Birds and the Backyard Steward

Puddock Hill Journal #25: A recent report from BirdLife International reminds me why our efforts at home are so important.

One day last week, a beautiful sunny fall day with temperatures in the seventies, I sat working on my porch overlooking the pond and wet woods and found myself marveling at the number and variety of birds that were making themselves busy all around me. In a short time, I noticed bluejays, catbirds, bluebirds, and a number of small brown birds in profusion. A Northern flicker flew from branch to branch. A pileated woodpecker worked a dead limb on a tall tuliptree. A great blue heron fished in the pond.

High in the sky, a bald eagle floated by. A week before, we had been showing off the raised beds to another couple over cocktails when a bald eagle flew right over our heads, no more than sixty feet up. Truly an awesome experience!

The next day, things were quieter, and other than the most obvious patterns (robins on the ground in spring, for example), I have never fully understood why some days feature so much more bird activity than others. But I felt gratified to see both the number of birds that day and their diversity, what biologists call species richness.

In moments like that, it is easy to convince ourselves that all is right with the world, that the birds are not in trouble. In this assumption, we would be wrong, however. Anecdotes do not suffice for science.