On a quiet morning I like to sit out on my porch and watch the birds.
On a quiet morning I like to sit out on my porch and watch the birds. There are so many species I am fascinated with them, doves, bobwhites, rain crows, orioles, mockingbirds, brown thrashers, warblers and a half dozen varieties of woodpeckers. You see things you wouldn’t imagine would happen. The other day I watched a red-bellied woodpecker drink out of hummingbird feeder, by finding a precarious way to perch on it and drink from it nearly upside down. I have a bluebird house just off the perch where a pair of bluebirds raised some young ones and coaxed them out into the dangerous world. Squirrels chewed the opening out to twice the size you are suppose to have for bluebirds, and a couple of those squirrels used it for refuge in the winter, but the bluebirds didn’t seem to object to the expanded opening.
Just down the road from my place last week, on a neighbors land, I watched an old gobbler strutting in a field of high grass at the edge of some timber. You could see nothing of him but that big spread tail fan. The grass was so high his head was hidden. It was a reminder that turkeys mate all summer and you can go out and call up a gobbler even in June and July. I called to that one, and he never moved a muscle for a time. It looked as if someone might have just stuck the fanned tail out there in the grass. But I could hear him booming and spitting, and I called several more times. Finally a big white head stuck up above the grass.
The most amazing thing I ever saw here on Lightnin’ Ridge was a rooster roadrunner, in the middle of a cold December day, and I haven’t seen him since. When you realize that road runners feed mostly on large insects, and lizards and snakes, you wonder how he could survive a winter up here. Maybe he didn’t. It wasn’t long afterward that I heard Wiley Coyote out in the field howling for help.
Great horned owls, screech owls and barred owls live on this ridgetop too, as do whippoorwills and their cousins, the chuck-wills-widow. The latter bird is a couple of inches longer and a couple of ounces heavier than the former. There are countless numbers of Ozark folks who have heard those two birds but have never seen one. Their call is similar, but different. They are the only bird I know named after the calls they make.
Another interesting bird is the woodcock, which actually nests here on a little marshy open spot in my woods where there are some earthworms. If you have never seen the spring mating flight of a male woodcock, which spirals high into the air as part of his courting dance, you have missed something. Here on Lightnin’ Ridge, rain crows fascinate me this time of year. Known to bird watchers as the yellow-billed cuckoo, the rain crow is in the same family as the roadrunner. They are long and slender with a curved beak and a white belly, but just try to get a good look at one, let alone a photo. They nest in trees around my house, and I hear their loud “kalk-kalk-kalk” and soft clucking often, but they are so elusive they hide in thick foliage and behind large branches, as elusive as any creature I have seen in broad daylight.
Page 2 of 2 - A couple of days ago a huge swarm of bees concentrated on the branch of a large tree just a ways off my porch, making a loud buzzing and humming sound you could hear a good distance away. They usually swarm a little earlier than this, hundreds of worker bees in a ball bigger than a bushel basket at times and then they all move to some hollow tree not far away, where they surround the queen bee and produce a hive full of honey. My grandpa used to find those hives by sprinkling white flour on individual bees that would visit his garden, then following them until they led him to their hive.