Out On The Mudline
Yearly Bird Invasion Brings Color To Area
By W. P. Sissell
The Waxwing Invasion
As I sit at my computer I can see none of the holly trees in the back yard. Last week, as I prepared a Sunday school lesson Nannette called for me to look at the birds invading the hollies.
When I got to the window adjacent to the closest tree I saw birds flying in every direction. The waxwings had arrived. The tree next to the chimney had a heavy crop of red berries this year. The heavy crop was being harvested speedily by hundreds of birds. They paid little if any attention as I appeared at the window not two feet from where they were working. Someone passed the following story on to me: They picked up a waxwing that flew into a window and found that the bird’s mouth and throat was packed with red berries.
In a couple of days our beautiful little visitors moved on to other locations. In the years of teaching at Northwest Community College the annual waxwing visit was some kind of an event. There they had holly and dogwood trees, usually heavily fruited, to harvest scattered across the campus.
Yesterday afternoon, as we turned into our driveway, another usual visitor left her perch in the top of a tall sweet gum tree (in California they’re called Amber trees) and glided down to about six feet from the ground (the usual hunting level for the swamp hawk). I usually call these the rabbit hawk because of the white “bunny tail” that is very visible when you can see the top side of the bird and when hunting in large open fields that white tuft is readily visible. We had several of these rabbit hawks along the length of “Dry Bayou” on our Crowder farm. It was not unusual to see several of these hunting over the fields there.
On the farm here we had a pair (they are pretty protective of their territory) that nested in the one very tall oak in the swampy area along a drainage ditch. They persisted, probably because of the tree’s height, until I drained the swampy area and took the tree down. Evidently they have moved their nesting area and are still occupying the old area. Technically these hawks are the Northern Harriers and the male is bluish gray while the female is brownish.
A Visitor On The Way?
We do have many bird visitors for a part of every year. Nannette and I enjoy the variety. Once in a great while we have had a Baltimore Oriole nesting in our pear trees. In the past we have had a kingfisher that nested in the side of the highway embankment. I haven’t seen him lately. I don’t think he/they liked four lane highways.
The robins are usually the first arrivals along with the mocking birds. Our blue birds are here most of the year. Another that I haven’t seen lately are the flickers although we do have a red bellied woodpecker that loves sunflower seed. He gets a single seed, carries it to his particular place in the oak tree nearby, hulls and eats the kernel and returns for another—“kinda” like we shell peanuts (the book says that woodpeckers do not use feeders). I must not forget the shrikes—“butcherbirds” that impale much of their food on barb wire fences. The shrike looks like and reminds me of a tiny hawk. Harold Vaughn, just a few minutes ago, told me about small birds hiding in the shrubs around his house to gain shelter from a food searching hawk. There are many more that I will not try to name here.
We heard just last week that the hummers are back along the Gulf Coast. We immediately got several feeders out and filled so when they arrive at our house after their long journey they can get a bite to eat.
Thank you for your questions, answers, help and accolades. You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879. Do have a good week. Watch those birds!