Spring is the perfect time to appreciate birds

12 years ago
by Angie Wotton

    Late winter, our bird feeder gets hung off the side of the house so that when I wake up in the morning, I can merely roll over and look out the window to watch the motley crew of spring birds pecking away. The feeder itself is not much to look at but makes good use of recycling since basically it’s an old Stonyfield yogurt container attached to the bottom of a pail that has been cut off. The birds don’t seem to care about the aesthetic value, focusing instead on the seed provided for them in the tray.

Contributed photo/Patty Jennings

SPRING BIRDS — An American Tree Sparrow sits on a branch at a home in Stacyville. More and more spring birds are popping up around the County.

    Last year was the first time we put up a bird feeder and while I haven’t turned into the type of birding enthusiast that plans vacations to remote areas of the world just to get a glimpse of a rare species, I am becoming a local enthusiast. It’s becoming tradition that Roger Tory Peterson’s “Eastern Birds” comes off the shelf and stays within reach so that I can better frantically search for the correct name to the pink-breasted bird flitting about the feeder before it flies off.


    This winter I read E.B. White’s “One Man’s Meat”, a compilation of essays he wrote after moving to Maine in the late 1930s to farm and includes a chapter on songbirds. White actually laments their arrival during the busiest part of the year on a farm. He points out that at one time he used to merely lump the songbirds together and listen to them sing. However, ever since his wife got hold of Peterson’s “A Field Guide to the Birds”, he writes that, “… and now we can’t settle down to any piece of work without being interrupted by a warbler trying to look like another warbler and succeeding admirably.”

    My former co-worker Mitch Lansky, along with being a fan of puns, used to carry around a “tweet sheet” with him to help him identify birds by song. I have enough trouble identifying them using my book with color pictures as reference and can’t imagine learning individual songs, although how nice would it be to work in the garden and hear a bird chirping and know exactly what kind it was?

    Another birding enthusiast, Steve Hopkins, once had his portable sawmill at our place and would suddenly stop sawing to look at the sky and then scribble in his notebook. He told me later that he was keeping track of birds he saw at our farm. Now that I have a new appreciation of the winged beings, I’ll have to compare his list to mine.

    As the colors of spring brighten our natural landscape, the birds themselves seem to get more colorful as the season progresses. The sparrows give way to “snow birds” to red finches to a yellow headed blackbird for the finale. This year, as with last, the bird feeder will be taken down sometime in May and Peterson’s book will go back on the shelf. It will be up to my memory to determine the birds I see perched on fence posts and hopping along the ground.

    Maybe “Eastern Birds” comes in a version that fits in my back pocket. Or maybe not. Settling down to a piece of work, like weeding, sounds a little dangerous with something like that tucked away in a back pocket.

    Editor’s note: Angie Wotton loves her work as district manager for the Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District. She also raises pastured pork and vegetables with her husband on their small West Berry Farm in Hammond. She can be reached 532-9407 or via e-mail at angela.wotton@me.nacdnet.net.