Posts Tagged ‘birds’

A Very Special Visitor

I was away for about 5 days last week. As I drove up to my house I was stunned to see a new bird at my feeder. I’d never seen it before.

Turns out it’s an Evening Grosbeak. Here’s an excellent image from The Zen Birdfeeder in upstate New York. She also has an excellent post.

I could only capture this fellow from the front. Our western variety has a narrower “eyebrow” band. They have a high single-note chirp.

There seems to be at just one pair that’s frequenting my feeder. The female is lovely but doesn’t sport the bright yellow markings.

This Spotted Towee is usually much more demure … and only seen in the underbrush. With the new feeder location generating so much excitement I guess it was more than this little one could resist.

I gotta say, you get a lot of mileage out of a bird feeder and bird bath. Your yard becomes a locus of activity and provides terrific entertainment.


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The Birds Are Back

I can’t tell if it’s just because it’s spring … or that my feeder is back up. It took the Chickadees only a few hours to discover the feeder’s new location. But it was over a week before the crowds showed up.

The first were the American Goldfinch … in clusters of six or more!

Then whole families of the European House Sparrow arrived.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch joined the fun.

This is either a juvenile or female Black-headed  Grosbeak.

It looks just like the Rose-breasted  Grosbeak — but I don’t think that bird frequents our region. The throat was quite rosy but note the streaks under the wing.

There were also purple finch, scrub and blue jays and the ubiquitous Black-capped Chickadee. Another little Yellow-rumped Warbler flitted to within a few feet of my chair only to dart away. They may be here longer than I thought. They’re just secretive.

The Robbins don’t feed at the feeder, but there’s no other bird that enjoys a bath so much! I’ve discovered a nest and brooding female in one of my trees. They’re very entertaining birds. All these birds are nature’s most efficient “insecticides”.

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Backyard Sightings

This is the second year I’ve spotted the Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Audubon briefly visit my yard — same time of year, same corner of yard. There were at least two pairs. Apparently they pass through here while migrating to breed. They were very shy and hard to glimpse with binoculars, let alone a camera! I really had to keep my distance.

My photo (male):

Web image:

You can’t really tell from either photo how striking that yellow head-patch is. When out in the field that paired yellow above and below the beak flashes as the bird pecks the ground and darts its head up again. It’s unlike any other bird in this region.

The Pieris japonica are blooming and attracting bumble bees. It’s funny how different flowers attract specific bees.

This is the classic fat-bodied, yellow and black bumble bee:

This one might be the orange-belted (and shy) variety:

Neither bee kept very still. Apparently they’re social and have colony hives. Meanwhile, I’ve got 5 Orchard Mason bee “nests” built. I’m hoping for many more once the weather heats up (and dries out).

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Chickadee Birdhouse

I’ve had my birdhouse(s) for nearly two years. Last year House Sparrows robbed / invaded the Chickadees’ nest. I installed predator guards to make the entrance small enough to thwart them.

A month ago a female House Sparrow returned and spent several hours trying to get into the birdhouse. I was painting a bedroom and so was able to observe her. She squeezed and squeezed but just couldn’t fit through the opening. She cried out her dismay, but never returned.

Here’s a photo from last week when a pair of Chickadees were checking things out. The predator guard is the little wooden protrusion the Chickadee is perched on in this photo. All it does is reduce the opening to 1 1/8″ diameter.

The other thing I learned in my reading is that the birdhouses should be placed away from the feeding area. I placed two birdhouses on the West side of the house — whereas the feeding area is (or has been) on the East side.

Here’s the male (I suspect) returning to feed what I hope is the roosting female.

I placed cedar wood shavings in the box. The bird that stays in the box has been making considerable knocking sounds. So either she’s arranging the cedar shavings or trying to make more. They’ve subsided lately.

I’ve seen one bird at a time (or only the male?) coming and going quite regularly — which makes me suspect that the female might be roosting eggs. The arriving bird always announces its arrival with calls. I’ve been careful to keep a respectful distance and not disrupt their sense of safety.

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Pink Madness

Every year I tell myself that this year I’m not going to get excited about my flowering cherry. But, heck! Spring is imminent and the bees are out in full force.

I brought out the step ladder and just sat up there in the blossoms and got a little mad with pink.

You’ll note the pollen-laden ‘thighs’ on this bee.

When I’m gardening under the tree I hear an electric hum of bees overhead. It doesn’t quite translate in this video. It’s only a minute and a half. There’s a surprise visitor in the last 25 seconds.

That little Bush Tit was a foot from my head. Those birds know me and just don’t understand why I haven’t replenished the usual supplies.

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Avian Update

Well, I’m going to have to take down all my feeders, suet cages and bird bath for at least 2 weeks. There’s another bird sick — this time a Dark Eyed Junco. I’ve discovered there’s also such a thing as Avian Pox. It’s hard to distinguish which disease they have. Whatever it is —  it’s nasty!

These birds eat and poop collectively. Their close quarters spreads the disease among them.  So my feeders and birdbath – lovely as they are – are also disease “vectors” — so to speak. *sigh*

Cornell Lab of Ornithology is one of the best resources for bird ID. Their Feeder Watch program has a wealth of information on backyard observation and care.

The local Audubon also answered my emailed questions immediately.

Fortunately, the bugs and blossoms are out now so the birds aren’t as reliant on the feeders as they were during winter. Count yourself lucky if you’ve never had to deal with this.

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I started some cool weather seedlings (peas and lettuce) on the back porch.

I was startled when a bird flew right past my head under the eaves. Now granted the birds are pretty used to me and they know I’m the one who refills the feeder … but this was really close in.

Sadly, this little House Finch has a nasty case of conjunctivitis. I made the picture small to spare the viewer. What’s worse, my lax feeder cleaning may have contributed to spreading the infection.

This little critter has a loyal companion. A second (healthy) bird has kept close by all afternoon. It’s a drippy day and it’s sweet that my porch is providing shelter, but I feel badly. A sick bird is not usually a very long lived bird.

I’ll let the feeder run empty and then thoroughly clean it again before I put it back out. I added a plastic hood this winter to keep the food dryer.

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