Northern cardinals, like flying maraschino cherries, flash through the clutter of new-blooming tree buds. Every time I see Mr. Cardinal, there is a Mrs. – or a potential Mrs. – close by.
Whenever a Mourning dove lands, another is beside it, on the grass, a nearby electricity power line or tree branch.
Early this week, I spent an afternoon watching a pair of Blue jays cavort a few feet into the forest that borders my backyard, stopping now and then to face each other in obvious admiration. They likely have a nest somewhere in that relatively few cubic feet of forest. I have not yet discovered it, but I know it is there.
A bluebird couple dropped by to check out a couple of rentals we have posted in our yard. He inspected the structure to decide whether it would keep his family safe, while she observed the neighborhood for lurking hazards. Soon, he called to her and she flew over to enter the house.
She must have thought the house has potential; they were back next day for another look. They better be quick, though. A horde of House sparrows are already starting to gather, and soon will be fighting among even themselves for a claim on available housing. Already two couples have begun renovating a couple almost matching houses on the other side of our yard.
One afternoon earlier this week, I found a second Red-tailed hawk nest, complete with a resident. The first nest I found was new this season. The most recent was a refurb. Although information I have read indicates the week might be a bit early, experience says if there were no eggs, the hawks would have raced away from me and my camera.
I have a few places I can count on finding the birds, often, in recent weeks, paired and perched as though waiting for the arrival of dinner – a vole or unsuspecting small bird – or a nosy human. They allow me to pass by in my car, but if I stop and walk back with the camera, they fly off as soon as I lift the lens.
Now, on a nest 80-to-100 feet up, easily 100 yards away, they seem confident the old man isn’t going to shinny up to be a threat. They will incubate the eggs about five weeks. Another few weeks and the new generation will take flight.
The red-tailed population is noticeably on the rise. In fields along one piece of road, where 20 years ago there would have been a single pair, there now are three. Not far away, two more pair ply the winds. The mouse population is doing well to keep that many hawks so amply fed.
I have visions of our male offspring, enthusiastically displaying his prowess through the picture-glass window of the gym on Main Street, while other parents’ daughters admired his performance. The one he chose was in another forest. She thought, and still thinks he was a fine specimen. Three of their own offspring later, they still chase each other around on a sunny afternoon.
His sister, her feathers always arranged for the best appearance, sat beside the Ohio River one afternoon explaining, to herself more than me, of a certain guy whose attention she hoped she had attracted. That was 18 years ago. They still seem permanently paired up.
Like the Red-tailed hawks that populate our skies and, for the next few weeks, our trees, appearance is the penultimate harbinger.
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