This past week in Joisey, all the early signs of spring were on full display. There was a light snowfall, our first of the season. Followed by a little ice storm that turned everything crystal white for about half a day before the temperature went to 50 and everything melted. The daffodils are an inch out of the ground. And finally, on cue, a Screech Owl stuck his head out of one of our Wood Duck boxes.
Here’s the back-story on that. Not long after we moved into this house, we were in the local hardware store, and we saw that they were selling boxes for housing Wood Ducks. We learned that they like to live near small ponds in wooded areas and that a family of Wood Ducks (known as a SAFE) commonly live in old holes created by a DRUMMING of Woodpeckers. But they will also live in boxes that are a pretty good facsimile. “Cool,” we thought, so we bought a box and hung it on a tree overlooking our small pond. Soon after, an entire PADDLING of Wood Ducks showed up and gave it a good long look before flying away. We were super-excited, so we built a second box to the same specs and hung it on another tree, hoping they’d come back.
We waited. Some squirrels sniffed around the boxes for a couple of days. We waited some more. And then, one day, an orange face peered out of one of the boxes. We grabbed the binoculars. Big surprise, a FAMILY of Screech Owls had moved in. The Wood Ducks returned every now and then, but they realized they were too late. The Screech Owls had taken over both boxes, forming an entire PARLIAMENT! And since that year, they’ve often come back to those same two boxes.
And so it’s underway, our annual DISIMMULATION of birds. The VATICAN of Cardinals is already chasing each other through the bushes. A ROUND of Robins will soon be pulling worms. The DULE of Doves will finish off whatever bird seed is left under the locust tree. The CAULDRON of Blue Jays will start bullying everybody else. The late winter MURMURATION of Starlings will be replaced by a HOST of Sparrows, a HERD of Wrens, and finally a TREMBLING of Finches.
WEDGES of Canada Geese have been passing overhead, but a GAGGLE has been here all winter, pooping all over the yard. They will happily co-exist on the water with the occasional SPRING of Teals or FLUSH of Mallards. They don’t even mind the odd visit by a Green or Blue Heron – but if a whole Heron BATTERY ever showed up, who knows…?
We live on a busy road, so it’s not uncommon for a deer to die on the property. Whenever that happens we can tell by the KETTLE of Vultures that start circling within a day or so. The buzzards alight as a COMMITTEE in the trees overhead, and then the whole WAKE bounces down onto and all around the carcass. Twenty-four hours later…nothing but Bambi bones.
We get huge FLOCKS of Turkeys that wander through every now and then, so unconcerned with us that they are a veritable RAFTER.
And all this takes place under the watchful eyes and noisy alarm calls of the ones we call, “the local sheriffs,” our Crow MURDER. We’re waiting to see what happens when they discover that KETTLE of Cooper’s Hawks nesting in the back forty.
Yep the whole Spring VOLERY is arriving. And this year, we continue our long wait for something we’ve unfortunately never seen. Twenty-two years ago when we moved in, we ordered something from a catalog that arrived in a huge box and weighed about 100 pounds. We had to go through all the packaging, read all the directions, and then construct it in four huge pieces. We sat in the grass on a drop cloth painting it (the boys were so young they could barely hold a brush). And then we had to buy two ridiculous 20-foot pressure-treated 2×6’s, connect them back-to-back with carriage bolts, run a cable through it from one end to the other and connect it to a winch, bury one end of the pole six feet in the ground, connect the four pieces, and the hoist the whole thing up about 15 feet in the air.
And simple as that (*sarcasm*), we had a massive bird house. It’s really handsome, we’ve repainted it a few times, and every once in a while we’ve got to straighten up the pole. We even moved it once, which was pretty much a military operation.
But, alas, we’ve never been successful. For the past 22 years, we’ve failed to attract a COLONY of Purple Martins.
Oh well. Hope endures. Here comes another spring. Maybe this will be our year.
– Mike Keeler