06/12/17 — Bird sanctuary: Couple creates a bird haven and birdwatchers' heaven

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Bird sanctuary: Couple creates a bird haven and birdwatchers' heaven

By Melinda Harrell
Published in News on June 12, 2017 9:31 AM

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Carolina wren eggs are in a nest in the Graybeals' yard.

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A red-bellied woodpecker is perched on a branch near its nest. The tree the bird sits on was taken down, but in an effort to save its habitat, John and Linda Graybeal took the branch with the nest and tied it to a tree on their property line.

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The Graybeals have a small pond in the center of their back yard on Todd Drive. The pond makes for a good source of water, which is inviting to birds.

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John and Linda Graybeal take a look at the blooms on some confederate jasmine growing in their back yard. The jasmine and gardenia give off a sweet scent, and with the gentle sounds of birds chirping and the gurgling of their small pond, the Graybeals have created a birds' paradise at their home on Todd Drive.

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John Graybeal displays one of his lilies that is blooming in his back yard, which Linda coins as a "bird sanctuary."

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A purple martin birdhouse stands in the Graybeals' backyard. John Graybeal said he hasn't seen any purple martins fly in just yet.

Linda and John Graybeal stand in their backyard on Todd Drive surrounded by blooming flowers, trees and birdhouses.

As the smell of gardenias and jasmine saturate the morning air, the gentle sounds of chirping birds and gurgling from the small pond in the center of their yard are punctuated by the laughter of Linda and John as they look up at a failed nest of a Carolina wren.

Linda laughingly points up to a little birdhouse with foliage and pine needles poking out.

"Do you know what wrens do -- the male builds two or three houses, I mean nests, and he brings the female, and she chooses the one she likes," she said.

"We think this is this bird's first nest. It was so adorable, he would try to pull the pinestraw in, and it would fall to the ground, and he would go down and get it and try again."

John and Linda both smile and agree that the female wren did not like this particular nest.

"He spent all that time on it. We would watch him out the window at this spot," John said.

The Graybeals' home is surrounded by birdhouses -- a rabbit feeder has become a nesting area and there is even a purple martin birdhouse suspended almost 20 feet in the air.

"She insisted on the purple martin house," John said.

"They have to have the trees cleared out and have water and a swooping area, but we haven't seen any."

Linda didn't seem to mind that there was no purple martin spotting just yet.

"Isn't it nice, though," she said.

The Graybeals coin their home a "bird sanctuary," and it is no wonder.

After 46 years of marriage, they finish each other's sentences and complement each other's hobbies.

As she clutched a thick book full of pictures and descriptions of various birds, Linda said that John helped build their bird haven.

John likes to plant flowers and grow things, and blooming flowers and trees become a natural attraction for birds, she said.

"His hobby and my hobby go together beautifully," she said with a smile.

"We have something that blooms all the time," John finished.

"We had a lady come by and look at our garden, and she said it looked like God took a little paintbrush to it."

John said though the purple martin house hasn't attracted interest in the bird world, his azaleas certainly have.

"We even had some towhees -- people mistake them for robins," he said.

"When I put the azaleas on the back fence there, we had some come in. We've seen one or two, but it is not a common thing."

Linda said the towhees move "so regal."

She often describes the birds that perch in her yard as if they were her friends.

Every morning, around 6 a.m., she goes outside and watches a mockingbird and listens to his songs.

"He is so sweet," she said as she strolls through the yard to the sound of another birdsong.

"That may be him right now."

From her favorite bird -- the Eastern bluebird -- to the mockingbirds to wrens, Linda's affection for them is encompassing.

So much so, that when she and John noticed that a family of red-bellied woodpeckers would lose its habitat when their neighbor took down a damaged tree, she was concerned.

She said the birds would come back to the tree every evening to care for "their babies."

John said he took the part of the tree that was a habitat for the woodpeckers and tied it to a nearby tree in their yard.

"It's not that far from (the original tree)," said Linda pointing a piece of a tree branch tied securely to another tree near the property line.

"They came looking for the babies that night."

And luckily, thanks to the Graybeals, they found them.

As they stroll through their yard, John points out his prized lacy leaf Japanese maple and blooming day lilies and Linda discusses her bluebirds and wrens.

For them and the birds that call their yard home, it is a small slice of heaven.

And though Linda really couldn't pinpoint the reasons she adores birds so much, her husband could instantly.

Smiling down at her, John said, "You said just the other day when you get to heaven you were going to fly."

Linda laughs, "I guess you are right."