Saturday, April 10, 2010

For All My Birding Buddies

I have a lot of friends who are nuts over birds! My parents have always been interested in birds and are quite knowledgeable about them (I think). Dad would catch and band magpies so he could track them. Mom would try teaching them to speak with some success. Dad kept pigeons in Saskatoon when he was a teenager and then he did at the farm, too, for a while. I remember going on a pigeon catching excursion to Uncle Dawson's barn when I was a little girl ... tagging along with my older brothers and Dad. I don't remember it well but I do recall that it was night time and there were flashlights and gunny sacks involved. When our kids were younger, Dad made a little birdhouse with a clear, glass wall and attached it to the window at the lake so we could all watch the nesting habits of wrens and the birth and first flights of the wee ones. There is a family story about Grandma hatching abandoned duck eggs in her bed. We had a big, beautiful book of birds at home when I was growing up. It had wonderful plates. I don't know if it was an Audobon book or not.

Mostly, though, I don't pay so much attention to birds anymore. I certainly wouldn't go looking for them and I have no interest in bird sanctuaries. It's hard to pay attention to birds when you're at work during the day when all the bird action in the yard is mostly likely to be going on. I'm sure I'll enjoy them more someday when I'm retired. Recently, mostly because of my many bird nut friends, I've become more interested in observing the birds in my yard and outside my window at work where Nora maintains a bird feeder. Elaine, Nora, Lori, Sylvia, Aunt Ruth and my Mom have all contributed to my increasing interest in birds. And now Cheryl, too.

Cheryl, from Kyle, told me that she and several neighbours are eagerly awaiting the arrival of some Burrowing Owls who have established burrows near their property She took these photos herself! COOL! I've only seen Burrowing Owls in the zoo and I remember then being small and very cute. I found what she told me about the owls fascinating and a welcome distraction from my aches and pains. Thanks, Cheryl. Here's what Cheryl has taught (she's STILL teaching me!) me about these winged creatures ...
"City people are so deprived! The attached photos are ones I took of the nest right on the side of the grid road just south of here west of Willsmore's corner ... They were in a gopher hole there and were the major attraction all summer. The kids on the school bus watched the Daddy owl as they went by. He sat on a stake, which Glen P. had put there so the owl would have a perch to be able to watch for predators. Glen and I keep an eye for new burrowing owl nests. Dan Z. likes to band large owls and keep them from harm ...

If the burrowing owls had a good winter in Texas, we should soon have many males back looking for burrows to clean up and line with mice, moles and other goodies to attract the females. As it happens, a badger dug out about 7 holes while hunting last fall right along our field across the highway. I am eager to see how many males will take up residence there. (I do not know how close they will nest to each other, although there were 2 about 100 feet apart northwest of the Hilltop.) They are sooo interesting to watch. The male keeps watch during all sorts of weather. The female rarely emerges until the little ones are able to come out a bit, too. You can tell the male from the female later in the year b/c he is so much more bleached out from sitting in the sun all day. There were 6 chicks in the nest along that grid. Five survived. One was hit on the road by a vehicle. Most people slowed at that area but.... Dave found the one that had been hit."
Kevin suggests they put up an "Owl Crossing" sign near their nesting area. I think it's hilarious that the males get bleached from sitting in the sun. It never occurred to me that bird feathers bleach out just like our hair ... or more like your hair, for those of you who have hair. And yes, we city folk can be so deprived. There certainly aren't any burrowing owls in my backyard.


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