Look to the sky during autumn and winter and if you’re lucky, you’ll see one of nature’s most amazing sights: the starling murmuration.
A murmuration of starlings, as this phenomenon is known, must be one of the most magical, yet underrated, wildlife spectacles in winter. Winging at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, an entire flock of birds can make hairpin turns in an instant.
Our tree swallows are back, and this exciting event is underway in our front yard! We were alerted to the their appearance after hearing their cheerful twittery song and noticing their bat-like acrobatics as they raced for flying insects. We understand they can eat their own weight in insects every day.
A male arrives to check out last years gourd nest.
They seem to have arrived back all at once looking for their old nests. We now have up eight plastic gourds, which they seem to like very much. The openings are just right to prevent starlings from entering, and they hang from shepherd’s crooks planted firmly in the ground….
Let me show you how our neighbors across the road attract and feed the orioles every year. They allowed me to take pictures of their wonderful feeding stations. They see mainly Baltimore and Orchard orioles….
At this time of year, life can be tough for our backyard birds. A cold snap can mean they need more energy – just to keep warm – and the short days leave less time to find food.
The bluebird was a American Indian symbol of happiness, good health and hope. They displayed the bird in their art and told tales of its beauty and humility in their folklore. They hung hollowed out gourds over their refuse piles and meat drying areas to house the bluebirds, which would eat pesky bugs attracted to such places.
From 1920-1970 there was a major decline in the bluebird population. The bluebird went from being as common as the robin, to being so rare that birders were sure of its inevitable extinction. There were many reasons for the decline, including loss of habitat, pesticide use, weather changes, snag (dead tree) removal, and an influx of house cats. However, the main reason for the population decline was the introduction of the House Sparrow into America, cavity nesters, and extremely competitive and aggressive.
In 1978 the North American Bluebird Society was formed by citizen scientists and birders concerned about the drastic decline in the bluebird population. They optimized bluebird boxes and set up a network of trails in which to put up boxes and monitor the numbers and health of the population. They educated the public and trained volunteers as monitors. The result is almost fairy-tale. The bluebird population rebounded and stabilized, escaping extinction. 
This year at our home with 2 bluebird houses, we have been watching four bluebird couples since early spring.