News from SW PA 

by Pamela Murphy

Visit her Webpage and read her articles:

Real Country Life


03-20-12, 25 Cleaver Ideas to Make Life Easier



It has been a long week. I'm not quite ready to start another. I have been working mostly in the flower and perennial gardens. My sister is splitting her hostas and lambs ears so I am planting those here. We have the vegetable garden plowed and almost ready to plant. Our corn should have been in, but we are still on schedule. I'm not planting 140 tomato plants this year. I am planting more cabbage. Maybe I'll do some sauerkraut. 

We got a goat just for the summer. He is part Nubian and part something else that starts with a "b".  He has a belly ache today. I think he ate too much or ate the wrong weed. Hopefully he will be better tomorrow or he'll have to go home. I searched the internet and found out a lot of people give them baking soda. But he isn't eating enough yet to get any in him.
There is a couple different birds here. One is about the size of a robin, but he is totally brown. I haven't figured him out yet. We have a woodpecker too.

We�ve been bird watching bats lately. We got a bat box to put up. They come out at the same time every night. The European Starlings have stayed all summer and the Blue Jays seem to have moved. I see one or two here and there. We have a lot of crows. They get in the garbage and scatter it. We do have a bunch of sparrows too. They live in the Arborvite around the trailer.


I have been seeing gold finches. I used to see them a lot more, but now they are coming into the garden and perching on the corn stocks.


I saw something I have never seen before I thought you�d like to hear about. A female Muscovy duck of ours had a bunch of little ones. Normally I would take them from her and raise them, but Michael is tired of birds in the house so we are letting her do it herself. I was down by the small creek in our backyard looking for her, happened to look up and on a dead tree branch was a humming bird perching. I have never seen that before. He was so tiny. He or she must have a nest close by.



I did see a woodpecker at my brother�s feeder last week. I hadn�t seen one of those in a long time. The Blue Jays are back, but there doesn�t seem to be as many of them as I had in previous years. Same with the cow birds. Lots and lots of little sparrows. I go in the chicken yard and have to duck so I don�t get hit in the face by flying sparrows. LOL



I have been doing some bird watching lately. I have the usual Jays and European Starlings, but little Tufted Titmice have started to come to the porch. There are a couple different types of sparrows that I have yet to identify. I guess they all are very happy the cats have moved indoors for the winter. I did see seagulls at Wal-Mart the other day. I always see them there in the winter.


My birds seem to attract others. I had some pheasants come to visit last year. I do have some sparrows that come eat the scratch that I "spill" outside the coop. They are neat to see as there are about 10 of them all together. I have never seen so many of them at one spot living together. Actually the Jays must have come to see you because I haven't seen or heard the bunch of them in a while that I used to. The European starlings did stay around this year due to no cow birds. Yippee. I saw maybe one or two at the beginning of summer, but then they moved away too.

I heard something really different for this area the other night. My husband sometimes will go to bed and forget to close the back door which means my little Chelsey can go out if she wants. I have two dogs outside too. About 3 a.m. Chelsey started to bark and I got up to see why. I stepped outside and could hear this high pitched whiney bark. I  knew that the "dogs" were running deer up on the hill. The more I listened, the more I understood I wasn't hearing dogs, I was hearing coyotes. They have been reintroduced here over the past few years. Only to be trapped by people who are afraid of them. Coyotes are something I think of being in the west and not here. I hope the deer got away from them.

We have had an amazing amount of cardinals here this spring. Amazing to me anyways. At least 6. I am looking forward to more as they reproduce. I am considering putting bells on the cats to keep the birds safe.

The Ospreys are nesting again at Donegal lake. They have been coming back there for about three years now. They can fish really well. Someone built a platform at the one end of the lake on a pole sticking up out of the water. They build a nest on that. 
We always see several sea gulls around this time of the year. I don't know if they are just blown off course or if we have become a stopping point in their migration. It is odd to see them so far from the ocean. 
I am also seeing some sparrows and mourning doves. I am continuing to feed them all until more vegetation comes out on the trees and plants.



I have finally been seeing some new birds besides crows and blue jays. I saw a European Starling who came to the porch to eat cat food with the jays. I used to think these were incredibly dumb birds because my cat Cassie would catch them alive and bring them into the house over and over. Well someone said they are very smart and can even mimic. I guess they are smart to stay alive in the mouth of a cat long enough to be brought to me to be rescued.  I have been seeing flocks of Canadian Geese this past week flying home I presume.  Maybe Punxsutawney Phil was wrong when he saw his shadow and spring will be early.  


We have been seeing three Ringneck Roosters running between my property and my brother�s. We are thinking they are wild since they don�t seem like the tame ones that are released around here. They must see the ducks happily quacking and splashing in the creek and think it is a safe place to be. The Blue Jays are still plentiful and fending off other birds� attempts at feeding on the scratch we put out for the ducks. They also love cat food and help themselves when they can.



 I have been seeing a lot of Great Blue Herons lately. I hope they are making a comeback. I saw a whole gaggle of Canadian geese fly over today. I think they are starting to feel the cold nights and are making their yearly trip to warmer weather.  I�m sure I�ll see some different birds as the weather changes and they are on the move.



I saw a really interesting bird the other day. I consulted a birding list and we think I saw a whimbrel. It is a shore bird and was way off course, but it was quite a sight. It was big and grayish with a long curved down beak. I love to see different kids of birds especially ones that are rare in my area. 



We have been seeing the bluest blue bird around the homestead lately. I looked for it in a book at the library. Nearest I can tell, it is an indigo bunting. We hope to see much more of it this summer.

We also saw a great blue heron circling our creek. Two years ago I almost walked up on one fishing at the creek. It is really something to see such a large bird in our part of the country.

Also, I heard reports the Osprey are nesting again at the lake near here. We watched as they hatched and raised two chicks last year.

I saw a couple of cow birds today. This is bad news since the other birds seem to scatter when they are around.

We'll be keeping our eyes open for more.

April 11, 2003

I think the amount of Blue Jays we have here has kept away a lot of other birds. I do see a good many cardinals. There is a pair that frequent my feeder. A few Canadian geese flew over the house honking as they went. My little farmyard stood still as the ducks and chickens looked around to see where the honking was coming from. We are supposed to get some relief from the cold weather next week so I am hoping that will bring out some more birds to watch.

Real Country Life

News and Events in the Laurel Highlands. Free Area Want Ads. Home to Northern Appalachian history, lore, trivia, recipes, all natural health products and hand made Appalachian crafts.

Updated Weekly

  February 2, 2003

  I have been seeing a lot of birds since the cold spell finally broke.  I can identify the cardinals. There is a pair that visit the feeder. We have plenty of wrens. I counted seven blue jays on our porch. They prefer cat food to the bird seed. One of the cats decided that if she sits on the bird seed on the porch that the birds will fly in and she can catch them. Thankfully they are a little smarter than that.

  Our egg production is still up. We get about a dozen a day from 13 hens. They are young, and we are looking forward to springtime production.

December 7, 2002

The weather has been rough here. We have about 6 inches of snow and record low temps. It was 8 in Pittsburgh the other day so it had to be close to zero here. I have been seeing a lot of red tailed hawks. More than normal. Maybe west nile didn't hit them as hard here. Still have lots of Blue Jays. That probably accounts for the lack of other birds. I saw a little wren outside the window yesterday. I'm sure they are looking for food with all of this snow. We have scratch put out for the ducks so I'm hoping they get some of that. I can't feed consistently as I am feeding cockatiels (next spring's new project) and can't always stretch the food that far. We did have a bumper crop of sunflowers though so that is helping a lot.
The homesteading is still going well. Not that we have much invested yet. We "harvested" our first crop of roosters last Sunday. We butchered 10. I was plucking feathers in my sleep. We put the muscovey ducks in the coop during the cold snap. The chickens were not happy, but they finally made up. It was warmer today so we let everyone outside for a while. We will have to catch the ducks again, but I think it is healthier for the ducks to have fresh water and fresh air. Our egg production is really up even with the cold. I don't know if the hens are just maturing or if only having 2 roosters in the coop is making the difference.

October 11, 2002

  I've been paying attention to the wild birds the last week or two. It seems we are in a transition. Some great news is that the cowbirds are finally gone. I don't know where they go, but I'm sure glad they aren't here. The blue jays have resumed their top bird position at the feeding areas. 

  I have seen some white breasted nuthatches. Dove hunting season hasn't taken much of a toll on the mourning doves here. We still see a lot sitting on the electric lines.

August 25, 2002

   There hasn't been much bird activity around here all summer since the Cow birds came. They are everywhere squawking and stealing the chicken scratch. We have been seeing some really large Crows. I have been keeping my eye out for dead birds with the West Nile virus alerts around here. I'm not too concerned with my four Muscovy and three Pekin ducks and 25 Road Island Reds. We don't have too much of a bug problem.

May 27, 2002

   Someone built a nesting stand on a local lake. The Osprey were there last year and raised a little family. We went by the lake this  weekend. They are back!

  They are unmistakable, even from a distance, due to their size and white breast. I am looking forward to seeing little osprey heads bobbing up and down in the nest again this year.

May 19, 2002

 I have a lot of Blue Jays and Cow Birds, they seem to keep other birds away  some. The little yellow finches are back this year, red winged black birds,  big crows, red tail hawks and turkey buzzards. Last week I saw a Great Blue Heron in Indian Creek. He probably was fishing for minnows. I also saw an orange bird I have yet to identify. It was a little bigger than the finches.

 I can hear the wood peckers, but have not been able to see them yet. They  are in the woods beside my house. I saw a little blue bird on my way home  today.

 I am thinking the orange bird is a Baltimore oriole. I hope I see it again. I have to look up what the sparrows look like, I'm not sure. I forgot about  all of the little wrens and robins we have. They are very common. Every year  I see a sea gull or two. They are way off course. LOL