by Katie Butler Johnson
Spring is here! Plants are blooming! Birds are nesting in our trees!
All outdoors feels fresh with possibilities as the cycle of life rolls on. I try not to waste any blue-sky days. I use each to get outside and soak up Mother Nature’s gifts.
Several years ago, I watched (through binoculars) as two Yellow-Crowned Night Herons built their nest at the very, very top of my tallest oak. After many days monitoring the nest, I eventually spied three birds – the two adult Herons PLUS a single nestling peeking over the edge of the nest.
I watched as that nestling become a fledgling and started to venture from its nest. It would leap onto a neighboring branch and make brief forays onto lower branches. After many days, the bird finally made it to ground level and my circular drive where it practiced take offs and landings. Then one day, without goodbyes, my three “house guests” flew the coop. All that remained of their visit was their final gift of pungent droppings that splattered on the roof of my detached garage which, unfortunately, lay directly beneath that nest. I’d clean it off daily while the birds were in residence, only to have it plopped upon again and splattered all over by the next day. It took a good power hosing to clean it off so my neighbors wouldn’t complain of the stench.
Then early in 2022, the Herons returned. This time there were 4 of them – two pairs. Hmmm. Twice the splattering? Was it the original pair plus their offspring and its mate? They’d come back to the same tree, but this time they’d set up two households. I got out my binoculars, eager to once again keep tabs on them but definitely not eager for a double dose of droppings.
But, that was not to be.
A Red-Tailed Hawk couple arrived on the scene just as both Heron couples were setting up their nests. The Hawks eyed the Herons’ prime real estate and began a campaign to drive them away. They would fly by, banking like WWII aircraft and swooping ever closer to the Herons. That elicited wild chirping and squawking that, I assume, was foul fowl talk.
After days of being bullied and harassed, the mild-mannered Heron couples up and left. So, it was an aggressive Red-Tailed Hawk family that commandeered my yard last year. They built their nest and hatched their brood in my backyard, but, after succeeding at chasing the Herons away, they actually chose a different oak for their nest.
With the absence of Herons, the Hawks had sole aerial control of the avian territory and preyed on unsuspecting critters below. I’d watch them as they’d patiently stalk their prey. They’d spy a squirrel as it scurried up a tree, dive down, grab it and carry it back to its nest for supper.
There’s a lot of bird chatter out back right now as I’m typing this. I don’t know which bird family or families I will host this spring. I do know is that I share this land with many species. I‘ve seen armadillos tunneled into the sides of the drainage ditch, skunks out sauntering about at dawn and occasional coyotes and bobcats strutting across the yard.
When we humans have deeds to a certain territory, we consider that land ours. The animals have their own thoughts on who owns what. And, at this season, when many of the different species are moving about and propagating, it’s fascinating to just quietly watch them living their lives.
Apparently, being engrossed in nature is really good for you. According to the American Psychological Association: “Nature nurtures us.” It lowers stress, reduces risk of mental illness, increases empathy, and replenishes our ability to concentrate and pay attention. So, get out there. Go out for a walk. Sit in the sun. Enjoy the outdoors.
But, if you sit outside, look up and check to make sure there are no nesting birds above you. It’s definitely not calming and restful to be plopped upon.