Time flies. Birds have been coming in every day to forage for seeds and insects.
American Goldfinches safely feed on the seeds of Cliff Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii). I watched them, counted three and then five flew out. Camouflage! These plants line our driveway wall. Dark-eyed Juncos eat the seeds and use the plants for cover and then duck into the spaces in the wall to stay out of the wind. It's a Keystone plant supporting 97 different Lepidoptera, which also feed birds, and a graceful beauty, too.
This is an irruption year for Pine Siskins, and they will join American Goldfinches at the feeders when they're not high in the trees. Some of the goldfinches are a very mousy gray-brown and without binoculars, can fool the eyes. Once you look, the stripes are very obvious on the siskins. The male siskins may have yellow wing-bars, too.
Over the last few years, in addition to hanging some feeders, we have set up the Grab'n Go Buffet Table on the deck. It began as a way to provide mealworms and bark butter or suet bits for the Eastern Bluebirds to help them get through the winter. Last year, I added some natural perches to give the birds a place to comfortably land and take off. This setup was a hit with the birds!
Back in 2018, I found two small reindeer made of white birch branches at our favorite local nursery, Greenscape Gardens. When I went back to get another, there was only one left, the one nobody else wanted. Just like his namesake, Rudy was a bit awkward looking and needed to be more than a decoration. So, Dan and I brainstormed about how we could re-purpose him for the treat table this winter. A hole, some washers, a recycled deli container, and a red fuzzy nose from our friend, Sue did the trick. It took no time at all for the birds to embrace their new friend.
You must know all of these birds: Blue Jay, Eastern Bluebird, Pine Siskin and Downy Woodpecker. There are a few more in the video: Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, American Goldfinch. They all brighten up our days!
Now, birds are still finding insects, an important protein source for them in the winter.
While cleaning up after baking a pumpkin pie, a flash of red caught my eye. A Pileated Woodpecker was hammering away on a large white oak snag in the woodland. It was going after beetle larvae, successfully. Got my hands dried just in time. It flew to a Shingle Oak (Quercus imbricaria) and came out of hiding for just a second. Definitely a male, as it has the red mustache.
The Pileated Woodpecker is the largest of the group seen in Missouri. Even though I've heard them this year, these were the first photos I'd been able to get. Large bird, yes, but it still can hide itself amazingly well in the woods.
A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was seen probing a limb on one of our Shagbark Hickories (Carya ovata). This species will eat insects as well as the sap from maples and hickories. Plant diversity in the yard brings in a diversity of insects and birds.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a bit smaller than the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Winter is really the best season to see the woodpecker group.
A Dark-eyed Junco bathes with four Pine Siskins. Even on cold days, birds do come in to drink and get a quick bath before the sun goes down.
The thermostatically controlled heated birdbath is now in use, as shown by this Tufted Titmouse. It's conveniently clamped to the deck, near the Grab'n Go table. We're set now to help the birds get through winter.
Hope you've gotten a few ideas for your yard birds!