds with our camera, stock photos from my computer will do. We await the great fun of it.
It would be another week before we sighted the first blue grosbeak to visit our yard. He didn't stay long and may not be back if he decides that the circumstances are not to his liking. Only time will tell. On the other hand, the pair of finch feeders we recently purchased (the words finch feeder were on the boxes) finally attracted two legit finches after a week or 10 days of waiting. The binoculars and the bird book told us that the male and female visitors were red-headed finches. Who knows what will show up next. But in keeping with the order of appearance, any newcomers will be announced if we can verify their identities.