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.
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!
Sunset on Sanibel Island, 12-26-19
Our dear friends in Fort Myers have been on our minds and in our hearts
since Hurricane Ian came ashore on 9-29-22.
The catastrophic destruction of these places we love is heartbreaking to see in photos and videos.
We send our love, courage and strength, and we're with you in spirit every step of the way, as you recover.
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
It is Fall now.
Many of the migratory birds have been seen on several days in succession, rotating through in small flocks. They're feeding in the layers of trees, shrubs and ground cover finding insects, seeds, nectar and berries. Ironically, our area is behind in rainfall, so the birds are looking for water. They've been at the dripper baths, stream bed, and bubbler and even taking turns in the sprinkler when we're watering the plants. Here are some of the highlights.
Blackburnian Warblers have been part of these flocks. The first year male has a bit darker eye line and a very yellow throat!
First fall female Blackburnian Warbler is a bit faded looking in comparison. It is on the right of these two female Tennessee Warblers.
In studying the guides, I believe this is an adult female Blackburnian with an orangey tinge to the yellow in the throat. That's an American Goldfinch in the lower right corner.
An Ovenbird, also a warbler, made full use of the bubbler on the day it came in.
Black-throated Green Warblers have been consistently seen.
Magnolia and Chestnut-sided Warblers were bathing buddies.
Two Magnolia Warblers flank a Tennessee Warble on the bubbler rock.
This Magnolia Warbler gave a great view of its underside while it perched on Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum).
(Clockwise from left) Black-throated Green, Tennessee and Nashville Warblers decide their next moves.
A Northern Parula feels most at home at the bubble in back.
Nashville and Tennessee Warblers are often seen traveling together and can be confusing. The Nashville has the white eye rings.
The Tennessee Warbler is the most common of the group, and chums it up here with a Chestnut-sided Warbler in the stream bed.
One of my favorite birds, this first fall female Orange-crowned Warbler is a bit on the dull and dingy side of plumage coloration.
After taking over 100 images, the little bird showed a bit of its often concealed orange crown! And, of course, it's with a female Tennessee Warbler.
Immature Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are still being seen occasionally, this one nectared at Black-and-blue Salvia. (Not a native plant but full of nectar for hummers at this point in fall.)
Ruby-crowned Kinglets are often flitting about.
Red-breasted Nuthatches have been heard and seen, it seems there are two around right now. A pair stayed all last winter, so maybe we'll get lucky again this year.
Summer Tanagers have enjoyed the dripper bath and the bubbler rock.
Flycatchers have been active. A late Least Flycatcher, the grayest of the Empid group, and an Eastern Phoebe have been in the swampy thicket finding insects to eat.
Red-eyed and Blue-headed Vireos love splash-bathing in the bubbler basin and pond.
American Beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) are taken by many species, including a Brown Thrasher, female Rose-breasted Grosbeak and an American Robin.
Our FOS Brown Creeper arrived yesterday, 10-7-22. It was quick to investigate the bubbler area, bathe and then politely left its fecal deposit away from the water. Many of the birds do this! They appreciate clean water!
Have a nice cuppa and enjoy all the photos!
To see all the September birds since 9-23-22, the first full day of fall: September birds
To continue with October birds: October birds
Part One: 9/16-9/23/22
As usual, when the birds really start coming in, I get behind! Here are some highlights from the third week of September.
We're still seeing Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, but it seems the males have moved on. The second photo was taken on 9/16/22 and a male was seen the next day. The immature birds investigate everything, bubbler included!
All the birds are looking for food, like this Carolina Chickadee that found a caterpillar on leaves of Virginia Creeper(Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
Swainson's Thrushes were at the bubbler often one day. A House Wren found a little corner of the basin to drink from and splash in. Perhaps, it felt some protection from that stick overhead? American Redstarts and Black-throated Green Warblers have been seen on numerous days.
On the first full day of Fall, 9/22/22, this immature Cooper's Hawk took in the sights and sounds at the bubbler, ensuring that NO birds would dare come around. It finally left and the brave little birds came back. Five warbler species came in that day.
I missed the American Redstart, but was able to catch the Magnolia, Northern Parula and Chestnut-sided. The last warbler was this FOS female Golden-winged. I have yet to see another, very unusual as this species is reliably seen here. It is our most endangered species, and I can only hope they are finding what they need elsewhere.
On Friday, 9/23/22, between 10:37 and 10:46 am, multiple birds of nine warbler species came in along with Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Red-eyed Vireos. They were popping in and out like popcorn!
American Redstart, immature male (really orangey yellow flanks)
Clockwise from top left: FOS Nashville Warbler, two Tennessee Warblers and Chestnut-sided Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler and American Redstart
Bay-breasted and Black-throated Green Warblers
Two Black-throated Green and Bay-breasted Warblers
Bay-breasted Warbler and Northern Parula
Northern Parula at bubble, Magnolia Warbler and House Finch in foreground
Rear to foreground: Bay-breasted, Tennessee, Northern Parula and Black-throated Green Warblers
Red-eyed Vireo, immature with brown eye
Magnolia Warbler (tail dipped in ink)
And last but not least, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet with insect legs hanging out of its mouth! Gotta love it! This is what it's all about, nourishing the birds with the insect foods they need by attracting the insects with native plants.
Check back in a few days, I hope to have the last week of September highlights added in by then!
It has been a bit slower than most falls, yet there are some interesting sightings to share!
Eastern Bluebirds have taken to coming to the dripper baths in the afternoons. Some days, I'll see six or seven of them taking turns.
Magnolia Warblers have come in several days. One doesn't always get to see the whole bird, but with this species, if one sees the tail and it has this feature, it is considered unique, diagnostic or Dx for Magnolia Warbler.
Ahead of a major cool front on 9/10/22, 28 species of birds came into the yard and to the water features. There had to be150 American Robins that day. It was a constant stream of them with three in the basin, and four or five more waiting in the wings at times.
A young Rose-breasted Grosbeak wanted a turn! It had to beg for a drink from this Northern Flicker, which had displaced the robins for a bit.
What bird is this? Yes, another Magnolia Warbler was in the mix.
Now, we sure don't see this very often! A Yellow-billed Cuckoo slipped down through the canopy to bathe at the sump puddle. This bird had its own 'cuckoo' version of the hokey-pokey! It plopped into a tight spot at the edge, spun a half-turn, splashed a bit, spun again and kept this up for a few minutes before perching to shake off. I only remember a few times that I've seen this species come to water. Remarkable flair, eh?
Red-eyed Vireos were in this mixed flock. The adult has red eyes, the immature bird in the second photo has brown eyes.
There were several Northern Parulas, two males and this female. All spent time foraging in the native hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens).
Two FOS Cedar Waxwings came down near the bubbler. The adult left this immature bird to figure out how to get a drink on its own. This happens often with different species. Cardinals, robins, wrens, etc. will drop off the young birds, leaving them for a life lesson. It reminds me of the "Mother's Day Out" programs when our kids were in nursery school! I'm humbled to think the birds seem to feel some trust in the safety of our sanctuary.
A Carolina Chickadee was not happy that a Tennessee Warbler was at 'his' bubbler! Eventually, all three birds got what they needed.
QUIZ BIRD! (Easy-peasy)
Yesterday, I heard the 'little toy horn' of a Red-breasted Nuthatch! It was another 30 minutes before I saw it, working along a branch of the pond cypress. This photo is one I took in April, but it will have to serve until this little guy comes back again. Hopefully, we'll be seeing them this winter. They always bring a smile!
Yesterday afternoon, the Eastern Bluebirds were back. One did NOT want this male to come near 'his' dripper! So, squabbles happen between the same species, too. There's always something!
The heat is on with temperatures going back up into the upper 90's next week.
When will we see some more migrants, is Fall really here yet?