Lesson #1: Enjoy every bird!
Truth is, you'll hear more birds than you see,
and you'll see more birds than you can possibly photograph.
Birds began coming to the Bubbler within a few days after it was completed on 10-22-2000. After a visit by a Varied Thrush on a wintry day in 2003, the tenth record of this species in Missouri, it became time to put aside colored pencils and document birds with photographs. Dan helped me get set up with a digital camera. It was our introduction to the digital format of photography, with the camera connected to a spotting scope. It was cumbersome, it was slow and it was certainly challenging to focus on fidgety little birds! It did teach me patience, however, and ready or not, the birds kept on coming. Blackburnian and Chestnut-sided Warblers have always come down through the trees to enjoy the water feature. These images were some of the first taken with that digiscoping setup.
Spring is always exciting because these neotropical migrants are in their vibrant breeding plumage. Fall is another story entirely. Some species look about the same, and some have molted into a duller version of themselves that almost looks like a totally different bird.
These composite photos display the changes in their attire that are protective camouflage as they return to winter homes. It helps them blend ever so easily into the softer greens, yellows and rusty shades of autumn. This attribute also makes them more difficult to watch and identify as they move along the branches and grab caterpillars off the native plants. Add in the new first year birds of each species, and well, it's enough to make one's head spin!
Now, I have not seen every warbler species in every year. But over the 25 years we've been here, I have seen all 36 of the most likely warblers to be seen in our area. This is the third year that we've listed 29 species. Adding another species this fall would set a new record for our sanctuary. Yellow-throated, Cape May, Black-throated Blue, or Hooded Warblers might show up. A rarity is possible. The photo above shows a first year female Blackpoll Warbler that was here on 10-4-13, a third fall record for this species in Missouri. Doesn't it look similar to the Bay-breasted Warbler above it? Its orangey legs are key to separating it from the other species, and though only one photo was taken, it was enough documentation for that record. Most Blackpolls migrate much further to the east but it is likely that there are more in Missouri that get lost in the shuffle. Our yard does seem to be a "migrant trap" and is just very attractive to these tiny birds.
For those who would like to take the Fall Warbler challenge, here are a few quiz photos. Answers will be posted next time!
You may also want to check out this updated gallery to study the birds and search for the answers. It will open in a new tab for comparison.
Remember to enjoy every bird!
So far, Summer here has been fairly wet and cloudy.
Yesterday was brighter, and while we worked in the garden, a Monarch and an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail were seen, mainly sipping nectar on Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Hope to catch those butterflies soon! But here is an image that Dan took of the Buttonbush bloom, which is just filled with nectar for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Young Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are beginning to zip through the garden, hitting the Black-and-blue Salvia and the bell-shaped flowers of this native vine climbing the arbor, Leatherflower(Clematis versicolor).
Cardinalflower (Lobelia cardinalis) is in bud, and its bright red blooms will soon be ready for more young hummingbirds. The Ironweed (Vernonia arkansana) will be blooming in August with purply, fine textured flowers.
This is another image by Dan, of Eastern Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa). Delicate blooms, the heavy rains have just about finished them now.
We've been told that the Monkeyflower (Mimulus ringens) is a wonderful plant for wet, shady places and it attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Fingers crossed, it will serve all these pollinators well.
On cool mornings, we have found bumble bees sleeping on the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) before their busy day officially begins.
This is the tiniest Praying Mantis I think I've ever seen, at just over an inch. It has been hanging out on Downy Skullcap (Scutellaria incana).
Now, on to more 'babes'. It's always fun to see young birds investigating their surroundings, but it took a bit of time to establish the trust required by the adults to bring them into our view.
Tufted Titmice are often seen at the Bubbler, and like their cousins, the chickadees, they enjoy a good splash. They also learn to be observant, listening for alarm calls and on the lookout for predators.
This little House Wren is Bubbler Bird #76 for the year. It's the first time I've seen a fledgling at the Bubbler.
A young Blue Jay takes a look at the water from a higher perch. The family of four came back the next day.
The more you look, the more you see. I learned something new when I photographed these two Blue Jays. See the inside corners of their bills, the flexible hinge or flange? They're pink! This bright color enables the parents to easily find that gaping mouth in a dark situation and stuff those caterpillars down their throats. These adults have done well feeding the nestlings, they're big and healthy. The gape flange is just a lighter color on the Titmouse and House Wren. This anatomical detail helps to age the birds.
If you're a Missouri resident, you can go to your local Missouri Department of Conservation Nature Center
and pick up this newly revised booklet on "Enjoying Missouri's Birds." It's free!
Sarah Kendrick, our state ornithologist, added a Beginner's Guide to Birding section and updated all the charts in the Seasonal List so you'll
know when to expect different species, how common they are and in what habitat to find them. It's such a great reference to have on hand!
Next time, we'll talk about Fall migrants so check back on 7-25-21.
There may even be some quiz birds for those who are up to the challenge!
HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!
We are officially half way through the year and into summer.
Ten years ago, on June 12, 2011, was the first time I saw a deer in our yard. I remember it well because it was the date our garden was on the St. Louis Garden Tour to benefit the Missouri Botanical Garden. We've seen deer every year since then, but their numbers have definitely gone up. This young buck already has a healthy rack of antlers, eleven points as best as I've been able to count. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation Events Calendar, deer antlers are among the fastest growing tissues found on any animal with fur. "At the peak of growth - which usually occurs from mid-June to mid-July - a buck may add an inch or more to its antlers in a single day." This is the earliest we've seen one with this large a rack!
Here are a few more videos, deer are active even during stormy weather. And, did you know Northern Cardinals will sing as early as 4:30 a.m.?
As you may imagine, the 'salad bar' has been busy 24 hours a day. The deterrent we have used in the past is not as effective this year. Oh, deer!
The inquisitive fawn is getting braver, but still staying close to the doe.
Here are a few views of the garden. The hydrangeas are in bloom, at least the ones that haven't been browsed on. The pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) in the pond has been visited by bees, dragonflies and other tiny insects. This cliff goldenrod (Solidago drummondii) has taken a liking to the copper praying mantis.
Fruits are ripening. Blackhaw drupes (Viburnum prunifolium) won't be ready until September, but the Rough-leaf Dogwood (Cornus drummondii) should be ready in a few weeks, and the birds will be enjoying them soon. Robins have been high up in the black cherry trees, grabbing those.
Eastern Wood-Pewees have been coming in to catch insects on the fly. Their song is a perfect, lazy tune that always means summer to me.
A pair of Blue Jays took a break and visited the bubbler. Young American Robins are learning all about the joys of bathing.
This morning, a Barred Owl flew in and perched in the dogwood right near the deck. It was there at least 35 minutes before swooping down to catch prey. We had been wondering if the nesting crows have kept the owls out of the woodland. Now that the young crows are out and about with the adults, finally, the owls are coming back in. Hopefully, we'll learn if they had a successful nesting, too.
HAVE A SAFE AND ENJOYABLE WEEKEND!
Here in our sanctuary, the Bubbler is very popular with the birds. Some folks have thought about having a bubbler but perhaps would like a less expensive alternative to consider for the warmer months. We found that adding a dripper to bird baths also effectively moves the water and attracts the birds. We have two working in the garden areas right now, alternating on timers. The birds learn very quickly when they will come on.
In the spring, I put together a thirteen-minute video on this topic for the Arrow Rock Birds and Bees Festival, coordinated by the team at the Missouri River Bird Observatory. Here is the video with a bit of history on our sanctuary and information on putting a dripper on a bird bath. Oh, and if you do, the birds will thank you for it!
Stay cool out there!
The last of the spring migrants have moved through the area. This Chestnut-sided Warbler came in with a mixed flock that included at least a dozen Tennessee Warblers on May 19, 2021.
The following day, a female Bay-breasted Warbler graced the woodland.
Five days later, another Veery was here and on May 27, a female Black-throated Green Warbler stopped in to feed and bathe. Now, it's the season for summer breeders!
A Yellow-billed Cuckoo slipped silently into the woodland. In typical fashion, it looked all around for a meal, perhaps tent caterpillars, a favorite.
Most of the year, the diet of Carolina Chickadees is 80-90% insects and spiders. Dr. Doug Tallamy has taught us that one brood of this species requires 6,000-9,000 caterpillars! So, we've been pleased to see a well-fed brood of six Carolina Chickadees coming to the Bubbler now. They are bouncy little butterballs, just full of energy! It is truly gratifying to watch these little birds behaving so confidently in the safe haven we've established. Their proud papa is the bird we watched all winter, with the deformed leg.
Here, the adults were pair-bonding and the male had just fed the female after mating in April.
Other summer breeders have produced offspring, like this young Eastern Phoebe which was exploring the Bubbler. Also seen early one morning was this female Ruby-throated Hummingbird taking a bath! I have seen the male dancing in the air above the female, so she may have built a nest and be taking care of young by now.
Downy Woodpeckers have young to feed and these birds have red feathers on the tops of their heads. The male took a quick break to bathe.
Two weeks ago, I kept an eye on this Carolina Wren, who was napping. And napping...for ten whole minutes! The reason was revealed yesterday.
These wrens have been feeding a Brown-headed Cowbird, twice their size. The cowbirds lay their eggs in other species' nests. No wonder that poor wren needed a good nap! The adoptive parent had been in and out of the Celandine Poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), foraging in the leaf litter beneath to find insects to feed this young bird.
I realize it has been longer than usual for a new blog post, but we have not been slackers! Our garden was on the 2021 Native Plant Garden Tour this past Saturday. Tickets sold out within days, it was very well-attended. There have been 36 species of birds coming in to forage and feed their young, so the tour threw a bit of a wrench into the works for them. However, Sunday was recovery day and this young Eastern Phoebe was among the birds back in business, fly-catching in the swampy thicket on its own.
Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus) near the pond and Indigobush (Amorpha fruticosa) near the back property line were both in bloom.
One last hurrah unfurled from a Louisiana iris hybrid of the Copper Iris (Iris fulva) and Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor), named 'Black Gamecock'.
The Indian Pinks (Spigelia marilandica) were at their peak on Saturday.
Our favorite vine greeted visitors in front and near the pond, Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). Hummingbirds sip its nectar.
Until next time!