Let’s be generous and share our space with the flock | WHIDBEY BIRDING

While waiting at the Clinton Ferry dock, I caught sight of a large bird swishing in the strong wind just off the unused loading dock. At first glance the bird looked like a Bald Eagle, but the flight pattern was odd and erratic.

While waiting at the Clinton Ferry dock, I caught sight of a large bird swishing in the strong wind just off the unused loading dock. At first glance the bird looked like a Bald Eagle, but the flight pattern was odd and erratic.

On second glance I realized this “bird” was a fabric decoy suspended on a wire. I presume it was installed to ward off the flocks of starlings, gulls, cormorants and other birds that roost on the dock’s superstructure.

This “scarecrow” appeared to be working, since the dock was relatively free of unwanted wildlife.

(I hesitate to type those words, “unwanted wildlife.”)

During late fall and winter many species of birds gather into flocks. Last Saturday I led a group of Whidbey Audubon members to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. While there, we experienced the phenomenon of thousands of Cackling Geese, smaller, darker cousins to the more familiar Canada Geese, flying in the air and settling to feed on the large open fields. Up north of us, another large flocking species, the Snow Geese, will soon gather for the winter.

Small birds also flock in winter. Chickadees and kinglets bounce through trees while softly signaling to each other to maintain their flock of perhaps eight to 20 birds. Bushtits, another under 5-inch bird, form into bunches while feeding in shrubs.

Shorebirds cloud together; starlings murmur into close flocks. And other birds like robins, sparrows and gulls form loose, gangling groups.

If the bird flocks are small or off in a salt marsh, we don’t mind and usually just enjoy them. But when the flocks descend in large numbers onto our field crops and structures or pack tightly into trees to rest during the day or roost at night, we become alarmed. And those birds turn into “unwanted wildlife.”

We go to great lengths to scare these densely flocking birds out of our fields or off our structures. We’ve added spikes or strings, shot off firecrackers and cannons, even blared music or predator calls.

It was years ago, while studying ornithology, when I began to appreciate that along with food and water birds need a safe place to rest during the day and roost at night. This is particularly true during winter after their busy spring northbound migration, summer breeding and fall southbound migration.

I was assigned to watch the behavior of one bird for hours at a time. I chose a Bald Eagle, which perched daily in a cottonwood tree near where I lived.

Each winter morning at around 10, the bird flew into the tree and sat for two to four hours where

I monitored how much time it preened or snoozed or just rested and digested. That big eagle required a large amount of resting time each day, not unlike the quiet time I require each day, working, reading and digesting.

Seabirds and ducks can find protected bays and rest on the water. Sparrows, wrens and other small birds can snuggle into protected trees and eaves of houses.

But some of our larger birds must settle onto human-made structures and therefore become unwanted. I hope we can be generous in allowing the birds to share our lives and our structures.

Nature or messiness: Sometimes we must choose, but let’s do so after considering both sides.

Frances Wood recently launched a website describing special places on Whidbey and the personal stories they hold. Please visit 41whidbeyplaces.com to read the growing collection of stories.

More in Life

Blues, berries, fun and fundraising at Saturday festival

Mutiny Bay Blues Farm hosts Commons Cafe event

Annual street dance, live bands set for Saturday

Langley’s new annual dancing-in-the-street summertime tradition is back for the third year,… Continue reading

New public art debuts in Langley

Steel and glass shape pieces chosen by arts commission

Denis Zimmermann and his wife, Cheryl, run Langley’s new ramen restaurant, Ultra House, which opened in May 2018. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times.
Langley restaurant owner is recreating his childhood with new ramen house

Denis Zimmer-mann said he’s not re-inventing the wheel with his ramen restaurant… Continue reading

A 1941 Graham Hollywood, owned by Roy Deaver of Clinton, was chosen as Best of Show in the Cool Bayview Nights car show Saturday.
Rain doesn’t dampen the fun at Cool Bayview Nights car show

Attendees selected the mildly modified and rebuilt 1941 Graham Hollywood, owned by… Continue reading

Shakespeare Festival plays emotional range

Female directors, perspective at the forefront

Expanding knowledge

Whidbey Institute adds more lodging, plans open house

Congolese Festival is a chance to celebrate, educate

Last event before Northwest Cultural Center relocates

Shhh…it’s a surprise party for old-timer Bill Lanning

Friends, customers invited to celebrate former owner of Bill’s Feed Tack

Mucking about for clams

‘Digging for Dinner’ a popular Sound Water activity

Scorch is a play about gender identification showing at Outcast’s black box theater on the Island County fairgrounds June 13-17. It’s a one-person play, performed by Carmen Berkeley. Director and co-producer Ty Molbak went to middle school in Langley was was active in Whidbey Children’s Theater. Both will be seniors at Rutgers University in the fall. One scene in the play “Scorch” portrays the main character looking into mirrors and wondering what others see.
‘Scorch’ looks at first love and ‘gender fraud’

Irish play revolves around one character’s confusion

Whidbey Island Garden Tour highlights five homes

Tickets still available for Saturday event