Springtime is for the birds

Spring has officially arrived to our Minnesota home:crabapple

Yeah, I know according to the calendar Spring has been here awhile, but it’s only really felt like Spring for the past week or so. And it’s not that a flowering crabapple is an official start, but it sounds good to me.

Speaking of trees, we had to remove a maple that was too close to the house. The tree man did the deed last week. Underneath the maple were a whole lotta hostas.


With the maple gone, so was the shade for the hostas. I transplanted them to our far more shady backyard.

Wanna know how many I transplanted? Sixty-five! Crazy, right?

But they sure look nice in my pretty little woodland corner, so it was worth it.backyard hostas As I worked, the neighborhood birds entertained me. (You knew birds had to come into the conversation eventually, right?)

The chickadees were being their typical adorable selves, ‘natch, and our downy woodpecker is ever the charmer.


By the way, all the bird photos you’ll be seeing here have been shamelessly pilfered from the site WhatBird.com.

Please don’t tell.

Have you ever been to that site? Their search feature is pretty cool. By giving them beak size, approximate body size, primary & secondary colors, or any other features you might notice, they will give you a pretty good guess as to what the bird is. Or at least a list of birds that you can narrow down yourself.

That’s how I found out who our newest visitor to the bird feeder is: a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Rose breasted grosbeak

And the bird that was with him was his mate, though I never would have guessed it.

Rose breasted grosbeak female

Another site I use is allaboutbirds.org. It’s a great spot for learning cool facts, such as while the Grosbeak won’t be winning any awards for their nest-building – “so flimsy you can sometimes see the eggs from underneath” – their song has been described as “a Robin who’s had opera training.”

I haven’t seen a lot of this couple. (Too busy with their voice lessons, I assume.) Mostly it’s Chickadees and my Downy Woodpecker. Oh — and the Goldfinches! Let’s not forget them.gold finchHe might be tiny, but I sure wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with him. Just look into those eyes! He means business.

Speaking of little birds – I witnessed a bunch of sparrows taking on a crow!


Here’s how it happened: Our neighbor has this platform feeder where he puts fruit, nuts, cracked corn, etc. So here I am plugging another hosta in the ground — think it was number 54 — when I hear a crow making an awful racket. Cawing away something awful. I look over to see what’s pissing him off.

There he is in a tree near the feeder, flapping his wings and bobbing his head in a threatening manner. I follow his gaze and there they were, a group of sparrows.


Every time that crow tried to wing on over to the feeder, the sparrows dive bombed him! They swooped down all together, right at that old crow.


How do you suppose sparrows work together like that? Do they draw up a battle plan ahead of time?

Gosh, I wonder if they have a squad leader?  “Sparrow One to Sparrow Two, come in from the right… Sparrow Four, wait for my call… steady… steady….move, move, move!”

Sparrows got moxie.

Oh, and here’s the best part: As I’m watching this battle raging, along comes a blue jay who just flew in and took whatever was on the feeder.

Which just goes to show: there’s no sense in fighting. The Blue Jay will win, every time.blue jay

I know a lot of people don’t like Blue Jays, but you gotta admit, with that sassy crest and stylish coloring? They cut a fine figure.

Some positive characteristics I’ve learned about jays: They mate for life, are very good parents, are highly intelligent and can make mincemeat of wasp nests in no time flat.

Oh, and here’s an interesting tidbit from the site:

The Blue Jay’s coloration is not derived by pigments, but is the result of light refraction due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a Blue Jay feather is crushed, the blue disappears as the structure is destroyed.

This is indeed true. I once found a pretty Blue Jay feather while walking Dog and brought it inside where she promptly decided to eat it. When she spit it out, it was no longer blue.

It was also covered in dog spit so I didn’t take a picture. Sorry.

And that wraps up our bird discussion for today. In review, please remember: even the most ordinary birds can be interesting if you just give them a chance.

Also, don’t mess with sparrows.

32 thoughts on “Springtime is for the birds

  1. Ever since Alfred Hitchcock I’ve worried that our “little feathered friends” will get organized. Your harrowing sparrowing experience may be a sign of things to come. Wear a hat CJ and keep a eye peeled for further developments. cheers

  2. I hope you were able to salvage some wood for the fireplace this coming winter. I don’t remember though. Do you have a fireplace?

    When we lived in northern Illinois, I had some great hostas – that looks like a wonderful collection. Is the dirt there as dark as Illinois dirt? I wish I could have some of that deep earth for our Tucson abode.

    1. Yes to the fireplace, though it’s gas so no wood required.
      As to the soil here, blacker than you can imagine! And oh man, how easily the spade slips into it — like butter it was! How many bags do you want? 😉

  3. I’v moved several frost zones north of my southern Ontario birthplace. I miss these birds. And the hostas. Nice to see them, for old time sake.

    Sparrows mob crows and crows mob hawks. A curious and “pecking” order. You should pardon the pun.

    1. This is the first place I’ve lived where hostas will grow so easily — and ferns too. I’m quite thrilled with them, as well as the birds.
      When you say several frost zones north — how north are you?! ☃️

  4. Great bird tales! The hostas project sounds like a back breaker. I like all birds, though I look askance at the ones that really shouldn’t be here: starlings, Eurasian collared doves, etc.

    Update on the magpies: they’ve been in the fledging process the past three days. I didn’t get an accurate count, but at least four. So adorable! I’ll miss their chatter. Fledging was nearly two weeks earlier than last year, despite our long winter.

    1. It would have been a back breaker in Phoenix — we actually rented a jackhammer once just to plant a tree. But here? It went pretty fast. I was stunned with how much I accomplished in two days.

      Ahhhhhh, fledging magpies! Did you get pictures?

      1. Only a few. They weren’t quite as visible as last year (different tree). I was worried about one – still hunched in the nest tree two days after its siblings flew away from it. But the parents didn’t neglect the nervous Nellie. I gave it a little pep talk this evening and five minutes later, it finally made the leap. Coincidence?

          1. Oh that is a cute story. I love the opening poem: when monkeys chewed tobacco/And hens took snuff to make them tough”! Hahaha!!

            I love the big Maggie nests – the only ones I know of with roofs. They keep putting them right next to the house so I have a good view. Some of the fledglings were running around on the ground a little while ago. I finally got a good count – 5 like last year.

  5. I’m sure everyone has a favorite bird story. I grew up just down the coast from Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock’s The Birds was filmed. On cue, as I walked to school each spring, a pair of diabolical dive-bombing blackbirds used to terrorize me so much that I had to start carrying a tennis racket. I could have used your squadron of sparrows for sure.

    1. Ha! My dad had a similar story only his was with mockingbirds. Trust me, you do NOT want to get anywhere near a mockingbird nest. You won’t live to tell the tale.
      I just looked up Bodega Bay and yes, it looked eerily familiar. Also, really jealous of your childhood home!

  6. John James Audubon would be proud of you. this is quite a lovely post. I see a future on PBS in your life.

    Yes, I’ve been attacked by Sparrows before, its not a pretty sight…. jC

    1. Aw, thanks JC!
      It must be awful stressful to be a bird. They’re either worrying about finding enough to eat or getting eaten or having their nest raided. Yeesh!

  7. Nice to hear there’s a place in your yard where you can hosta la vista.

    I know, I know, another annoying comment. What can I say, I’m a real bird brain.

    1. How did I miss this glorious comment? Dang, you outdid yourself!
      And you know, some birds are quite intelligent. So take heart, Dave. It could be you have a crow brain.

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