BIRD WATCH: Seems there’s a surprise around feeder almost every day

A SCUFFLE BETWEEN two birds called my attention to the ground under the feeder.

Sibling rivalry. Two juvenile juncos were after sunflower seeds that had fallen to the ground. Each was trying to chase the other away.

Relief was my first reaction to this scene. Thank goodness the juncos had succeeded in raising their family. Maybe their nonstop scolding throughout the yard would stop for a while.

It won’t end because the female is going to start a second brood.

When juncos scold, or warn you, it means their nest is somewhere in the vicinity of where you are.

It isn’t always you they are scolding. Steller’s jays, cats, even squirrels come in for their fair share.

These birds have a wonderful scolding sound. You can just hear your grandmother going “tsk, tsk, tsk.”

That’s what they do. It’s often referred to as a “sucking sound.” I hear Grandma.

That’s not a comfortable sound when you are strolling through the gardens. It makes me feel guilty, like I should be somewhere else instead of bothering the juncos.

More than one reader has shared their anxieties during the spring nesting season.

The folks who suffer the greatest anxiety are those who have had planters or hanging baskets taken over by juncos, house finches and song sparrows.

When you first discover what is taking place, there is a moment of sweet surprise. Then reality sets in. “How am I going to water my plants?”

It’s possible but must be done carefully. Remember, if this nest was tucked in a bush somewhere, the occupants would have to deal with Northwest rain.

I’ve watched a mother robin cover her newly hatched brood during a spring downpour. She survived and so did the babies. Just be very careful.

A second surprise a few days ago wasn’t so pleasant. The birdbath was bone-dry.

It illustrated how the Pacific Northwest drowns in rain one week and when the sun comes out, plants soon begin wilting.

There isn’t a water shortage for the birds because there is always the artificial stream flowing in the backyard.

Of course the birdbath is for the birds, but it’s also for me. I see and enjoy more different species using this bath than I see at the feeders.

Right now, the fun at the feeders is focused on the bird blocks. Not only do the nuthatches, chickadees, juncos and towhees enjoy these treats, other birds are adding even more color to this scene.

Black-headed grosbeaks and Western tanagers have finally settled into my yard. I’m probably one of the last to enjoy the arrival of the tanager even though the grosbeaks have been around weeks.

These tropical summer migrants, along with the warblers and hummingbirds, really liven the place up, but there is one resident no bird can top when it comes to striking good looks.

Pileated woodpeckers have young in the nest, and it won’t be long before those youngsters will be introduced to the bird blocks.

For now, it is the parents that add startling size and color to the yard scene.

The male bird that landed on the patio wisteria trellis immediately had everyone’s attention. He was checking the bird block to see if it was full. It wasn’t.

The small amount left was fine for the smaller birds, but this largest of our woodpeckers left in disgust. Yes, I immediately loaded it up.

As the nursery scene sees more activity, it seems there is a surprise waiting almost every day.

This makes it mandatory to enjoy an early morning walk around the yard or stretch that time a little longer and see something you might miss.

The newspaper, something cool to drink and a comfortable chair under the umbrella is actually very important.

Don’t put it off. I’m headed outdoors right now.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email:

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