by Kim Gough
Well it has been several months since this avian aficionado took to the pen to document the goings on here at Gramercy’s bird sanctuary.
At this point, the cicadas buzz all day, and the crickets and katydids serenade the night. Anne’s gardens are remarkable this year, and at the height of color for the annuals. This has been quite a prolific season for the local bird population, and the chatter of fluffy juveniles is still constant. You must come and experience all this!
As you walk along the Honeybrook Stream, you can hear the squawks of the young Blue Jays and Red Bellied Woodpeckers as they harass their parents for continued free food. At this point, the parent woodpeckers of the Downies and Hairy species are teaching their kids to use the local bird feeders. The Hairy woodpeckers along the stream are proud parents to a handsome boy and girl bird, though these two are of interest as there is a significant sibling rivalry. Mom and Dad woodpecker spend a good part of the day breaking up their very physical squabbles.
The Tufted Titmice had a great season, with most of the broods thriving and zipping around the property. These little guys can be recognized by their Cardinal-like crest, though they are a taupe shade at this point, where the adults are a soft light gray.
The Chickadees produced well, and the babies are even more curious than their parents, so if you feel you are being watched as you walk through the gardens and forest, undoubtedly one of them is checking you out, fleeing with sharp chirps once discovered.
The Bluebirds around Anne’s Carriage House garden seemed to produce a brood, though the young may have dispersed as I have not seen them around the garden, I hope they are faring well. You can still see the parents hunting insects along that garden and the driveway. If conditions are favorable, bluebirds will “double clutch”, much like Robins, and produce a second family. I have not noticed this yet, as there has been a lot of tension over the available nest box with the Wrens and Chickadees.
And yes, the Robins are in full force, you will find them and their spotted young enjoying worms and grubs on all the grassy areas of the property in the morning and evening.
The resident Cardinals reared a small brood this season, though they have been the target of the local Sharp-Shinned hawk. There are still two youngsters around though.
The resident hawk pairs have kept a low profile this season, and I hope to spot their young in the next few weeks. Now that the crow populations are recovering in the valley, hawks have to be very cautious to avoid daytime attacks on their nests. Look for the Cooper’s hawk hen along the main driveway up to the new marble gazebo. This is her prime hunting territory for small birds.
I have not spotted baby Pileated woodpeckers this season yet either. The adults can be found anywhere there are rotting tree stumps on the property. Here you will find them literally chiseling the wood, splitting it to reveal insect nests. The Pileated is our largest woodpecker, about the size of a seagull, and with a bright red crop of feathers on its head. Its loud laughing call and drumming are unmistakable.
The cute little house finches have nested right outside my massage room in the carriage house this summer, providing beautiful background music that I play during treatments. They edged out the swifts and nested right in the eaves of the Carriage House. Evidently the parents have decided to take a vacation instead of raising another brood… so far.
As you visit the Carriage House, be sure to give a nod to the Gramercy Cat Birds as they work hard to remove insects from the property. They are a beautiful slate gray with a little red spot on their rump. Like the Bluebirds, they work the driveways cleaning up bugs that have been hit by cars.
Finally, the most prolific breeders on the B&B grounds this year are the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds! Listen for the buzz as you walk the gardens. That sustained hum followed by high sharp chirping are the telltale signs to look around for these speedy iridescent beauties. The immature birds will be a brownish gray with a white belly, and some immature males already have a bit of their pink “collar” coming in that will draw mates to them next year. There are at least 10 or more young on the property this year, competing now with hummingbirds that are slowly meandering south from more northern regions. Ultimately they will be gone by early October, so be sure to visit now while they are in strong numbers and you can enjoy their aerial acrobatics as they chase each other around. There is a feeder set up between the Hope Chest House and California House on the lower driveway that is quite popular as well.
Well, that was three month’s worth of birdie news. I will keep you posted of the next wave of avian visitors to this lovely estate.
Kim Gough is a licensed massage therapist practicing at the Gramercy. She has been an avid bird watcher since childhood, and believes in birding without binoculars, simply enjoying feathered friends up close and personal on the grounds of the mansion, a place she considers one of the best unofficial bird sanctuaries in the area.