The yard is warm and sunny today, sprinkled with blossoming weeds. A few weeks ago it was frozen and snowy.
This year January and February saw days warm enough for house repairs (replacing wood damaged by carpenter bees), followed closely by days too cold for anything but reading and sleeping.
Some days were strangely confused, cold with bright sunshine or warm with dreary skies.
Our annual writers’ weekend at the beach brought a little bit of everything.
March will likely bring a little bit more of everything, but hopefully it won’t get fountain-freezing cold again.
Last fall we stopped buying bird seed when we took down the bird houses, and for the same reason. Just as the houses were no longer housing birds, the seed was no longer feeding birds.
I haven’t seen rats in the yard this winter, but I also haven’t seen many birds. Hopefully our winter flocks are finding plenty of alternate food sources.
Yesterday I watched through the kitchen window for nearly an hour and saw a total of four birds. The little yellow-rumped warbler in the above photo was foraging for insects along the fence, while a robin and a mockingbird basked in the pear tree, sleepily soaking up sunshine.
The most interesting activity took place in the wax myrtles, where a young yellow-bellied sapsucker was tending its sap wells.
(I decided this was a juvenile sapsucker after consulting Cornell’s All About Birds website. Please comment if you can confirm or correct my identification!)
I couldn’t help wondering about the origin of the sapsucker’s behavior, which strikes me as fairly advanced problem solving. This young bird likely learned to make sap wells by observing its parents, but how did its earliest ancestors learn their craft? Did the behavior surface gradually, a slow convergence of experience and appetite? Or was the shift a more sudden spark? Is there a sap well gene?
Some part of me wants to argue against a purely genetic origin for the sapsucker’s wells. My objections are all based on wistful incredulity, on a deep-seated longing for connection beyond mere knowledge. My objections are, in other words, illogical. But they are also persistent. No matter how many books I read, no matter how much science I embrace, some part of me still wants life to mean more.
The yard’s first bird of 2014 was a new bird for me. She showed up on New Year’s Day, but I was on my way out the door and didn’t have time to stop for a photo. Fortunately, she returned today…
(I believe this is a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I saw a juvenile sapsucker during my last trip to Alabama, but this is the first adult I’ve ever seen. Please comment if you can confirm or correct my identification!)
I followed her with my lens while she hopped from limb to limb in the pear tree, but I didn’t get a clear photo until something startled her and she paused.
She flew away a few minutes later, when a hungry squirrel climbed onto an adjoining branch.
Despite gloomy skies and an approaching storm, I can’t think of a better way to start a new year in the yard!
I’m in Alabama this week, visiting family. The yards here are busy with birds and squirrels, and the windows are bright with changing leaves. It all makes me as happy as a basking cat.
(I would love some help identifying the unfamiliar woodpecker, above. Is it a juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker?)