Baltimore Orioles Watercolor © 2011 Sally Wickham
My parents bought their first and only house in 1944. The house, the horse barn, the cattle barn, milk house, chicken house and rabbit hutch sat on thirty- three acres more or less in the town of Rutland, Vermont and they called the place Homespun Farm. Three years later, I was born.
During my childhood, I often walked along the East Pittsford Road which was lined with elm trees. As I walked, I would gaze up into their giant umbrella shaped branches searching for the swinging pouches that I knew were the Baltimore Oriole’s nest. I considered the orioles local royalty and each year, gave them new names.
Years passed, most of those stately elm trees died, I grew up, married and moved away.
Today I sit on my porch about twenty five miles away. It’s early June and I have speared two orange halves on the shepherd’s hook that holds the oriole feeder. The feeder already has two sticks for the oranges, but these orioles prefer their oranges on the iron hooks. They still love their feeder because it has two small red cups filled with Welch’s Concord grape jelly. According to my custom, I have dubbed this local pair of orioles with new names.
As I write, Kate lands on the feeder and enjoys a few quaffs of the jelly. When William arrives near the orange (A beautiful sight!!) Kate gives a call that sounds like “Here, Here, Here.” She does not have a shy voice. William always gives a kingfisher like chatter before he dives graciously into the fresh orange. They eat sparingly but with relish before they flit away to do other elegant errands.
I am left to sit and wonder. Why do orioles like oranges? Is it because they are the same color? How did they develop a taste for grape jelly? Is their nest swinging in the adolescent elm not far from my house? How many eggs are swaying in that nest? How long will the new elms live? How long will I?
Birdwords by Linda Lunna © 2011