Although the title sounds a bit Hitchcock-esque, I assure you there is nothing mysterious in the meaning! You see, spring/summer of 2017 has brought more wild babies of the feathered variety to the ranch than we have seen before, thus year of the birds.
First, a Red Breasted Robin pair started things off by building their nest under the eaves of the cabin, about 4 feet from the loft window where we sleep. For a few weeks, early each morning as the sun first shone on that east facing wall the babies welcomed their breakfast with noisy chatter. And awakened us much too early for our preference, but what a sweet sound! It was fascinating to watch the parents gather great beaks-full of leggy bugs and wriggling worms, taking them by turns to the three babies waiting to devour them. Those little heads grew bigger and finally the fledglings were no longer there, the family had moved on.
Around that same time the Mountain Bluebirds (a personal favorite for its stunning color!) nested high up in the snag behind the cabin. A snag is a long-dead standing tree, in this case a 70’ tall Ponderosa pine. Numerous holes and cavities are evidence that it is a preferred haven for many bird species on the ranch. The Bluebirds nest was too high for much observation other than watching the parents swoop through the air acrobatically, collecting bugs on the wing to feed their hungry offspring.
And then a family of Kestrels set up housekeeping about halfway up the snag. Once the foursome became fledglings, the breakfast ritual once again filled the morning air with the sound of happy baby birds! The parents brought small rodents and grasshoppers (a Kestrel delicacy!) to them. The youngsters held onto them with their feet while eating. In the afternoon we would sit in the shade and watch as they jumped out of the nest cavity to nearby limbs preening themselves in the sun, learning balance and strengthening their wings in the wind, their beautiful blueish-grey color and black markings vivid in the sunlight. Even more enthralling, when they too left the nest we watched as they learned to fly, going from tree to tree; and then hunting with their parents, spying grasshoppers while hovering in still flight, and then diving earthward.
No sooner had we begun watching the Kestrels when one of our young Brahma hens hatched out three chicks! A broody hen hatching eggs is a first for us so it was especially exciting. How precious to hear the mother hen ‘talk’ to her offspring in that low, soothing tone, and gather them safely under her wings. The little fluff balls followed her around the poultry yard as she taught them what to eat and where to find water.
And then the Robins came back and raised another brood in their former nest!
This has indeed been the year of the birds.