“In the leafy treetops the birds sing good morning.

‘How do you do?’ they say.

‘How do you do today?’”

I remember singing this song in grade school and even in children’s church meetings. This time of the year we have a lot of birds around our home here in the valley and at the ranch. One year at the ranch, a beautiful bluebird made her nest in the outhouse. That’s not what I would call an ideal summer cabin spot, but she stayed in it with her babies all summer. It was interesting to watch her flit in and out of that necessary building, and still maintain her dignity.

We have the swallows up there who return in early May each year, but they came in late April this year. We always welcome them as they seem to find mosquitoes a good meal item. We have had a couple of families of swallows make nests in our garage in the valley. I think, because we started shutting the garage doors at night, they changed their mind about cohabitation with us on the valley farm. The pair that came last year didn’t have any babies, so maybe that’s why we haven’t seen them this year.

Another feathered occupant in our garage, just above the garage door, is a starling who constantly tries to build a nest. When I open the garage door to get the car out, and if I move into the garage too quickly, I get a bunch of straw in my hair. And that darn starling keeps repairing her nest instead of giving up on it. This has been going on for two months now. I’m a bird lover but I do have my limits on what they can and can’t do on our property — and building a nest above the garage door is a definite no no. However, I haven’t been able to convince mama starling that there are really a lot of other places available. Maybe she has built a nest in another garage that wasn’t attached to a farm. Then her nest building materials available wouldn’t consist of so much straw, hay, and baling twine. Those three items in my hair do not make a fashion statement as I go to the grocery store! She really needs to look for another place to build her nest.

However, the cab of one of the tractors is not a good example of another place. One has built her nest on the exterior of the cab, just above where the windshield wipers rest. And now there is a line of starling poop right down the middle of the front window on that tractor. That’s enough to make my husband, Boyd, grumble as he daily takes the window cleaning equipment out with him to the tractor.

Our two dogs, You and Two, have fun with the magpies. When the dog food is put out in the morning and evening, those two dogs lay on the lawn away from their food and watch. Pretty soon the magpies come to steal the food. Then the dogs chase them. At first only two magpies come. Then it becomes ten or twelve. They work together, a couple of them trying to steal food but are actually tempting the dogs to chase them. When the dogs take off, the rest swoop down and start eating. That game goes on until the dog food is gone. I watch from the kitchen window and find humor in the birds and the dogs. I think both species enjoy the game!

The high winds we had this spring disrupted living conditions for some of the birds who have nests in the tree just outside our kitchen window. I’ve found two or three nests on the ground after a wind storm, but so far no bird eggs or featherless baby birds. It seems that nest building goes on all summer in our trees, as I watch the birds fly into the branches with a long strand of baling twine or two or three pieces of straw. Perhaps maintenance is something that is ongoing in the bird house business as much as it is in our human homes.

Besides watching and marveling at birds and their activities, the songs that burst forth even before the sun has risen is enough to be grateful for the presence of the birds around our place. As the words to the song goes:

“In the leafy tree tops the birds sing good morning…”

And that song can make every morning special!

Jean Schwieder is a writer who has spent her life involved in eastern Idaho agriculture. Her books, including past columns, are available by calling 208-522-8098 or by email at straddlinthefence@gmail.com.