I have seen more different birds at my feeders
than I ever have before in the summer. In addition to the usual house sparrows, house finches, American and lesser goldfinches,
mourning and collared doves, house wrens and dramatic raids by Cooper’s hawks, we’ve had white-crowned nuthatches, chickadees, spotted towhees and black-headed grosbeaks – birds that pass through our yard
spring and fall, but don’t usually linger here in summer. Huge hordes of hummingbirds have come through our yard in the past few weeks, getting an early start on their migration. It’s been a treat.
And yet…I have to wonder why we are seeing so many different birds in our yard, birds that usually move on to richer nesting grounds. The answer, I think, is that the animals’ breeding grounds this year are in bad shape. Drought – we have had just 5 ½ inches, less than half the precipitation that we normally do at this time of year. Heat – while we normally have 26 days above 90 degrees, this summer we have had a blistering 70 days. Fire – huge infernos have scorched hundreds of thousands of acres in the mountains and High Plains. The state has taken a beating. And the wildlife have to adapt as well as they can to these harsh conditions. Competing with a dozen other bird species in suburban backyards must look like a good deal when compared to nothing to eat and no cover in nearby wildlands.