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
Winter is nigh as November ends.
There are interesting nomadic birds that may yet be seen before the New Year arrives. What are they looking for?
Cover, as these two Northern Cardinals found in the Clove Currant(Ribes odoratum) and the 'Blue Muffin' Viburnum(Viburnum dentatum 'Blue Muffin').
Cover, as these ten preening and resting Mourning Doves found by blending into the stones and leaves near the Bubbler.
Cover, as this Dark-eyed Junco and nine Eurasian Tree Sparrows have found in the twiggy stems of the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). Are there really ten birds in there? See if you can find them all.
Food and Cover, as these American Goldfinches found in the Cliff Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii) planted within the driveway wall.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are winter residents that continue to find food such as peanuts, sunflower seeds and even some black walnuts. (Dan has shared some after his painstaking efforts to collect and process them.)
In the Winter Finch Forecast, Red-breasted Nuthatches are passerines mentioned along with many finch species.
Winter Finch Forecast 2022-2023
Our FOS female Purple Finch, on the left, found black oil sunflower seeds along with three male House Finches. Let's take a closer look at some comparison photos.
In both of the photos above, the House Finches are on the left and the Purple Finches are on the right. You may get lucky and see Purple Finches at your feeders this winter. It does require careful inspection to tell them apart from the House Finches.
Water, this is an irruption year for Common Redpoll like we luckily saw last winter at the Bubbler. They will come to finch feeders, but we only saw them at the water, three mornings in a row.
In the winter of 2020 - 2021, we had Pine Siskins, another irruptive finch. Though our new Haikubox has been detecting them, we have yet to see any. Eyes peeled! Seedeaters like these are always a bit thirsty.
Almost ten years ago, we had Red Crossbills on two days in February, 2013. They have been seen in different parts of Missouri this fall. The crossed bill is distinctive! Like the Common Redpoll, these birds were only seen at the water features. They were finding food in the native trees.
Another possibility that would be a record for myself and birding friends is this bird, an Evening Grosbeak. One was reported at a feeder less than a mile from us in early November. This stocky finch loves black oil sunflower seed, and our tray feeder is ready!
While we keep a lookout, other winter visitors and the usual suspects keep us interested in their looks and behaviors.
An immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker shook water off its feathers after a late bath. A Brown Creeper investigated some rootlets for a larvae or tiny spider.
A Carolina Wren took a bit of bark butter from the sandwich feeder while a Hairy Woodpecker looked for an approach to the suet.
A Downy Woodpecker made the Red-breasted Nuthatch think twice before entering the peanut feeder area. There is a pecking order!
Of course, the more you look, the more you see, and we do see anomalies. The House Finch has some sort of tumor, and the Eurasian Tree Sparrow is leucistic, lacking pigment in its wing feathers.
Eastern Bluebirds seem to come in around noon to drink, bathe or get tidbits from the window feeders.
Let's hope for a decent winter for all!
Fall Color was beautiful but leaves have fallen away after several nights below freezing.
"Blue Muffin", an Arrowood Viburnum cultivar, peaked a few days ago. It was stunning!
On 11-9-22, a female Cloudless Sulphur butterfly sipped nectar from the last blooms of the Black and Blue Salvia.
One of the resident Barred Owls rested the whole day in the woodland. Around 4:00 pm, Blue Jays and other birds gave it a hard time for waking up!
American Beautyberry is still feeding thrushes like American Robins and Eastern Bluebirds.
The bluebirds also spend time hawking insects in the leaves, perching occasionally for a better vantage point.
The first Hermit Thrush of fall was detected early in the morning by the Haikubox and I finally saw it later at the bubbler. It has moved on.
Several Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have been seen. A near-adult plumaged male chased the immature bird. (last three photos) That day, there was yet one more that escaped my camera. This bird easily disappears into the oaks.
There must have been at least 50 robins here on 11/11/22. They dominated the bubbler and basin for most of the morning.
Cedar Waxwings! The second photo shows a young bird with an adult. The robins moved on and these finally had a chance to get to the water.
Cedar Waxwings, they squabble, then settle. What gorgeous birds they are!
Some of the usual suspects are seen regularly. Young Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays approach differently. Blue Jays always squawk!
A Song Sparrow shows up once in a while but the Chickadees are here every day. Now, which chickadee is it? Black-capped or Carolina? Therein lies the issue. I will take that up another time!
American Goldfinches are often seen in the garden eating purple coneflower seeds, but now I see them wherever Cliff Goldenrod (Solidago drummondii) is planted, under the feeders and along the driveway. Today, I stepped out the back door and six flew up from a patch. They are a Native Keystone perennial, supporting 97 moth and butterfly species. In the fall and winter, seeds feed the birds.
We seem to have two Red-breasted Nuthatches again for the winter. They are delightful to hear and see every morning. A Yellow-rumped Warbler comes in to drink and take a quick splash bath.
Our FOS Red-winged Blackbird showed up on 11/11/22 as well. It was in among 150 or so Common Grackles. That really was a busy day!
As you can see, birds like this Common Grackle really do get "into" the bubble! The Bubbler is now into its 23rd year of attracting birds.
It is mid-November. Deer are roaming the neighborhood, bucks following does. It is also time to prepare for the holidays.
Candles brighten these darker days in our home. We wish you all a warm and Happy Thanksgiving!
Cover, Food and Water
First, let's take a look at how native plants provide essential cover, or safe places to rest, nest and digest.
This is the Bubbler area, with the native smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) in the upper right, surrounding the back of the Bubbler.
From the opposite side, one can see the umbrella effect of the shrubs on the west side. Birds constantly fly into the twiggy cover of these plants. The birds feel safe as they check out the different ways to access the water, then preen and rest.
This Yellow-rumped Warbler flew in there after a bath, preened its feathers and then looked for any tiny insects. This is the kind of activity that I see all the time, so if you have a water feature, you might want to think about adding more native shrubs around it for cover. It helps the birds feel safe! Use this resource to find the best plants recommended by Doug Tallamy and his research, tailored to your zip code.
Native Plant Finder, “Best” = Keystone Plants:
The last post showed the blue berries of the Virginia Creeper(Parthenocissus quinquefolia), and that is what the Eastern Bluebird is eating in the first photo. The second bird has picked off the much larger drupe of the Blackhaw(Viburnum prunifolium). Fall fruits help birds fatten up for the winter!
A first fall Chipping Sparrow had me scratching my head, consulting the field guides and my birding friends! Was it a rare Clay-colored Sparrow? No, because it has the dark eye line and a grayish rump, they kindly told me. The third photo shows a spring adult bird in breeding plumage. Birds can be tricky to identify!
Now we move on to the Cutest Bird Contest...
A diminutive Winter Wren is the first contestant, mousey-brown and perky.
How about the Brown Creeper, which I call the 'little toasted marshmallow'?
And the Red-breasted Nuthatches make us smile with their 'tiny tin horn' call!
Ruby-crowned Kinglets? They definitely rank high on the humorously cute scale.
There's nothing like being flashed by a Golden-crowned Kinglet! I'll leave it up to you to pick a favorite, if you can.
I was really pleased to see a Field Sparrow come to the bubbler, maybe only the third time I've had one here. This species is in decline, with a Conservation Concern Score of 12, just like the next bird.
Mourning Doves are also having difficulty finding good habitat. The first photo shows a juvenile bird, the first time I've managed to photograph one. Its tail feathers are still growing out, it looks very young. Don't know where they nested, but I'm so glad to see a young bird.
Listening for birds, with a little help...
In 2013, I purchased a baby monitor, with the microphone mounted inside this PVC pipe that Dan put together and painted brown. It's nice to turn it on and listen to whatever birds might be calling outside, when I'm inside. Then, I step out to look for them and confirm their presence. It keeps me connected to what's happening in our sanctuary.
We recently added another device called a Haikubox to help us know what may be here in our habitat.(It seems to be out of stock again, we were on the waiting list for a while. FYI, we receive no compensation for mentioning this on our website.) Here is an article about it and how it was developed.
Haikubox gives citizen scientists a tool to track birds
After one week, here is the list of birds detected by our Haikubox and how often they were recorded. The app alerts me to new birds, with low, medium or high confidence. Now, I did not see or hear many of these birds such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Wild Turkey or Mourning Warbler. It sure has me looking and listening for them, though! When I can confirm a bird that is detected, I do so with the app.
Now, we've always realized that we would never know all the birds that might be here because we have intentionally provided lots of cover (safe places in the form of native plants) for them.
The best part about the Haikubox is that it is working all the time and sending the data directly to the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We love the idea of making this contribution to the data set of "where the birds are", 24/7.
Barred Owl, resting in cover, quietly
Mid-October and a hard freeze with 29.6 degrees on Tuesday, 10-18-22!
And, it was 28.9 degrees this morning - brrr!
Let's look at the latest migrants, which we won't be seeing again until next April.
Black-throated Green Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler, yes the crown is barely visible on this little dull bird, but there.
Tennessee Warblers have been seen on many days finding tiny insects in the bark of this young American Elm (Ulmus americana).
Another Orange-crowned Warbler had luck finding tiny larvae on the flower heads of Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens).
Yellow-rumped Warblers will now be around a good part of the winter.
We may yet see a stray late bird of another species but time is running out for them to make it to their winter homes.
How about a focus on two confusing species? Tennessee and Orange-crowned Warblers can be vexing. Take a look.
There are some differences, not often easy to see before they flit away!
The Orange-crowned has a dingy breast with subtle streaking, yellow undertail coverts, and is barely pale below. It is often quite gray.
The Tennessee Warbler has a trace of a wing bar, white under tail coverts and a more conspicuous eyebrow stripe.
Underparts are paler with almost no streaking and an overall greener look. Here they are, together.
Maybe next fall it will be easier!!
Blue-headed Vireo, always a welcome sight!
Dark-eyed Juncos have arrived!
Common Grackles came as twenty, then a hundred. Counted forty-three birds in this screen shot at the bubbler.
After not seeing one for five days, two Red-breasted Nuthatches came in on Tuesday, 10-18-22 and went directly to the peanut feeder. Perhaps this is the pair from last winter, returning to Shady Oaks as their winter digs!
Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal, let's not forget the home crowd! They will keep us company now.
Friday, we will celebrate 22 years since the Bubbler first began attracting birds.
Now with 125 species and 2 hybrids documented at this water feature,
we are adding another 'tool' to become better 'citizen scientists'. More on that exciting development next time!
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) provides fatty blue berries for flycatchers,
thrushes, warblers and vireos on their way south, and for overwintering birds, too.
Enjoy the wonder of fall!
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