I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs. ~Joseph Addison
When I started this series, I wasn’t expecting to find so many different critters continuing to frequent my garden even in late fall. But here we are again. I couldn’t let this encounter slip by as it was unusual for my garden.
This fall we had several monarchs visit as they migrated South out of Canada. And from mid through late November, we have been seeing lots of birds especially blackbirds.
My attention was initially captured as I spotted some activity out of the corner of my eye. Was that a blackbird flying by? No couldn’t be. Our blackbirds are gone. They get together with the robins, grackles and starlings and fly south in late summer and early fall.
So I peered out and saw a bunch of birds in the trees. Their silhouettes told me these were not the usual suspects who stay all season. So I got my camera and started zooming in to see who was filling up the branches. And what did my eyes behold, but starlings…OK…robins…yes, they sometimes over winter and it has been milder this November. But when I saw a flash of red against a black wing, I had to rub my eyes and look again. It couldn’t be.
Suddenly several black birds descended on the spent sunflowers leaning against the fence. And to my glee indeed there were many male red-winged blackbirds, young and old. So many all at once, I wasn’t sure the brittle stems would support them. They flipped and flopped and held on for dear life. And those that had the best balance, were treated to many seeds still clinging to the dried up flower heads.
And to think, I almost cut these sunflowers down thinking they were finished. Surely the birds had stripped these clean, but no. These black birds contorted their bodies and made a quick meal out of the mangled mess of spent blooms. I cannot express the joy at seeing these harbingers of spring so late in my garden. Although they are said to live year round in my state we never see them from late summer until sometime in late winter or early spring.
These visiting birds most likely came from their breeding grounds north in Canada, and were traveling south to their winter homes. Perhaps they heard about the feast of seeds and berries here, and stopped for a meal to build their energy for their travels.
I know that those that breed here have definitely moved on now, but I am grateful to their cousins for partaking at the table of my garden. I am sure many of my neighbors wonder why I don’t cut down those dead nasty looking flowers hanging over the fence, or those stems twisted this way and that laying on the ground. Like the pollinators who loved them all spring and summer, these flowers are still special. Now for migrating and wintering birds, they are a gourmet meal.
Facts and Folklore:
1. These beautiful birds inhabit the shrubs behind my meadow all summer, and they frequent the pond and wet areas along the meadow especially loving the cattails that grow there.
2. The cattails make a great nest site. I will have to check the area for nests this winter.
3. The males are very territorial and can have up to 15 mates. Now I know why they come early and stake a claim to my meadow. There are many fights amongst the males in spring back in that meadow.
4. They are the most abundant native bird in North America
5. Blackbirds symbolize the tie to Nature. They signal a new understanding of the forces of nature using your intuition.
6. Red-Winged Blackbirds are said to be directly connected to feminine and summer energies.
7. The male red-winged blackbird will lose its bright colorful luster during the winter. This symbolizes the need to use winter to rest and go inward to renew for summer. In winter I especially take time for physical and spiritual renewal.
What a fortuitous visit from these beautiful birds. What unusual critters have you been seeing in late fall?
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