Doing my desk work from home so has given me a great opportunity to learn more about my neighbors. Not just the human ones, but the wildlife that frequents my small yard here in Holland, Massachusetts. I only have a half acre or so in a neighborhood that was built in the 1960’s. The woods around my home have grown up since then. I’ve had a visit from a bear just meandering through and stopping to scratch it’s back on a tree, a buck that seems to take up residence across the street at the right time of year (if you know what I mean) and of course, the marauding flock of turkeys. The big critters are great, however, its the little neighbors that really pique my interest.
I hung a bird box on a telephone pole right in my line of sight from my desk. I never realized how popular it was. I’ve seen the chickadees check it out, as well as titmice, wrens and my favorite: the white-breasted nuthatch. What intrigued me was their behavior. The female went into the box, and the male came along with a small flowering branch from a red maple. She stuck her head out and he began to rub the flowers all over the box – the roof, sides, the front and even around the hole once she popped back in. That was a few weeks ago, and now the box is filled with sticks. The house wrens aren’t using it, but they needed to be certain no one else would either.
One of my neighbors is very noisy. “TEA-kettle, TEA-Kettle” constantly. Non-stop. Loud. I’ve read that Carolina wrens like clutter. Perhaps this will spur some of my human neighbors to do their spring clean ups! With all of this strangeness going on, and not being able to spend Easter with my family, “Lowrenzo” spent the days leading up to the holiday singing “EAST-er, EAST-er”. I have one other wren neighbor, a winter wren. A tiny, shy neighbor that visits occasionally, coming over from the mossy waterfall next to me. It will come up on my porch and has even hopped into my house!
One of my brightest neighbors is the male cardinal. He and his mate have become very quiet recently, but I know they have a nest in the brambles behind the shed. So much for that project! Another colorful group of “seasonal” residents are the Baltimore orioles. They are currently battling over the orange I put out on the porch for them.
The gypsy moths did a number on my magnificent oaks. Some I have taken down out of fear for my own “nest” but there is still plenty of dead, standing wood. The woodpeckers are all here – downy & hairy (they pretty much ate ALL the suet this winter, but Lowrenzo was kind enough to clean up the crumbs). I have a Pileated who makes a regular appearance and is trying to hammer down a dead hemlock. Red-bellied come out once in a while, and the yellow-bellied sapsuckers with their tell-tail drumming provide a cadence for the bird song in my yard.
There are many more non-feathered neighbors I could mention, but I’ll save that for a later post. I have one other feathered one I do want to mention – the red-shouldered hawk. A pair has been nesting up the hill from me for several years now. The red-shouldered hawk (aka the “seagull hawk” as they sound like a gull when they call) is fascinating. While we finish up with this stay-at-home, take the time to look and listen to your neighbors. You might be surprised.