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Possumhaw: Birds and their feathers

 

Shannon Bardwell

 

There's no mistaking the indigo bunting, his sleek small body and that screaming teal color.  

 

From the porch we watch the northern cardinals flinging seeds from the feeders -- those impolite northerners. Below, the indigo bunting nibbles seed as if it falls from the sky. I've never seen more than one or two buntings as they pass through. There's a painted bunting, and to see one would be a thrill. They are painted with primaries, a bright red and yellow and blue. I've only seen them in the bird book, but they are known to appear on the Gulf Coast before they head to Texas or east to St. Augustine. 

 

A new bird perched on the chiminea; the little fellow cocked his head from side to side as if to introduce himself. His mate joined him. She eyed the asparagus fern for a home, but then thought better of it.  

 

Fetching Sibley's Bird Guide, I pegged the visitor a prothonotary warbler. He's as yellow as a canary, with a yellow head and breast; his wings are pale blue-gray. He's a kind little bird; attentive to his mate. 

 

The doves lumber in, slow and heavy. They are certainly not peaceful. They fight each other all the time and run the other birds off. Surely this is a mourning dove. Sibley's says the amateur listener, and that would be me, often mistakes the mourning dove for an owl. They issue a long, strong and single "poooooo." They sound lonesome, and no doubt they are, due to their ill manners. 

 

The chickadees moved out of the bluebird box and the bluebirds moved in. I'm not sure how the chickadees got their baby chicks out, since the box is about six feet straight down the utility pole, and there's a good chance a cat was waiting for the catch. I'm just not going to think about it. 

 

The warbler wasn't as wise as I thought; he entered a rusty hanging ornament and bedded it with straw and moss and things gathered from the ground. This will not be good when the cats discover the young ones. "Don't make a peep," as the saying goes. 

 

The hummingbirds arrived during the cool of early spring, but they've been scarce of late. I'm thinking the plethora of blooming flowers have lured them away from my sugar water concoction. They'll be back come the heat of summer when the flowers droop. 

 

A red, black and white rose-breasted grosbeak, with colors as distinct as a red-headed woodpecker, was spotted. But it's the brown-headed cowbird that is the most abundant at the feeder and yet the least noticeable.  

 

The cowbird remains here all year long, and I think I would chose him as a friend-- not very fast-moving, not very outspoken; he's steady and rather plain, and yet when he turns just right in the sunlight you catch a shimmer of iridescence. 

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie. Her email is msdeltachild@msn.com.

 

Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.

 

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