It’s been almost a year since my wife and I moved from West Virginia to western North Carolina. Since then many readers have written to wish us well. We truly appreciate your thoughtful cards and emails. Thank you.
Moving from a large old house on 95 rural acres to a suburban three-bedroom apartment has been an adjustment. We love our home, but I wasn’t sure how I would like an apartment community.
Over the years I‘ve heard from many readers who had similar concerns when they relocated from a rural area to a more civilized location. I shared many of their concerns. Would I see many birds by simply stepping outside? Would birds come to feeders? Would I be bored to death? My answers — yes, yes, no.
When we arrived in late August, I wasn’t even out of the car when I heard northern mockingbirds and song sparrows. They’ve proven to be the most abundant species here at Ballantyne Apartments. Unless it’s pouring rain, I hear both species every day all year long.
This has been a pleasant surprise because this is a wide-open complex reminiscent of a college campus — lots of scattered small trees and shrubs, and evergreens around the buildings. But the campus is surrounded by woods, so there is plenty of birdy habitat just a short distance from our front door. And we have a small patio from which we can sit, watch, and listen.
We’ve managed to attract a nice selection of birds to the patio by planting flowers and hanging feeders. And now that it has warmed up, we even see fence lizards (food for mockingbirds and robins) on the patio.
I could never explain why I rarely saw mockingbirds back in West Virginia. The habitat seemed perfect, so I was perplexed for more than 30 years. Now mockers dominate the soundscape, and I love it.
Their vocal repertoire amazes me. I always double check to confirm I’m hearing mockers and not actual cardinals, blue jays, or Carolina wrens. The proof is in how many times I hear each phrase.
If I hear a phrase or song just once or twice, it’s the real deal. If a phrase or song is repeated three or more times, I know it’s a mocker.
The presence of song sparrows came as no surprise. They are one of the most common species nationwide and favor open habitat with small trees and shrubs. Here they stay close to the vegetation planted around the buildings.
Both mockers and song sparrows visit the bird bath and sunflower seed feeders by the patio, though I suspect the mockers are more tempted by the fence lizards than by the seeds.
I also hung a nectar feeder last August, and the very next day we saw our first ruby-throated hummingbird. Just one or two individuals visited every day.
The sound of singing eastern bluebirds also made me smile last August. Bluebirds, hummers, mockers and song sparrows exceeded my hopes and expectations. Since last summer I’ve added 18 species to my Ballantyne bird list. I expect to double that over the next year.
In no particular order, here’s my Ballantyne bird list — American robin, blue jay, Carolina wren, tufted titmouse, Carolina chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch, American goldfinch, American crow, northern cardinal, mourning dove, house finch, eastern towhee, brown thrasher, chipping sparrow, eastern phoebe, brown-headed cowbird, killdeer and red-shouldered hawk.
As I peruse the bird list, two more lists come to mind: species I expect to see and species I hope to see. And keep in mind that these are just species for the apartment complex. I’ve seen/heard many others at nearby parks.
In the coming weeks and months, I expect to add Baltimore and/or orchard orioles, house wrens, gray catbirds, dark-eyed juncos and chimney swifts to my list.
And if I do some night listening, I should hear whip-poor-wills, chuck-wills-widows, common nighthawks and eastern screech owls. Nor would it shock me to see/hear great horned owls, red-tailed hawks and rose-breasted grosbeaks.
My wish list includes red-breasted nuthatch, blue grosbeak, lark sparrow, indigo bunting and painted bunting.
Wish me luck.
Send questions and comments to
Dr. Shalaway at firstname.lastname@example.org or,
229 Cider Mill Drive, Apt. 102,
Hendersonville, NC 28792.
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