The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is especially known for its mammoth annual migrations of 1.5 million wildebeests and 250,000 zebras. It’s on my bucket list.
But until I make it to Africa, I can still watch the flocking of the native birds visiting my backyard in suburban Portland, Oregon. They aren’t actually migrating, but they are gathering in large numbers, as Autumn progresses.
Today, a hummingbird, a heron, a jay, and flickers, juncoes, and robins all visited my backyard.
As pictured above, a Great Blue Heron has visited my backyard ponds almost every day over the last two weeks. Probably she finally got the kids all kicked out of the nest and she can spend some time by herself.
While I have four foot high heron visitors, I also have inch-high hummingbirds; usually the first bird to arrive in the morning. These Anna’s hummingbirds are here most of the year.
While the heron and the hummers are here most of the time, the robins, flickers, juncos, and a solitary blue jay have begun flocking, and sweep into my backyard about 8 am, when the mist is still rising.
There are dozens of robins, and a half dozen flickers. I’ve never seen flickers in more than pairs until this Autumn. The flicker and the blue jay have become rare sightings.
The robins make the biggest splash. They swarm over my grape vines, gleaning hungrily. It gets so crowded that some robins decide to wait their turn, poised on every fence post and branch like so many feathered gargoyles.
All the action pisses off the flickers, and they wait it out in nearby treetops.
The juncoes, flickers, and the jay are only interested in bird seed, the oldest piece of suet in the Northern hemisphere, and ants. I don’t know why they flock together, except for protection in numbers.
The robins attack the grapes until every vine is shaking.
I’m remembering what Besame wrote the other day, about how the cross-billed birds seem to be restricted in their ability to eat certain seeds. While the robins passionately consume the grapes, oddly, their pointy beaks are not well suited to grasping a smooth round object. It take 4 or 5 tries for a robin to subdue a grape.
I watch the grapes roll away, when the robins drop them again and again, and marvel at how the grapes’ smooth round shape helps to distribute the seeds.
A robin’s beak is imperfect for eating grapes. But I have NEVER seen a robin drop a worm.
And then there’s the odd Steller’s jay, once common, and now rarely seen in my backyard. I appreciate its deep coloring now, and wonder about its mate.
And these were the birds in my back yard today. They weren’t migrating like the herds in Africa, but four or more species were flocking to seek food in their year-round habitat.
The Jay and flickers were welcome, and 4 and 20 robins dropped by. All were nice enough to pose; I was surprised the Jay agreed.
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What have you noted in your area or travels? Any stealthy critters in your yard? Please post your observations and general location in your comments. I’ll check back by lunchtime.