"I love what you've done with your yard and I love walking by - you always have so many birds!"
...a neighbor who made our day last week
This year in the midst of the pandemic, many neighbors have walked by. Twin girls, maybe 6 or 7 years old, collected the blossoms of the coral trumpet honeysuckle as excitedly as if finding fairies. One girl proudly showed us her new camera, waving it in the air, saying she wished she had butterflies like ours in her garden. The youngest neighbors have grown from being carried or pushed, to pushing, pedaling and running on their own. These are a few of the positive things we try and remember about this year. Those small ways of connecting have helped us all.
December continues with the usual suspects along with less typical ones. We have several Northern Flickers around, coming in daily. A female seemed to thoroughly enjoy a good bath last Wednesday. A Blue Jay took a turn a couple days later. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker has been coming in to look for bark butter and seed.
Pine Siskins have been consistently coming in, though daily numbers have fluctuated. On Saturday, 12-12-20 we had 40 birds, our highest ever count. They were at all the finch feeders with a mix of fine black oil sunflower chips and thistle seed. Fourteen of them had a pool party at the Bubbler. They are pretty tame, and I was able to get this photo and a video of them. You can hear their unique buzzy "brrrzeerr!"call.
Rusty Blackbirds have been coming in small groups on different days. They'll forage and visit the water features.
Just as I was about to start another batch of cookies one day, I saw a large flock of blackbirds drop down into the swampy thicket. I was very lucky to be able to get out onto the deck before they noticed my movement. They were so focused on foraging, that my presence didn't bother them at all and I was able to get these videos. It was a mixed flock, mostly Rusty Blackbirds 50-60, a few European Starlings and Common Grackles, maybe 30 or so total, along with our FOS Red-winged Blackbirds, numbering at least 30 that were on and under the feeders. It's pretty easy to tell the Rusty Blackbirds from the Red-winged.
The garden beds may look dull to some in our Missouri winter, but they really are a treasure trove of food for the birds. Take a closer look and the seed heads of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) sparkle in golden splendor. The goldfinches and siskins had been visiting them before they moved onto those of the Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa). As the seeds drop, juncos and sparrows, like this White-throated Sparrow will work the areas under the plants.
The native plants in and around the yard also provide much needed cover for the birds to shelter in from the cold. On Tuesday, 12-15-20, the northwest winds were brisk. I spotted this Song Sparrow in the Coral Trumpet Honeysuckle near the pond. It finally came out to forage again after a rest, then went to join another. After an overnight snow, a Mourning Dove took a little winter nap on a perch near the bubbler.
Now, from both of us and the Merry Brown Creeper,
we wish you all a healthy and happy holiday season!
Birds, birds, birds...foraging, feeding, drinking, bathing and resting every day.
Feeders have been busy with the woodpecker group: Northern Flickers, two Red-bellied, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers.
Finches of several kinds have been visiting, too. Northern Cardinals, House Finches, lots of Pine Siskins and a female Purple Finch has been seen on two days.
A Brown Creeper has been here almost every day, looking for tiny larvae to feed on.
Rusty Blackbirds have shown up, a pair on Thanksgiving Day, then a flock of about 30 on Wednesday, 12/2/20. They were easier to see in the sunny areas. In the swampy thicket, their preferred habitat, they looked almost like the dark wet leaves they were foraging in.
Eastern Bluebirds were hoping to catch insects one day when it reached 53 degrees. American Robins are still working the patch of American Beautyberries.
As soon as the sun pops out from behind the clouds, the birds head for the water. A Tufted Titmouse and White-throated Sparrow shared the basin. Pine Siskins get drinks at the fountain or the bubbler, and bathe in the basin or stream bed. A Dark-eyed Junco followed suit.
The most interesting thing to occur in the last two weeks happened yesterday. I had heard Barred Owls 'conversing' on Sunday night, about 9:00 p.m. and they were close by. The next day around noon, I saw some cardinals on the seed heads of the mallows so I went to get the camera. On the way, I heard two Blue Jays making a fuss. By the time I returned, everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY had left the garden area and headed to the woodland. When I walked back through the house, there were 30 birds or more, clustered in the rough-leaf dogwoods by the deck. There were at least a dozen male Northern Cardinals, six females, assorted sparrows and juncos, chickadees, titmice, wrens and a Northern Flicker in these trees. "Oh my gosh, look!" I called to Dan who could see this from the other room. We just had never seen anything quite like this, and I couldn't begin to capture it in a photo. All the birds were looking down at the ground area. We couldn't see what they were looking at so we went downstairs to look out the basement door. Something flushed the large bird, which was a Barred Owl. It flew past us, under the deck to a branch of the pond cypress where it stayed all afternoon. The small birds would check on it and squawk or chatter, but the owl rested, yawned and waited until dusk, when it finally flew. It was a good thing to know the large bird felt safe and comfortable enough to stay.
This is only the second time I've been able to photograph Barred Owls this year. Perhaps we'll be seeing them more often. In the meantime, here are the photos since the last post.
A purple coneflower blooms in mid-November. Birds of many colors find fresh water to drink and dance in. A Red-tailed Hawk
takes a squirrel for a meal. This month, we are especially grateful for these experiences to share with you.
A Downy Woodpecker splash-bathed in the basin's water stream. Cedar Waxwings and American Robins came to drink.
Wait, what is going on with that robin?
This individual is the most interesting one we've ever seen. It is lacking pigment, or melanin and called "leucistic", or "pied".
Our FOS (first of season) Rusty Blackbird came in with a flock of European Starlings and Common Grackles last Wednesday, 11-18-20. Cedar Waxwings took advantage of the basin when they could. There was a huge flock of American Robins moving through the yard, foraging in the leaves and using the water features. I estimated 200-250, with 12-14 at the bubbler at constant intervals throughout the day.
The robins moved on which gave all the other birds a chance to take a turn the next day. Four Dark-eyed Juncos shared the basin with two Pine Siskins. A Northern Flicker checked things out and a Mourning Dove performed its water ballet.
A Red-tailed Hawk briefly landed in the Sugar Maple by the pond, harassed by several birds making a ruckus. It got a better grip on its partially eaten meal and took off again.
Tails are pretty important to squirrels, sheltering them in rain and snow, and used in signaling to others their intentions. We have one survivor which has only about 1/3 of its tail left. Is this one tough enough to last through the winter?
On Friday, for the first time all year, I was finally able to photograph Blue Jays at the bubbler. They might have popped in, but never long enough for a photographic study. Why? No idea, but I was glad to see them. One of the pair vigorously explored every inch of the basin.
Smaller birds followed later, House Finches, Dark-eyed Juncos and Eastern Bluebirds. The Bluebirds, only slightly larger, claimed the territory. These birds just know how to have fun!
The tally of Pine Siskins reached a high of at least 15 on Sunday, 11-22-20. Though the temperature only made it to 47 degrees, and we had just had nearly two inches of rain, the birds seemed to make the most of every minute they had to bathe.
To view all the photos since the last post, begin here: Birds since 11-13-20
November 14, 2020
It's really November now, raw, cold and wet.
We begin with last Sunday afternoon and we were busy with a few tasks inside. When it came time to check the Stealth Cam later that day, we discovered a video that surprised us both! Tis the mating season for white-tailed deer and this looks to be a 10-point buck, drinking at the sump puddle. Look closely at the background - the doe is up at the bubbler. The second video is of the doe, from the Bubbler Cam. Well, there is rarely a dull moment around here!
This week has been one of changeover. Leaves have really been coming down after a couple mornings below freezing. The beautyberries are ripe and American Robins have been feasting on them.
It has been dry until today, so the water features have been getting a real workout. Cedar Waxwings feel most comfortable when flocking in their family groups to come down together. They sheltered under oak leaves, to preen and fluff their feathers out. One adult bird seemed to be the sentry, looking about in every direction. It gave the signal to fly for cover, and they swirled up and away.
Common Grackles have also been seen foraging in the leaves and taking baths at the pond and bubbler. Wednesday, there were more than twenty present.
An American Goldfinch rested in the rosy, sheltering leaves of the Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum x 'Blue Muffin'). Brown Creepers have been seen almost every day this week. On Monday, there were two calling back and forth and following each other through the woods.
Yellow-rumped Warblers have come in for water on at least two days. A pair of Eurasian Tree Sparrows have been regular at the feeders and bubbler. The Blue Jays still go for water at the sump puddle.
American Robins have been the most numerous birds this week. It has been a constant "round robin of robins"! The large flock has been moving around the neighborhood and they can get rather feisty about dominating the water. A Cedar Waxwing made its own case, emphatically.
American Goldfinches were the very first species to use the Bubbler twenty years ago. They usually get along, but this bird was certainly not a happy camper about sharing. Later, things settled down.
On Wednesday, three Pine Siskins were back. It had been ten days since we had seen any. The Cedar Waxwings had finally gotten a chance to bathe when the robins left. The remaining waxwing rather reluctantly shared some space with a siskin.
Northern Flickers have been thirsty, too. I've been seeing four individuals, two females and two males. The female is pictured first, then the male with the notable 'moustache'.
The bird of the week appeared briefly yesterday and I was only able to get one photo. This is a male Purple Finch. So, be watching those feeders carefully. This is predicted to be a very good winter for us to see them and other irruptive species.
Here is a photo from a few years ago, with the Purple Finch on the left and a House Finch on the right.
Have fun watching the feeders!
The week began with a few warblers. Orange-crowned, a late Black-throated Green and a few Yellow-rumped Warblers were seen feeding and visiting the water features.
A Winter Wren came in along with a lone Pine Siskin. A Golden-crowned Kinglet was also seen.
A Downy Woodpecker took an unusual approach to the water, clinging to the Bubbler Rock. Dark-Eyed Juncos often find seeds in the garden, and then come to the water to wash them down. A Brown Creeper was seen every day, it must be one of the winter residents.
The usual suspects now have to accept several species that will be around for the winter, yet some are not always ready to share. A Tufted Titmouse seemed to tell this White-throated Sparrow who was boss. Another came in later, all fluffed out, and satisfied to have the place to itself.
A Carolina Wren drank from the well of the hummingbird feeder. Yes, there is still one feeder up, just in case a rare species would come in. Once we saw a Rufous Hummingbird, checking out the feeders, on 11-20-2008.
American Robins have been dominating the water when they come in. Squabbles are quick to break out, thrushes love to get in to bathe.
The last of the Blackhaw fruits are being enjoyed by many different species. Northern Cardinals, American Robins and even Cedar Waxwings have come in to take them. It has gotten dry again, so birds are also using the sump puddle to have more access to water.
On Saturday, two species of thrushes came in. The robins were not ready to budge but eventually, the Eastern Bluebirds had their way!
"The bluebird carries the sky upon his back."
Henry David Thoreau
To see all the photos since the last blog post: November photos
Peace, and Good Health to you and yours!