|Horses and birds of our pasture|
|Wednesday, 18 April 2012 16:04|
by Neil A. Case
Our pasture is more than a grassy field where our horses graze. There are trees and bushes along and inside the fences on the north and south sides. The trees in the northwest corner of the pasture are black locusts. The locusts are grown, all about thirty feet tall, with trunks that seem too small in diameter for trees so tall. The leaves have opened and the ground beneath the locusts is completely shaded. A few scraggly berry bushes grow there and scattered other plants that survive in the shade.
Farther east along the fence on the north side of our pasture there are sugar maples and ash-leaved maples or boxelder trees. There’s one immense black cherry, its trunk three feet across at the base but dividing into a cluster of trunks three feet above the ground. There’s a clump of bigtooth aspen and every year a few shoots of bigtooth aspen sprout in the pasture grass.
A fence separates the east end of our pasture from a marsh and the water expands into the edge of the pasture in a heavy rain. Cattails grow around the edge of the marsh and clumps of willows and three or four buttonbush trees.
Along and within the fence on the south side of our pasture are trees like the north side, more maples and boxelders but no more locusts or aspen. There are more bushes however, and vines, blackberries and honeysuckle and poison ivy. There was a lot of multiflora rose when we bought the property but we’ve grubbed that all out.
There are birds in the trees and bushes around our pasture in every season of the year. We see and hear downy woodpeckers in the locust grove all year-round and tufted titmice and black-capped chickadees and occasionally red-bellied woodpeckers. There are robins in the trees around our pasture and hopping about the grass from early spring until late in the fall. We see bluebirds in the trees and in the grass, and cowbirds, grackles, house finches, goldfinches, cardinals and mourning doves.
In the trees along the northeast part of our pasture there’s been a warbling vireo every year in late spring and summer. We hear it whenever we go out there during the day and the weather is fair. We assume the singer has a mate but we’ve never seen two warbling vireos at one time. We have trouble spotting one.
In spring and fall when the warblers are migrating we’ve seen yellow-rumped, Nashville, magnolia, black-throated green, black-throated blue, palm, black-and-white and redstarts in the trees. We’ve seen Baltimore orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks.
Killdeers nest in our pasture. A pair has a nest, a spot on the ground really, with four eggs there now.
In the cattails and willows of the marsh beyond the fence at the east end of the pasture are many red-winged blackbirds. Often they fly back and forth to the pasture grass. There are two pairs of song sparrows. We’ve seen a belted kingfisher there. Yellow warblers and northern yellowthroats have nested there every year we’ve been here. I haven’t seen either this year but whenever I go out in the pasture I watch and listen for them.
On the water of the marsh we’ve seen Canada geese and mallards and wood ducks. Earlier in spring we saw ring-necked ducks and lesser scaup, buffleheads, hooded mergansers and green-winged teal. We’ve seen great blue and green herons.
Every time I go out in our pasture, whether it’s to ride one of our horses or just to walk I see and hear common birds. And I look for the uncommon, the unexpected, like the mockingbird our older daughter and I have seen several times and the great egret, the bittern we saw in the marsh once, the three sandhill cranes we saw land in the pasture once, even sandhill cranes just flying over.