Company’s on the way and will be here any moment.
Ready? Oh, yes! We do wish to be good hosts.
Like clockwork our guests drop by this time every year. Their arrival is so regular they need no announcement. Forewarned is forearmed.
North Dakota is on a collision course with millions of migrating birds. Waterfowl and songbirds are about to descend from the skyways into North Dakota.
It won’t be long now. We of the songbird-loving fraternity must prepare for the return of our feathered friends and there is not a minute to lose. Inhospitable we’ll not be.
Recently I thanked my sister-in-law in Mississippi for dispatching one of the earliest arrivals. With our relatively mild winter, the Grackles arrived early this year. You can’t miss them. They are the big black, birds with the blue-black iridescent heads and the raucous voice. I’ve referred to them as the Darth Veders of the bird feeders. Although obnoxious, they are useful for cleaning up the winter tailings on the ground under the feeders.
Darth Veder aside, here’s the plan. Stock up on birdseed. You can never have too much birdseed on hand. As a rule, the greater variety of birdseed offered, the greater the variety of birds will visit the feeders.
Place more than one bird feeder in the yard. Two feeders and a thistle bag should do for starters.
It may still be a bit cool for a bird bath, but make plans to place one just the same. The birds may not bathe at this time of year, but they do need water.
Rake the yard around the feeders. Raking will uncover the seed dropped during the winter. Ground feeding birds will be happy to help the Grackles clean up winter’s tailings.
With the area prepared you’re ready for guests.
To make room for new arrivals, the Redpolls headed north to their summer nesting grounds in the arctic. They left about the second week in March. So long ‘til next winter.
About the same time as the Redpolls departed I saw my first robin. In the mild March weather he looked a bit bewildered at not finding a bug or two. He had to settle for a little suet fallen from one of the feeders.
A pair of Blue Jays announced their arrival at the feeders with their scolding call. They have comfortably settled in for the summer.
The Slate-colored Junco is another seasonal visitor who showed up right on schedule just after the Redpolls left. They, too, winter just south of us and move north at the right time. Juncos are easy to spot with their head, back and chest a uniform slate-gray and a white tummy. They have a relatively tame disposition.
The American Goldfinch loiters in the area throughout the winter. Right about now the male Goldfinch changes from drab plumage to an unmistakable bright yellow with a perky black cap on the forehead. They resemble canaries which, of course, they are not.
Another hanger-on is the Red-breasted Nuthatch. He is black and white like the Chickadee, but the resemblance stops there. He has a slight rosy tinge on his chest. Where as some birds skitter along the ground, this critter skitters up and down tree trunks. To watch him run head first down a tree trunk seems utterly improbable.
Speaking of chickadees, the Black-capped Chickadee, like the Nuthatch, also winters in North Dakota. He gets his name from the cocky black cap perched on top of his head. Although relatively tame, the chickadee flits in to the feeder, takes a morsel, then flits back out again. I’ve had them within arms reach when I am filling the bird feeders.
The Harris Sparrow is the largest of the sparrow family. He is unmistakable by his size and sports a distinctive pink bill and a black bib and crown. You’ll have to catch sight of him in the spring, however, because he passes through North Dakota only in the spring. He typically takes a different route south in the autumn. He should be passing through here anytime now.
I’m still waiting for the White-crowned Sparrow to show up. They, too, are ground feeders. At five to six inches in length they will hop, skip and jump to the nearest seed. They usually show up in North Dakota around May 1 on their flight north. Distinctive markings include a prominently streaked crown, pink or yellowish bill and erect posture.
Sporting with our feathered friends is as much a rite of spring as St. Patrick’s Day or Easter. Their presence heralds the marvelous promise of renewal and encouragement for a wonderful spring.