Under the Open Sky: It’s Spring, and Birds Are Looking for Love

By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle

This male house finch pitches woo in the rain at an interested female. His mating dance includes a crooning song and a bite of regurgitated food at the end, if the lady accepts the offer. The more carotenoids a male house finch consumes in the molt season, the brighter red his plumage will become. Size doesn’t matter for the finch ladies, they prefer men wearing the brightest colors, redder is better. Guys sporting golden yellows, apparently, are less desirable mates, though this young man seems to be doing pretty well for himself. (Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle)

It’s that time of year, the season of love is well under way.

There are house finches in all shades of yellow, orange and red pitching woo at drab gals in streaky brown. The boys perform a song and dance in front of their prospective mate before offering them a bite to eat from their own beak. Springtime love at its best, I think.

European starlings are “wing waving” while they stand high atop fence posts, hoping to catch the eye of a girl with an appreciation for a man with a fine sense of balance and a good rhythm.

Gal American robins have begun building nests, while their mates strut about the lawn with their chests puffed out and their wings pointing toward the ground in a show of strength and aggression.

Every bird has turned up the intensity of their color or learned to sing a new song, hoping to attract a new love.

I have been watching my pond for signs that the pairs of ring-necked ducks and wood ducks I have seen hanging around have decided to call my backyard home. I saw a wood duck sneaking quietly up and over some cattails the other day. He was holding tight to the area, so I hope that’s good news. I turned and tiptoed my way back out of there with my fingers crossed.

Wood ducks are the only North American ducks that produce two broods in one season. They aren’t looking for love at this time of year, they already found it. A wood duck doesn’t have time to waste. By the time a he has hit our area (if he migrated at all) he already has a girlfriend in tow.

The wood ducks out now are either on the lookout for a nesting site or have already found one. There is still time to put up a wood duck box if you have the appropriate place to hang one.

My daughter seems to think I need to get paired up too. She keeps telling me about the men she meets that she thinks would be right for me. These guys either tend to play in a band or brew beer. I keep telling her that at my age and circumstance in life, I need a man with a bass boat and a lot of free time or no man at all.

Speaking of Bass
I would have loved to be able to show you a picture of a beautiful bass today to go along with the story about the Lewis County Bass Club and their spring open team tournament. But I couldn’t find a bass that would cooperate. I’m not the only one, everyone is having trouble landing them in these cold waters.

I sent my son out to find a bass on Sunday, but he didn’t have any better luck than I did. He did, however, limit out on trout out at Swofford.

The only thing worse than a cold day fishing without catching, in my opinion, is any day that you end up with a creel full of lake trout.

Thanks to my fly fishing friend, Warren Sorenson, I now know why I’d rather drink the lake water than eat a lake trout. Lake trout, Warren says, taste like the water they come from. A fresh river trout, he says, is what I need to help me learn to like trout.

But I’ll have to take Warren’s word for it, until someone out there — whoever that may be — takes me fly fishing and teaches me to catch one. (I hope I’m not casting out my hints too subtly.)

Avian Pox Is Here
I’ve seen a sparrow and a finch around my feeders severely suffering from avian pox. It’s starting early this year, normally the disease waits for the weather to warm up a bit.

The avian pox is warty growths, mainly around the beak, eyes and legs. The birds eventually starve to death because they can’t eat, either because of the growths on their beak or in their mouths, or they are unable to walk to get to the food. They can go blind from the growth of the pox lesions. It’s heartbreaking to see.

The disease can spread through mosquitoes, direct contact with infected birds or through indirect contact on feeders, perches or at water sources.

What can you do? Keep your feeders clean. Wash, then rinse in a 10 percent solution of bleach water, air dry. Eliminate standing water in your yard. Wash your bird baths with the same 10 percent solution.

Put up a few swallow nest boxes or bat boxes to encourage the flying insect eaters to stay in your yard and help keep the mosquito population down.
A reminder, it is illegal for civilians to attempt to treat wild birds.
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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in her own backyard in Cinebar. Contact her via email at kz@tds.net.