Today is one of the rare hot days of this summer (rain tomorrow – again) and much of it was spent sitting on the deck with the newspapers, watching the antics of various small birds feeding around the garden.  There are a lot of “new” birds at this time of the year and it’s always enjoyable watching them honing their skills and learning how to be birds.

Usually, the Cardinal parents will bring the youngsters to our feeders and show them what a seed is and how to eat it but this year the juveniles have been coming by themselves and doing a self-education course while mum occasionally tags along but dad seems to spend all his time sitting in the trees and bellowing.  The Cardinal’s call is pretty penetrating, but this fellow is equipped with a megaphine we have decided, certainly the loudest and most persistent we have heard … drowns conversation at dinner time.

We were also visited by a hundred or so “Blackbirds” as people will insist on calling them … a mixed gang of Starlings, Grackles and RWBlackbirds all making a heck of a racket.  The fellow in the picture below was caught in mid-rearrangement of his feathers and was not scared by my presence.

Gradually, however, as the day progressed and the heat rose, we were made aware that we have Skunks.  Not that we saw any, but clearly one has been spraying upwind of the deck because as the gusts blew through and rattled the pages of the paper they were accompanied by the unmistakable odour.  It really is a shame that they have this ability to stink because otherwise they are really charming creatures, pottering about minding their own business and your garbage and compost heap.

male Northern Cardinal waits his turn at the header pool to the main garden pond while a Robin cools off

male Northern Cardinal waits his turn at the header pool to the main garden pond while a Robin cools off

Common Grackle rearranging his feathers

Common Grackle rearranging his feathers

Today’s interesting, but mostly useless, piece of information is:

The word skunk is a corruption of an Abenaki name for them, segongw or segonku, which means “one who squirts” in the Algonquian dialect.

Skunk spray is composed mainly of low molecular weight thiol compounds, namely (E)-2-butene-1-thiol, 3-methyl-1-butanethiol, and 2-quinolinemethanethiol, as well as acetate thioesters of each of these. These compounds are detectable at concentrations of about 2 parts per million.