Log In

Reset Password

It’s In Your Nature: The songbirds are growing quiet

All spring, until July 4, a robin sang from a maple tree beginning before dawn and lasting much of the morning. I’m not sure he took time to eat for hours.

In hindsight, I wish I’d have logged how many times he sang in an hour. It would seem he liked to hear himself sing but we know that this is a male bird’s method to stake claim to his territory.

On July 6, I had major knee surgery and after a few days in the hospital, I was able, by July 10, to get outside again.

The morning was eerily quiet. I listened the next few mornings and realized that not only was “my robin” quiet, so was the wood thrush I had been hearing every morning from the woodlot across the street.

Most of our breeding birds are now finished with the nesting process and some, like orioles have probably already begun the trip south. There is no longer a need to sing and protect their territories.

On July 21, I saw a small flock of robins, speckled breasted juveniles and two or three adults. The next day, they were gone.

Sadly, the summer breeding is done, the males’ hormone levels drop, and post breeding dispersal has begun.

Late nesting goldfinches, a few house wrens, and bluebirds finishing their second brood will wrap up the summer nesters shortly.

My knee surgery had sidelined my short birding forays so I was resigned to observe things from the recliner indoors or a comfortable chair on the patio. I really wasn’t too disappointed because even this suburban area offered me a chance to see a few dramas unfold.

I was fortunate enough to have two pairs of bluebirds nesting on our property.

I positioned the boxes where the house would block the view of each of the boxes (one in front and one behind the house) hoping the males wouldn’t drive the other away. It worked.

The front yard box is closer to a woodlot which harbors too many gray squirrels. One of those squirrels decided to stray a bit. While watching the bluebird pair bringing food to the nestlings, they noticed a squirrel too close for comfort.

With an alarm call the male “dove at breakneck speeds” toward the squirrel. His mate soon followed. The squirrel was intimidated and darted left, right, and then to the closest tree.

It apparently didn’t quite get the message and about 5 minutes later tried to sneak closer to the nest box and again got barraged with diving bluebirds.

This time the squirrel gave up and hopped across the street. (Squirrels will eat bird eggs and young and the bluebirds knew the threat.)

About an hour later a pair of blue jays began screaming and they were soon joined by a couple more. A crow had found their nest and I watched as it carried away the form of a nestling in its bill. (Blue jays themselves are notorious egg robbers).

I realized: This is nature’s scheme of things.

Although I didn’t witness it that day, crows aren’t immune from threats either. Great horned owls are a principal predator eating crow nestlings.

Nature snoopers like me, hunters, and hikers have probably encountered the moment crows discover a roosting owl. The din of the ever-growing mob of crows is amazing.

Usually after 15 or 20 minutes the owl “can’t stand” it anymore and attempts an escape.

If you are ever in “Penns Woods” and you hear a loud flock of crows, try to sneak in on the group to spy the besieged owl.

The crows are so intent on their aerial and vocal attacks that neither the owl nor crows may notice you as you inch closer.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: What local bird species has multiple nests each summer but usually only two eggs at a time? A. mourning dove. B. catbird. C. blue jay. D. starling.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Polar bears, at about 1,500-1,600 pounds, are North America’s largest bear.

Email Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com

By now you've probably noticed the robins that seemed to wake you before sunrise each morning are silent. The male robin that staked claim to our front yard no longer has a need to announce his territory and, in fact, has joined other robins in post breeding dispersal. BARRY REED PHOTOS
Who would think the docile looking and beautiful bluebird could be so feisty. But, enter in a potential threat to its nest (from a squirrel) and you can see parental instincts immediately.
This juvenile robin, born this summer, still has not attained the adult plumage. Small flocks of adults and juveniles, once nesting in your backyards, now move to forest clearings and back road areas to feed until heading farther south in mid-October.
A blue jay pair lost at least one of its nestlings to a nest raiding crow. Remember that blue jays also are notorious nest raiders and will eat both eggs and young of other birds.