Friday, August 15, 2014

Looking Ahead to Changes

Friends, I must close up shop for about ten days so will suspend posts whilst I deal with some business.  When I return to this page, I hope to have some updates on changes.  Will Junior grow up more? (shown)  Will the catbirds have migrated?  Will the Blue Jays and Grackles have found lusher pastures?  Will the young cardinals molt?  So many changes are possible in mid to late August and I cannot wait myself for what there is to see!  Stay tuned...I'll be back with that news!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blue Jay Update

From time to time we experience the visits of those delightful Blue Jays.  They're not apparently regular visits but they are intense when engaged in raiding feeders.  This joker we see now (if only one!) is a fan of both sunflower seed and suet and hence is a one-bird perfect storm.  I can put up with some of these shenanigans for a time but I am getting weary of seeing blue to the exclusion of others.  The feeders will soon be empty with encouragement for the Jay menace to find some other food bag.  Then I may get some peace for a few weeks!  Enough!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Eating Like Crazy

I suppose it can only be expected that a diligent bird feeder will have regrets, one day.  And that comes in summer when the adult birds think it a fine idea to bring their broods to those feeders that were so dependable for them.  Which is happening now, here.  And the seed disappears quickly!  With all of the native foods that are out there---really??? I may have to let things settle down in the old fashioned way and let the feeders empty for a time.  Then the adults can teach more about natural forage!  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Carolina Wren Update

As readers know, the Carolina Wrens made quite a splash this summer.  They made the nesting story of the season by raising two broods in our bird bottle.  Those two broods have been growing up quickly and the wrens are seemingly everywhere.  I think they have been losing the battle at the suet feeders (to catbirds!) but have dominated at the exterminator role, clearing our deck quite effectively!  This species is well prepared for the winter and a good nesting season in 2015.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cardinal Update

Our very impressive cardinal season continues to the gates of fall.  We have a good many birds this year, proving that we have a good habitat.  Most of the adults have finished molting and the young ones look a lot more like adults.  Our north face seems to be a territorial divide so I can count on some disputes between different clans.  I imagine that this stuff will start to decline as cold weather draws near.  And as I also imagine most of these birds will make it through winter, some interesting doings are likely for 2015!  So all is happy in the cardinal community here!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Coneflowers a Hi!

The growing collection of wildflowers has been a great draw for wildlife, especially birds.  And as these flowers propagate they are providing a rich stock of native seed for birds like the American Goldfinches.  These flowers are in seed mode now and I enjoyed the sight of goldfinches working the Purple Coneflowers hard this afternoon.  That's what they are there for!  And I expect the finches to spread the seed which is an added bonus.  We need more wildflowers in our area.  Everyone won today.  And I hope to install even more natives this fall to enjoy next year.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hawk Controversy in the Burbs

A friend recently wrote saying he'd been hearing an unfamiliar bird call in his suburban neighborhood.  He decided he had a Harris Hawk, possibly lost by a falconer(!)  I suspected an immature...something.  To my astonishment, I heard the same "Harris Hawk" myself, in my own neighborhood, tonight.  And I am certain we have a raptor, perhaps a Sharp Shinned (pictured) or Red Tail, and certainly a youngster.  But I can see my friend's confusion.  We get connected to the adult calls and songs, lifted from many a recording.  Young birds are still developing, and make the darndest sounds.  I hope we can agree and move on to a new controversy!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Almost The End of Catbird Summer

I think that the shortest visit of any of our migrants is that of the Gray Catbird.  They show up  in April and are regularly gone in August.  They're mostly welcome---as delightfully noisy, inquistive characters---until late July.  Then they and the young of the year eat like crazy, trashing suet supplies.  Surely they are bulking up for their migration.  But, I am miffed.  Their migration isn't far.  Most of ours just head to the coast.  And so each year I grumble and stock the feeders less often.  And then they leave and I find myself regretting the absence as the days shorten and the weather chills.  I know they are ready to go.  And with it goes something of the spirit of summer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Water Garden Birds

Since I installed a little water garden in the backyard (merely a half barrel wrapped in fabric, with a lizards tail plant) I have seen interesting bird traffic.  Everything from cardinals to grackles to Blue Jays, Downeys, Red Winged Blackbirds, and this cute young Red Bellied Woodpecker have been by for a drink.  And of course it is a squirrel magnet as well.  Critters are drawn to good dependable sources of water and my little garden has perhaps created an entirely new draw for birds that might have avoided the other bird baths.  It will be very interesting to see how this plays out into the autumn.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Duck, Interrupted

Ever since I caught the attention of a rogue female Mallard in the scratch ground a few weeks, I have been on high alert for these pesky characters.  You see, last year we had a multi-day problem with a pair of Mallards during nesting season.  I was convinced the ducks were plotting a camp-out in our yard and I'll have nothing to do with that!  Perhaps the female has visited but at least so far she has not been in my sight.  Yes, ducks are as bad as grackles, and I intend to interrupt any plans they make for our property.  Sorry, ducks.  Stick to the pond down the road!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hummer Doings are Different

One of the most striking things about the current hummingbird season is the surprising amity between birds.  I am used to one particular hummingbird (usually the female!) driving off other hummingbirds from one or more feeders.  But to my surprise I am seeing none of this and in fact have seen male and female working the same feeders with no airflights at all.  These squabbles may be occurring but I do not see them.  And believe me, I have seen many of them before.  One possibility for the change is the huge increase in nectar bearing plants on the property:  maybe there is less stress over resources?  I'll have to see if this continues!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Anachronisms, Maybe

Last week we did some touring, one the stops being a charming museum of medieval art in New York City, the Cloisters.  As is my habit I keep an eye out for bird life.  Regrettably, I found only one species on the grounds which is a semiofficial king of urban birds---the non-native English Sparrow.  These pesky creatures abound in the Cloisters and were drawn to the outdoor cafe in a first-level cloister (the Trie)  A question came up in my mind that I can't yet resolve.  Did these European birds pester the monks in monasteries as much as they do the Cloisters today?  I have to think it's plausible.  ES's are definitely drawn to human habitations and monasteries, a relatively dense concentration of humans in their time, must have been irresistable.  I'd pity the monks, but the ES are natives there.  It might have been a pleasant partnership!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hummer Balm

As the summer has mounted we are seeing ever more hummingbird activity, especially in the native wildflower garden.  The Bee Balm (shown) appears to be especially attractive and is evidently the first stop of each garden visit.  That also happened last year, so  am quite pleased I chose last fall to expand the Bee Balm offering with several additional plants. Maybe we add more in the coming fall?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Neighbors are Talking

We have a Barred Owl in the area, and the neighbors are talking.  Or at least the last few neighbors I spoke with.  They brought up the subject of hearing "an owl" and I instantly knew which one.  That would be the one I have heard at times over the past few months.  We have a nearby pond and decent wooded buffers: enough for a pair of Barreds to get by.  That Barreds have been heard not only for months but even years is a great sign that this part of the city is not beyond hope.  What else could the neighbors have noticed?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Big Fledge

Hello friends! I am back at post and observing what's out there.  And what was out there this past Sunday was a fledge at the Colonial Williamsburg Bird Bottle.  The Carolina Wrens had a second brood there and #2 entered the world.  I regret that I did not witness the youngs' departure, but I saw mother in the morning in the doorway and nothing---and abandoned bottle---by end of day.  It was a thrill seeing the bottle get such good use!  I hope to see the new additions around the yard!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Watching... Waiting...

The drama at the Williamsburg Bird Bottle is reaching its climax.  There is a definite active nest (for the second time in 2014!) and I know there is at least one hatchling.  The wrens have been very active flying to and from the bottle, no doubt in search of food for a hungry young occupant.  This has gone on for some days.  And I expect an imminent fledge.  But when?  I believe I witnessed the earlier one in the spring.  But there is a high probability I will miss another.  No matter.  It has been a thrill to see it occur and know that the bottle was a hit this year.

Note to readers: I will be off line for the coming week.  See you all after the 20th!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

And Another Look at the Bird Bath

How about one more bird bather?  Well, sure!  And here is a fine shot of one of the more vigorous bath users---a Brown Thrasher.  All of the thrushes and their allies have a great interest in bird bathing.  It's usually much greater than with the other passerines.  Nor do they seem terribly bothered by water depth in the various styles of bath here: the shallow and the somewhat deeper both get their traffic.Enjoy this look!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another Bird Bath Memory

Yesterday's post on bird bath use got me remembering some of the fine bird bath photos I have collected over the years with the Wingscapes BirdCam.  Here's a favorite from, I believe, the brutally hot spell in June 2008.  This American Robin really got down to business and soaked itself very well.  I am sure it was a refreshing situation for the bird and a lot of fun to watch.  I remember setting the camera to video mode later and saw many entertaining robin-esque activity at that bath.  Good summer fun!

Monday, July 7, 2014

New Bath is Definitely in Use

I figured it wouldn't be a great matter of time before the first bird made use of my new, third bird bath (out in sunnier digs equipped with a solar powered fountain).  And I caught sight of the first known user, a Gray Catbird, yesterday.  This bird was having a marvelous time bathing, and went in and out a number of times in a five minute period.  Catbirds are well known enthusiastic bathers and this was no surprise.  What did surprise me was that the fountain's operation did not dissuade the bird at all.  I wondered if it would alarm them.  So we have a happy conjunction of bird, water, and garden.  You can't beat that!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Finally! At a Feeder

At last!  I have proof that the hummingbirds are making visits to my nectar feeders.  For whatever reasons I have had terrible luck observing one dining at a feeder although I have seen the birds in our wildflower garden.  Bird Cam picked up this and a few other images from the past week.  As usual, the images are apparently all of females.  That is, every summer I frequently observe females and males hardly ever.  And the primary female is highly aggressive!  So mission accomplished: it is definitely worth keeping the nectar feeders going.  And I can count on some weeks yet of hummer activity.