OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHummingbird Returned

The Barn Swallows returned
to the animal barn
last week.
I noticed them flying up to the barn
so Ann opened the wire
at their usual place
near the ceiling—
just enough
for them to fly in and out.
They’re building nests now.

Sunday morning,
as I was driving a few miles from home,
a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
flew low
over the road
in front of the car.

A Hummingbird
has been at the feeder.

This morning a Phoebe
sat perched low
on the Desert Willow
outside the bedroom window.

Usually,
about this time,
as summer birds arrive,
I clean winter’s bird feeders
and put them away for the summer.
So this week,
I did clean out the thistle feeders,
scattered the remaining
dark, slender seeds
on the ground beneath the Hackberry.
The little birds
ate very few during the winter;
now the sparrows
are feasting on them.

I’m going to continue
to scatter thistle seed,
since I still have a bag full
and the seeds will be too old
next fall.
In fact,
I’ve decided to continue
to supply some seeds
for the birds all summer:
the thistle,
a few Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
and a Wild Bird Seed Block
(from the farm store.)

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This morning
during breakfast
I watched Woodpecker
stand atop the seed block,
his beak slightly,
threateningly,
parted,
as a big Blue Jay
stood beneath,
staring up at Woodpecker.
When Blue Jay
sneaked a peck or two
at the side of the block,
Woodpecker hopped over to the side
and tried to peck Blue Jay
on the head.

I don’t know if the birds
need to be fed all summer.
I hope there is plenty on the prairie
and along the creeks
to keep them fed and healthy.
But having them up in the yard,
keeping an eye on their communities
brings great joy.

Too, I am inspired
by Phoebe’s close visit—
why was she so close?—
this morning;
and the day a couple of weeks ago
when guests were standing with us
in the meadow south of my house.
We stood in silence,
looking at the beautiful meadow,
listening to the sweet song
of the Meadowlark.
A new friend,
a very dedicated permaculturist,
finally spoke,
plaintively,
bringing chilling echoes
of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring:
“I’ll be so glad
when I can hear birds again
on our farm.”

Scattering seeds
isn’t the answer—
at least not most of it.
Abandoning the use of herbicides and pesticides,
planting habitat
are the biggest factors.
Our friend is growing beautiful habitat
on his farm these last 20 years,
but there’s a whole neighborhood,
an entire ecosystem
to consider.
We are fortunate that the south meadow
is surrounded by other prairie,
away from cropland,
which is more often sprayed.

So I’m going to offer
summer treats
to the birds this year.
Not only do they bring joy—
watching them;
aware of their good work—
they keep us apprised
of the health
of our ecosystem.