The sallow leaves fell slowly through the visible cloak of humidity, dark silhouettes of jays pierced through the gray overhead, blood red berries on spicebush sparkled in the dew, and wet bumblebees sleepily clung to their violet thistle trundles. Crickets twinkled through the morning fog as big ripe walnuts thudded to the damp ground. Gazing out over the farm, I spied the bright cream-colored flowers of okra atop their tall green stalks, like a string of globe lights bringing cheer to the gloom. There were some birds around as well.
We caught 25 birds of only 8 species before cautiously closing early again at 9:30 am. The highlight was the Northern Waterthrush pictured above. A lover of wet bogs, forests, and streams, this sprightly tail-bobbing warbler can be found in backyards during migration on its way to Central America. We also caught our commoners including Common Yellowthroats, cute Carolina Wrens, Gray Catbirds, Wood Thrush, and American Robins.
I love the photo below because it captures a different kind of “farm to table” (banding table, that is). These are our banding staff who also work tirelessly on the 6-acre farm of Rushton, helping to produce 30,000 pounds of sustainably grown food, annually. “In the face of today’s rapid population growth, you can’t do agriculture without conservation anymore,” said Lisa Kiziuk, Director of our Bird Conservation Program. “We just try to make sure that if you have to take land, at least it’s usable by wildlife.”
The way we do farming at Rushton is how they did it in the old days—leaving unkempt hedgerows and wild meadows surrounding the farm fields rather than clearing everything. Here, we leave space for the finches, salamanders, and caterpillars while satisfying the community’s appetite for food and feathers. If food is the entrée for connecting people to the wild as Lisa says, then I’d say birds are the amuse-bouche.
There’s a lot going on in the woods,