Do check out the link at the end of the post on the upcoming
Partners for Native Landscaping webinar series!
February is a month of contrasts, in temperature and in color.
Northern Cardinals are getting brighter and singing more each day. It's time to get ready for Spring!
A winter storm brought us a mix of ice and snow. The Song Sparrow comes in on days like that, otherwise it's singing now in yards to the west.
Three different blackbirds foraged in the leaves and under the feeders. The second photo shows a new bird for the year. Can you name all three?
And the answer: Rusty Blackbird, Brown headed Cowbird (female) and Red-winged Blackbird.
The icy-dicey weather makes the birds a bit testy. The American Goldfinches would come in and literally hang on the icicles to access the feeder. Newcomers were not always welcome!
Cold dry air makes the birds thirsty. The female Red-bellied Woodpecker came for a good, long drink at the bubbler.
American Crows visited the bubbler for the first time this year on Friday, 2-3-23. They are a bit wary and don't come down often.
A Brown Creeper has been here all winter. It always makes my day to see it.
The Hairy Woodpecker thoroughly enjoyed a bath on Wednesday 2-8-23, as it was gently raining in the afternoon.
Northern Flickers do go after suet cakes, it's a fat that helps them make it through cold nights.
Our little rarity, the Chipping Sparrow was seen 8 days straight in January, then not again until 2-6-23. It's still around, sometimes under the feeders but it has been harder to find in the leaves where it has been foraging for insects.
Definitely not a native bird, the European Starling is smart and tenacious, as well as colorful. It is an opportunist, taking over feeders every chance it gets.
Our state bird, the Eastern Bluebird has become a mainstay here in our yard again this winter. The nest box will go up very soon, and we just may need a second one!
On Thursday, 2-9-23 it was windy, with southwest winds gusting up to 40 mph or more. Those conditions make all the birds jumpy and skittish. The bluebirds do come in as a flock and I caught them at this hanging feeder. I still don't know how many there were for sure! Some may be new arrivals, having come in on the winds as short distance migrants. As you can see, not all were able to figure out how to get to the mealworms!
Check out the upcoming Webinar Series March 7 - April 5, 2023
Partners for Native Landscaping
Hope to 'see you' there!
Rarities, a Snowstorm and Lots of Birds!
Twenty years ago this week, a Varied Thrush came to the Bubbler on a frigid morning after a 2.5" snowfall. To document this very rare bird, I had to draw it for the Records Committee. It was just the tenth time this species had been documented in Missouri. After the experience, I asked Dan to help me figure out a setup to use so I could photograph birds. Little did I know how that bird would change my life.
Fast forward to 10-20-21, when a first fall Chipping Sparrow showed up. It was the first time I'd seen a bird of this age and I needed a little help from my friends to be sure of the identification. Typically, these birds move far south for the winter but some do pop up in Missouri after migration.
About three months later, on 1-16-23 again, a first winter Chipping Sparrow was foraging under the feeders. Was it the same bird? It was here for one day.
Woodpeckers have been busy finding food in the woods. The Hairy Woodpecker visited the Bubbler and his mate foraged for beetle larvae on the black oak stump.
The Downy Woodpecker poked around on sticks in the leaves for small insects.
We've had days with American Robins around and this one was missing its right foot.
Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to eat peanuts or bits of sunflower hearts and cache some away for that day when feeders are too busy!
Some male American Goldfinches are just beginning to get a bit brighter. Both mesh feeders have been busy.
Sunrise was gorgeous on Tuesday, 1-24-23. The forecast was for a Winter Storm with 3-9" of snow possible, beginning late that evening.
Guess what I saw foraging under the feeders again? That first winter Chipping Sparrow had returned after eight days elsewhere.
The snow was heavy, a wet 3" that packed on top of the little tent we had put over the Grab-n-Go table. The snow-laden branches of the rough-leaf dogwood hung gracefully over the deck railing.
Birds were a bit hesitant to enter the tent, but hunger overcame their fear of the contraption.
Rusty Blackbirds came to turn over leaves and drink at the basin.
Eastern Bluebirds knew the mealworms and peanut butter bits would be ready for them, and they rested in the dogwood during breaks in the snow.
The first Song Sparrow of the year joined the Chipping Sparrow under the feeders. Now, for about five minutes of fun...
Were you able to identify the four species in the last segment? How about Rusty Blackbirds, Mourning Dove, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles.
The following day, 1-26-23 a very large flock of mixed blackbirds came in. It was predominantly Red-winged with 40 of them in the photo above, Rusty Blackbirds and Common Grackles.
More Red-winged Blackbirds and one Rusty which is walking out of the upper left area.
Our little friend returned yesterday for the fourth consecutive day. I had just photographed it when the next beauty came in.
What will the next storm bring in?
To look up the Varied Thrush or any bird: All About Birds
We're off to a good start this new year with 30 species recorded. Like many of you, we're on a daily feeder watch. Birds need consistent food sources to make it through cold nights. Our feeding stations attract many species and the Grab-n-Go Bar has had a real mix of birds coming to it.
One of the male Northern Cardinals is partially leucistic with pink feathering on its wings. Cardinals easily adapt to eating safflower along with black oil sunflower seed.
Red-winged Blackbirds have been coming in and perching on the feeders as well.
Rusty Blackbirds are seen under the feeders, foraging in the leaves for bits of seed and insects.
Northern Flickers and Hairy Woodpeckers are often seen at this bark butter feeder and the suet feeder at the south feeding station. The ground peanut and lard in both of these provides fat in their diets.
American Goldfinches go for fine sunflower hearts and thistle or niger seed when they are not eating seeds from the garden.
One day, half the Mourning Doves decided to eat the leftovers at the Grab-n-Go bar!
Again, this year we have a male American Robin which chows down on the bark butter bits and mealworms. It will often chase the Eastern Bluebirds from the table.
This pair of Blue Jays seemed to be in sync in their approach to choosing mealworms.
The female Northern Flicker is not shy about coming in and checking out the spread.
White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are ground feeders but they've become very comfortable feeding on the table.
The female Red-bellied Woodpecker also has no qualms about grabbing a quick tidbit.
Carolina Wrens are often at the table before the sun comes up, and frequently come back through the day.
Northern Cardinals take advantage of protein sources since they eat plenty of seeds.
Eastern Bluebirds made it through last winter by coming in to get food here. They know a consistent food source is a good thing!
A few days ago, I noticed this Carolina Chickadee with white feathering on its head, another leucistic bird. It is lacking melanin.
And, this Carolina Chickadee has a deformed mandible, the upper is too long and curved. It is managing to get food but has a hard time cracking seeds open.
This bird looks like a normal Carolina Chickadee to me, with the nice clean edge to the black bib, slight grayish feathering on the nape and normal bill shape.
However, this particular bird looks different. The edge of the bib is very ragged looking. Our birdsong detector, the Haikubox has been picking up a Black-capped Chickadee, which will move south in the winter. There's a lot more to this story but that's a tale for another post.
Birdwatching in Missouri is always interesting!
For the birds...
This year, we documented 117 species of birds here, including 27 warbler species.
As you scroll through the photos, it helps to be aware of the concern there is for these birds. Here is the scale from the 2016 report to give some perspective. A number in parentheses will be next to the name. Our highest scoring bird is the Golden-winged Warbler(16). It is now a Tipping Point species that has lost half or more of its breeding population since 1970, and on track to lose another half or more in the next 50 years without serious effort to rebuild habitats!
Where to start? Make a New Year's resolution to start a new habitat in your own yard!
Check it out: HOMEGROWN NATIONAL PARK
Now it's time to see some of the beautiful diversity of birds that our Sanctuary has supported this year.
Common Redpoll (7) Rare, irruptive finch species seen in a flock of 5 or more on three days in January for #124 at the Bubbler.
American Tree Sparrow (10) Winter sparrow not seen every year, it was here in February.
Rusty Blackbird (12) Flocks in various sizes were seen all through the winter, into spring and returned again in fall.
Eastern Bluebird (7) Numbers declined drastically last winter in rural areas of Missouri but the birds fared a bit better in the suburbs. We fed them through the winter and for the first time, a pair nested successfully and raised five young.
Red-headed Woodpecker (13) This striking woodpecker forages for food rather than excavating holes to find insects. It favors open park-like woodlands.
Golden-winged Warbler (16) It is always a thrill to see this gorgeous species. They are the 'canary in the coal mine' and a prime example of a species that needs our help to provide cover, food, water and places to rest.
Wood Thrush (14) It had been ten years since this songster had come to the Bubbler. So grateful to know it was comfortable there.
Mourning Warbler (12) This is one of many warblers in trouble. It has been a bit of a nemesis for me to photograph, but in May, it briefly came out in the open.
Brown Thrasher (11) This species likely nested in the yard this spring, in or under the Carolina allspice shrubs. Here is one on 6-30-22.
Red-shouldered Hawk (8) This neighborhood nester was species #125 to visit the Bubbler on 7-5-22.
Tennessee Warbler (9) To my surprise, these two warblers flew down to the Bubbler on 7-25-22. Typically they do not arrive until September. This proved to be a new early Fall record for Missouri!
Barred Owlet (7) This youngster was seen on 8-23-22, investigating our woodland.
Eastern Bluebirds (7) More fledglings were seen at the Bubbler on 9-2-22.
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (12) This secretive bird nests in our neighborhood and took a real splashy bath at our sump puddle on 9-10-22. They have been known to eat as many as 100 hairy tent caterpillars in one sitting!
Canada Warbler (14) This female found tiny insects to eat on our 'Shawnee Brave' Bald Cypress.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (11) American Beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) fed this female grosbeak along with many other birds well into December.
Field Sparrow (12) For just the second time in 26 years, this bird came to our yard and Bubbler on 10-28-22.
Mourning Dove (12) This dove is the first immature one I've seen in our yard. It hasn't been out of the nest very long. Yes, this somewhat common species also needs habitat in which to thrive.
Common Grackle (9) Often seen in mixed flocks, this is one of the larger blackbirds. Here, it has found an acorn to eat.
Northern Cardinal (5) These finches find cover all year, whether in the shrubs or in the leaves partially buried in the first snow of winter.
Northern Flicker (9) "Cover" for this flicker meant hugging the tree to rest, out of the 45+ mph winds in the 'Bomb Cyclone' of 12-22-22.
Purple Finch (9) On 12-27-22, as temperatures moderated, a male Purple Finch came to the Bubbler, the first male I've documented there.
Food, Cover, Water and Places to Rest and Nest = Habitat!
Wishing you all the best in 2023!
A chorus of different blackbirds came in on Sunday, 12-11-22.
Though we have had Red-winged Blackbirds this year, we had never seen so many before! The scouts must have brought in the
flock of 45-60 birds. Since these are a wetland species, it makes sense that they were attracted to our yard.
A Red-winged Blackbird flared its red epaulets, appearing larger in its attempt to keep a Common Grackle off the feeder.
A threesome haggle for the best spot, the bird on the right even grabbed at the upper bird's leg. It's another example of the pecking order!
A male looked perfectly at home perched on the hardy water canna (Thalia dealbata) before bathing near the pond's edge.
A female Red-winged Blackbird has the light eye-line, and beautiful speckled pattern with warm brown feathers on its back.
The flock included a few Common Grackles and European Starlings, but I could only find one grackle in the photo above.
Look closely, these are our FOS Rusty Blackbirds. Three came in with the mix of blackbirds. So similar to the Red-wings, but they have no red patch on the wing. These tend to march along the ground and don't spook and fly up as easily. A good pair of binoculars really helps to pick out details on these different birds. (Check out the helpful link at the end of the blog post.)
The next morning, I had filled the feeders and come back inside when I turned and saw this 12-point buck where I had just been. Then, I saw 'his' doe in the honeysuckle patch in the neighbor's yard. Well, that was close!
American Crows must have eagle-eyes, No sooner had I put the bark butter mix on this tree, did one come to get it.
The cleanup crew includes woodpeckers and this Red-breasted Nuthatch!
Early in the month, we moved a table onto the deck and I set up the 'Grab-n-Go' Bird Buffet. It takes the birds a while to get used to something new, especially the Eastern Bluebirds. This looks different from last year's table with the oak branch and disc for perches. Since they have to come in nearer to the house, I give them a week or so before I start photographing the activity.
Blue Jays were skittish at first, but quickly got used to the idea of ' Grab-n-Go'! (And we thought finches were piggies!)
Chickadees were quick to slip in. This one has been going after the black walnut meats in the cracked shells. What a taste treat!
Both Carolina Wrens enjoy the bark butter bits and the black walnuts.
The Eastern Bluebirds are now quite comfortable coming in, taking mealworms and bark butter bits, too.
American Robins, bluebirds, finches and Cedar Waxwings are often in the garden, taking American Beautyberries from the stems or maybe found on the ground.
Cedar Waxwings will wait in the cover of trees like this young shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) before approaching the water at the Bubbler.
The fountain on the deck is visited all through the day by American Robins, American Goldfinches, House Finches, Eastern Bluebirds and more. It's conveniently located between a Rough-leaved Dogwood (Cornus drummondii) for perching and the Grab-n-Go buffet table. We accommodate!
Are you considering new binoculars as a gift for someone, perhaps even yourself?
Check out this review on affordable full size 8x42 binoculars:
Cornell Lab Review of Binoculars
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January February (9) March (9) (12) April (12) (5) May (5) (5) June (5) (5) July (5) (9) August (9) (2) September (2) (2) October (2) (4) November (4) (2) December (2)
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