Fourth of July and a parade of baby birds

Monday we celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day. The birth of our nation. Happy Birthday to the United States of America — 240 years old!

Red, white, and blue. Stars and stripes. American flags rippling in the wind. People will be celebrating throughout our community and our country. We're talking food, family, fun, and fireworks.


Picnics with fried chicken, corn on the cob, watermelon, and Hoffman's ice cream — but no more Harry's cole slaw!

Bursts of color and blasts of noise will blow up the night sky tomorrow evening in celebration of 240 years of the United States of America. Children will watch in awe and a few babies will cry. Adults will observe with enthusiasm and pause with pride as they contemplate this great country of ours. Frightened pups will run in circles of fear and disappear into the darkness.

Did you know that more dogs are lost on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year? The explosive sounds of fireworks send many dogs over the edge, and if they can get away, they will run for "safety."

It is best to leave your dog home on the Fourth of July even if he or she prefers to follow you everywhere you go. I know he's "man's best friend," but would you take your best friend to a place that you know will have him shaking with fright?

The Carroll County Farm Museum will host its traditional day of festivities from 2-10 p.m. Activities include moon bounce, face painting, children's crafts and games, artisan demonstrations, farmhouse tours, Jerry Brown and Diango the Monkey, Uncle Sam on stilts and food to purchase. There is an admission fee to the grounds, and some of the activities have costs to participate.

Fireworks will begin after darkness falls at around 9:30.

Have you noticed the parade of baby birds in the backyard lately? Some of them have grown to adult size already, but their juvenile plumage and their quirky behaviors suggest that they still have some growing up to do.

Some of the young birds are easy to identify — especially cardinals. Yesterday I watched two young cardinals squabbling with one another on the garden floor. The first clue that neither was an adult was the color of their bills. They were full-size but were dull in color, not the bright orange bill of adult cardinals.

Their plumage looked very much like that of a female cardinal — exactly what all young cardinals look like when their first coat of feathers grow in. As the juveniles get a little older, patches of red feathers begin to grow in to replace the brownish ones on the male birds.

Before long, the father cardinal appeared on the scene in his brilliant red finery, and his young charges wobbled up to him with their mouths open. It was interesting to watch him. He would forage on the ground and find a bite or two to feed them. And then he seemed to be showing them how to forage for themselves.

Cardinal parents share in the feeding and care of their youngsters, but often the responsibility falls on dad when the mama bird is on the nest with another brood.

Here are some things to consider if you are trying to identify a young bird. Often the plumage is dull compared to adults of a species but may still be similar. Notice things like color, streaking, eye lines, and so forth. Look at wings and tails for specific markings that may help in your identifying the bird. Often their behaviors will lead you to the parent birds as they try to get attention and beg for food from them.

A field guide can be an excellent resource for helping to identify young birds as well as mature ones. I always have a guide on hand for identifying unfamiliar species that pass through our neighborhood from time to time — especially during migration.

Just for fun, make a list (in your spare time) of all the birds, juvenile and mature, that you can think of that are red, white, and or blue. Here's a start ... northern cardinal, indigo bunting, great egret. How many can you add to the list?


As you celebrate the birth of our great nation this week, fly the stars and stripes of Old Glory with pride. Think about the sacrifices that so many have been willing to make, and still do, to keep our country free. Honor our heroes on the Fourth of July.

Happy Birthday America! Have a safe holiday however and wherever you celebrate.