If you only saw one Cardinal a year, think how much you would appreciate their beauty. The male Cardinal in breeding colors is one of the most beautiful single colored birds in the world. Their fairly large size, their black mask and crest give them a distinctive and almost regal manner. Many birdwatchers all over the world outside of the U.S. view the Cardinal as a huge prize on their Life List.
Ah, but in my yard where I can hardly look out the window without seeing a Cardinal, their value as a noteworthy sight on my bird feeders honestly is not high. It is not that I don't see their beauty. It is just that I see it every day over and over again.
I'm not so crass as to not appreciate them at all, for one can't help but feel some joy in their beauty. Today, there were four males and at least five females around my yard (with ten feeders). I enjoyed watching them, along with the Goldfinches, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, House Finches, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, a single Pine Siskin, Chipping Sparrows, a Mockingbird and a couple of Song Sparrows. It was a busy day on the feeders.
Living on the edge of the woods here in east Texas, I have a hard time deciding which season of the year is my favorite. We do experience four seasons, although winter is mild and fairly brief. Much has transpired in our backyard these past couple months, partly because of the onset of autumn, but also due to a severe drought in September and October. We keep birdbaths of several different sizes filled and cleaned daily, and have marvelled at the vast array of wildlife that frequent our backyard watering holes. Thankfully, the rains returned in late October, burn bans have been lifted, and still the glorious rains come!
The does and fawn have visited daily for months. We have watched the fawn grow, lose her spots, and gain independence. Almost on cue, by October 30, the deer disappeared, hiding out and moving cautiously beyond the woods edge. We are in the thick of deer hunting season, and don't they know it! I do see them sometimes now in early morning. They enjoy the apples and carrots that we leave for them on the ground a short distance into the woods, where they are still visible to the naked eye. Sadly, we are not invited to their night time feeding parties here on our property. Several mornings, I have observed their party leftovers, though - a gorging of potato vine near our mailbox, with just a few severely pruned vine branches left, and rose bush branches nibbled half way to the stem. I can almost hear them chuckling and snickering as they gallop triumphantly back into their hiding places as dawn approaches. We chuckle to ourselves upon the discovery and admit that survivorship should have its rewards.
So, the sun continues its southerly course in the autumn sky, and our shorter days and chillier mornings and evenings change the behaviors of our backyard visitors. Easiest to observe, are the habit changes of the many birds. The juveniles are grown now. We said goodbye to our hummingbird population in October, as they headed south for their winter vacation in the more tropical latitudes. We saw a nice sized number of cardinal and mockingbird fledglings this past summer, and they continue to thrive. Thanks to their numbers, and their seeming satisfaction with our backyard habitat, we have seen some remarkable behaviors. The ever-blooming red azalea bushes just outside our kitchen windows are ablaze in scarlet color ever since the life giving rains began in October. What I originally thought was preening and bathing going on within the azalea leaves, turned out to be something I was not prepared to observe. The cardinals, both male and female, were eating the red azalea blooms. At first, I thought maybe they were just drinking from the flower centers, or perhaps enjoying the nectar, but as I watched from the window, I saw them eating entire blossoms - every last bit!