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View from Hickory Heights: Observing nature is fun

Yesterday was the day. I saw my first orioles and hummingbirds. I no more than put out the feeders before they began to visit. What I like best about Spring is that I am able to see the birds – even when they are sitting in the trees. The absence of leaves makes that possible. The bright colors catch your eye.

I have been waking up to birds chirping for the past month, but finally, the birds are coming around. I sat at the kitchen table so I could watch after I put the feeders out. When I am in my living room, I do not see much of anything.

No, that is not true either. From the living I can see what nature is out behind my house – namely the deer and the turkeys. Last year we fed the deer corn, but this year we did not. You were not supposed to feed the deer because of the chronic wasting disease. Don really missed that. He got mad when the turkeys came. He went out with his pellet gun and chased them away.

Don really liked to watch nature. I think he probably saw more up here than when he lived in Russell – although there are deer and occasional bear that has been seen there.

My neighbors showed me a picture of a bear that wandered through the yard. They captured a picture of it on a camera they had set up. I missed that because it was at night. It looked like quite a big one, too. I have seen a bear a number of times. Don was excited when one ambled through the yard. We just watched it walk through the yard and down through the lawn.

My feeders are on my porch. I put them out each morning, and take them in each night. I have had feeders destroyed by the bear so I am cautious.

I made a list of the birds that I saw that first day. I saw Grosbeaks, Cardinals, Cowbirds, a Flicker, some Gold Finches, a Tufted Titmouse, Sparrows, Chickadees, a pair of Orioles, and several Hummingbirds. I would say that is an impressive listing of the various varieties that visit the feeders at Hickory Heights.

The bird that made a nest on the drain pipe last year is back. She has been touching up her nest. Now, she is perched on it, I suppose sitting on eggs. When she first started the nest last year, we were worried that her eggs would not stay in it because it was shallow and it was not even. She took care of that building up the edge so that the eggs would stay in. I think she had two rounds of eggs last year.

Another bird is trying to build a nest just above my front door. I am not sure what kind it is, but I will find out when I get a good look at her. I will leave her be and clean up when she is finished with it. It is such fun to watch nature. There is nothing haphazard about their plan. Everything is taken care of.

With the rain today, nature is quiet. I have not seen the Orioles or Hummingbirds but the other birds are visiting the feeder.

When I taught school, I often did a unit on bird identification. I had pictures of the types of birds that are often seen around here. I helped the children color them in noting that we were doing the males – the more colorful of each species. We created our own bird books to take home to share with their families. I am not sure how many children watched for the birds, but at least they had a basic introduction to bird watching and identification. I wanted them to observe nature. I wanted them to appreciate what we see around us. I did the same for my grandchildren.

One year we had a robin build a nest in the rhododendron that was right outside the bay window. We could see the eggs when she left the nest. When they hatched, we were able to observe the pair of birds feeding their young. That was an experience I am sure they never forgot. I had to keep my cat in when there were young birds out there since they are natural enemies.

When I was cleaning out one of my book cases I found a nature journal that my older grandson and I made. We often walked at the Audubon. When we returned home, he documented his findings in that book. We saw a surprising number of things on our trips up there. His class visited there one year.

At the time I was a guide for field trips so I took his group around the park. I even sat with them to eat lunch. What a nice experience that was for me! I said good-by as they boarded the school bus to take them back to school. I asked if he remembered that and he told me he did. He was happy that I was his guide.

This summer I watch the birds on my own. Don would have been so happy that we have Orioles. He always fed them when he lived in Russell. He brought his orange feeder up last year but it only lasted one day. Something found it that first night and broke it. It was not on the porch!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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