Friday Change of Pace: The birds of summer

The baby birds of spring have become the nearly-grown birds of summer as the hot season reaches its halfway point at our little ranch in the northwestern corner of Utah. The babies are now at least teens and they are learning to fly and follow the feeding patterns and behavior of their parents.

We still have a few families of wild geese that frequent our yard and pasture and spend time in our pond. The other day I was walking up the lane and I surprised one of the goose families, a dozen or so birds, most of them young, as they waddled into the lane from behind the hay barn.

My dogs usually ignore the geese, but because their appearance was so abrupt, the dogs barked a bit and ran toward them. The entire flock, including the young birds, took flight, all except one little guy who flapped frantically, but couldn’t quite get off the ground. But he was still very fast as he flapped and ran up the lane, went under the fence and into the pond where he rejoined the flock.

Of the many summer bird species in our area, I think my favorite is the swallows. We love to watch them swoop and dart after bugs (hopefully mosquitoes) in the morning and evening air. We know that summer is nigh when the swallows return. They’re not perfect little birds. They are a little messy, nesting in our big shop and loafing shed. They can be quite noisy when we invade “their” space in the shop, especially when they have babies in their mud nests.

But in the cool evenings, nothing is quite so relaxing as sitting on a comfortable lawn chair just after sunset watching the swallows hunt over the pond, swooping so low their wingtips sometimes ripple the water surface.

We actually don’t have a problem with mosquitoes, despite ponds, wetlands and a creek, thanks to the bats and swallows.

It’s also fun to watch the hawks, especially kestrels, and the occasional eagle. Hawks nest in the cliffs above the creek. We often see blackbirds chasing hawks. 

Doves, Eurasian pigeons, robins, flickers, woodpeckers, the ubiquitous magpie, and lots of little songbirds whose names I don’t know, frequent the area – along with wild turkeys, Hungarian partridge and pheasants.

In winter, I really enjoy the tiny, always-cheerful chickadees. But the chickadees long ago headed to the high country. They’ll return with cold weather.

I’m by no means an ornithologist, but it seems the bird population is healthy, at least in our little spot at the base of the Raft River Mountains. I hope that’s good news for the environment, overall, and I hope the summer drought isn’t too hard on the birds of summer.