Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Birds of Our Garden

View of Whitelees from the road
I've always been a keen birdwatcher. It started years ago on nature walks with my father. When I was five years old we moved to a place on the edge of town in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was a grand place with a huge garden/yard, a stable and corral. (no photo available)

The place is still there, but sadly, the town has grown around it. Even while we lived there, we knew that the town was creeping nearer. Not long after we moved there, a golf course was built down the road. There used to be rodeo grounds across the dirt road from this place. The grounds got moved to a spot near the river to make room for baseball fields. How fun do you think it was to have only to walk across the road to see a rodeo? There are no more fields out the back of the old place or enormous piles of cottonwood logs to climb around on and the herds of deer have moved on.

When we lived there it was paradise for a small girl. Dad used to take us kids on walks down the dirt road or through the woods to the river banks. The Missouri river is really one of the prettiest rivers in the entire United States. I guess the river gets yellow further on down stream, but in North Dakota and Bismarck in particular, with its sandy banks, its beautiful. We would walk through the woods that are almost exclusively cottonwood trees. To this day the cottonwood tree is my all time favourite. When they are grouped together like they are along the river bottoms, there is a perfume that no other tree can match.
My mother did a painting of the trees as viewed from one of the windows way back then. It shows the cottonwood trees in the autumn and their splendid yellow leaves. I've got the painting here at Whitlees. I wouldn't part with it for all the tea in China.

We found a badger set once during a walk. By the way Dad behaved when we ever so carefully peeked down the hole, I knew this was a proper wild animal, worthy of respect. Wild asparagus could be found in the spring on the forest floors and Dad taught us the names of the wild flowers. Most of all, we learned to walk quietly. He'd get us to hush so we could listen to the chickadees sing and the woodpeckers knocking away.

By the time I was seven I could do a very good imitation of a meadow lark. I remember getting one to answer me back and we called back and forth a couple of times. There were always owls to be heard at night. The Great Horned Owl does have the best night time call of all the owls on earth. In the winter, we could see where the prairie chickens had taken off from their overnight spots in the snow. We saw the prints that their wing tips made in the snow when they took off into the air. I guess it is this time that my love of nature was imprinted on me.

I will always want to know what it is that I have seen. Here at Whitelees, I know exactly where the binoculars are and where the field guides can be found on the bookshelves. Some people tease me and call me "Identi-Lady" when we're all out for a jaunt in the countryside. I've taken the name to heart. Two summers ago, in the Greek Islands, I kept wanting to know what little lizards were running about. There were bright green ones and loads of speedy little brown ones. I made up my own field guide for them to help me in identification.

Here at the house as I have done in all the houses I've ever lived in, I have a little list of birds that come flying into and past the place.
House Sparrow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Willow Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Pied Wagtail
Gray Wagtail
Wood Pigeon
Barn Owl
Tawny Owl
Short Eared Owl
Golden Eagle (only once)
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Whooper Swan
Bewick Swan
Barnacle Geese
Greylag Geese
Canada Geese
Laughing Gulls
Herring Gulls
and Chickens!

This isn't a complete list, but it's a good chunk of the birds. I know there are a few other birds to go on, mostly little warblers and gulls in winter plumage that are tough to ID properly. If we get any other visitors, and you are even remotely interested. I'll post the sighting here.


Online Degree Adviser said...

Greetings, I was reading some blogs and came across your blog. I really enjoy how it makes such good reading.

I'll come by again.


Anonymous said...

Hi, I was surfing the internet and came across your blog. I'm quite impressed , with how it makes such good reading.

This is one to watch.

Many thanks,

www birding