Monday, May 5, 2008

Spring birds in the meadows

It's hard to think of a more pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a lovely spring morning than to take time to walk around the Garden observing birds (unless it's looking at spring wildflowers in the Smokies). A birding excursion focused on the garden meadows was full of birds that I often see and enjoy (Eastern bluebirds, mockingbirds, goldfinches, chimney swifts, brown thrashers, chipping sparrows, and phoebes).

Male eastern bluebird

taken by Bill Bridwell, OLLI class participant

However, we saw many birds that I wouldn't normally 'see' without help from an expert directing our attention, including a pair of kingbirds swooping around the meadow pond, a male and female blue grosbeak, an indigo bunting, and a catbird. We heard a wood thrush, a summer tanager, a great-crested flycatcher, a pileated woodpecker, and a red-bellied woodpecker, although we didn't see them.

But a special treat was hearing and watching a pair of Eastern meadowlarks in the fescue meadow. They're pretty shy, so generally aren't very visible among the tall grasses, except when they're singing. The usual dogs and their humans were walking in the Garden, so their presence may have flushed the meadowlarks out of hiding, giving us a good opportunity to look at them. The tall spring and summer meadows provide good nesting habitat for them, if they're not mowed until fall.

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