Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bird News September 20, 2014


 


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     Kestrels have been out in abundance. I usually see one in a tree  once or twice a month, but lately I've seen bunches of them on the air currents daily. They are just all over. I saw a particularly handsome one [m, f-- who knows?] sailing over a small farm village today circling in for a landing. The kestrels have a characteristic way of holding their wings when drifting and a particular shape to their wings as well.

     Hairys and downies continue to grace the feeders. They like the sunflower kernels and the suet. If there are peanuts, they eat those too. The male hairy checked out our deck one night, working himself along the rails. I figure he was checking for wood bees. They've been much less in evidence since I painted over and taped a couple new wood bee holes. It seems to me like the hairies-- both the male and the female-- spend more time at the feeders than either one of the pair of downies. The downies pretty much seem to grab a few bites and go.

     The goldfinches have reverted out of their breeding colors. I can recognize them by their voice now along with how they approach and land at the sunflower kernel feeder. The house sparrows and the goldfinches had a squabble at the feeder one afternoon. One ambitious house sparrow tried to scare one of the hairys off the suet to no avail. The hairy puffed himself up and stood vertical with his wings slightly out from his body. The house sparrow left. The chickadees never seem to fight or squabble with any bird. They remain gregarious as usual and a few buzz me when I am sitting on the deck. One buzzed me the other day as I was filling the feeders.

     There have been individual song sparrow, fox sparrow, and chippy [chipping sparrow] this summer but no white-throats or white-heads. Less sparrows in general at the backyard feeders it seems this year. The grackles still come around and several habitually ring the bell near one of the platform feeders. I've discovered that grackles and crows will peck at bits of the pregnant onion plant hanging in a pot on the choke cherry tree. A cedar waxwing flew in one day and ate a cherry before darting off again. Migrating or checking it out, who knows? Some years ago, I did get to witness a line of cedar waxwings passing cherries along. That was kind of neat.

     When I throw un-shelled raw peanuts in the garden and in the platform feeder, all of the blue jays in the neighborhood descend upon the yard to carry the peanuts away one by one. A few will crack one open on a nearby tree branch [usually the aspen or the oak] but soon they also carry them away. They hold the un-shelled peanut by one end as they fly off.

     Today I tried some sliced [leftover] almonds on the ground. Within a minute, one of the squirrels came dashing along the fence. He dove down the mock cherry tree and into the scattered almonds without hesitation. Maybe he'd had them before. Or maybe squirrels have an acute sense of smell. I don't really know. Another squirrel also came along and promptly began eating the almonds also. A mourning dove toppled out of the cherry tree, acting very startled. I don't know why. It was a younger dove with dark tail and a few outside white underlying feathers. It ignored the squirrels and the almonds and went over to the corn and black sunflower seeds. The two younger blue jays-- and a new third that I didn't recognize-- landed in the tree. They hopped to the ground and quickly ate some of the almonds before flying away again. They also hopped rather than walked along the ground so I suspect that blue jays don't spend a lot of time ground feeding. Walking on the ground is more practical and birds that are habitual ground feeders have evolved to walk rather than hop. Flickers-- and one of the ones in the neighborhood finally dropped in-- are woodpeckers which are evolving to become ground birds. Two chipmunks each took over a platform to munch on the corn and seeds. They did not appear to be interested at all in the almond slices.

     At a nearby park the other day with a creek running through it [not the usual park with the creek where I spotted the yellow warbler once] there was a flock of Canada geese. The old dog drank from the water but did not want to go swimming so I didn't make her. Up the creek was a fine great blue heron, some mallards, and some blacks [ducks] or black-mallard crosses. Mallards are notorious for mating with other species of ducks, particularly blacks. The mallards/blacks were dabbling when something I couldn't see must have startled them. They swam en masse to the other shore. A lone duck swam up behind the group, with only his neck and head on the surface of the water. Then he dove and disappeared from my sight totally. I don't think it was a male mallard. (They are dabblers and don't swim underwater much if at all). But I didn't get enough field marks to be able to even guess at the species. A kingfisher determinedly flew up the creek and landed in a treetop to go fishing. We walked up the side of the creek a bit and flushed a solitary muskrat. The muskrat lodge was on the opposite side from where we were. The muskrat set off in that direction but soon went underwater.

     The lone red-winged blackbird comes less and less. Perhaps he has finally figured out that he is a red-wing and not a grackle like his grackle buddies. 

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Bird Feeder News September 7, 2014






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     The ruby throated hummers are still around but not in so many numbers. I do like them quite a bit. When they buzz me, they sound like miniature motors.

     The band of tufted titmice have been back several times [when I was in the yard]. They spend more time flying around and chattering than they do eating.

     After an absence, the solitary red winged blackbird came back once with a few of his grackle buddies. But no missus in sight.

     I've been watching some immatures learn how to balance on and around the feeders-- they flap their wings-- and sometimes waiting on limbs demanding that one parent or the other drop seeds into their mouths. A small female purple finch was struggling with the feeders a couple of weeks ago. She would sit on the tray of the safflower feeder. A persistent chickadee would come by and eat at the same one. The baby would fly up the tree in fright. The chickadee would also fly away but then would come back as the baby settled back on the feeder. This happened several times. Then the baby allowed the chickadee to feed on the same feeder nearby. The purple finch immature came back today with a male purple finch in tow. He was younger also and was beautifully colored.

     A male downy has been a frequent visitor, hanging upside down from the peanut feeder and leaving very quickly with his prize. The two hairys that come by stay longer. One of the regular mourning doves got a bit annoyed with the male hairy. I don't know why. The dove flew right into the hairy as he was clinging to the sunflower kernel feeder and then dropped back to the ground. I've never seen a dove do anything like that before. The hairy immediately left. It was a bit curious for sure.

     The grackles continue in large numbers as do the chickadees and goldfinches. I've watched several goldfinches swinging off of a hoop as well as from an old-fashioned long-handled bird feeder hanger. None of the other birds in the yard use the swinging hoop. Must be a goldfinch thing. Some of the goldfinches are losing their breeding colors at a faster rate than some of the other ones. I'd say it's about 50 - 50 but don't quote me on that one.

     The six or seven house sparrows that hang in the top of the small pine tree in front of my house have been making the trip back for sunflower kernels. They seem to have claimed part of the tree limb for their own. When they feed, they squabble a bit among themselves and sometimes with the goldfinches as well.

     A pileated came to the tree directly behind the backyard once and then quickly left. A yellow-shafted flicker that I've observed in the neighborhood has finally come to visit the backyard but did not stay long. I've seen the flicker chasing larger birds in the field up from the house. Seems like there used to be more of them around.

     The three regular blue jays still come. Now there are two younger jays that come separately from the three. The two jays are a bit darker about the head. One of them looked a bit like he[?] needed to grow into his body. His head was so small that at first I thought he [?, who knows?] was deformed. I added unshelled peanuts this week. All of the blue jays were delighted and they frequently call [not the alarm call, the other one] when coming in to feed on them.

     Tonight, the dog almost had a tussle with a skunk. [The town is full of skunks of both the human and the four-footed variety]. The skunk was rooting around on the ground near the feeders. The dog went over and barked at him [?]. The skunk waddled off into some nearby undergrowth and sprayed a tiny bit. But not enough to douse the dog. I was glad of that. The cats are better behaved in the bathtub than the dog ever was.

     I will note here that any cats that I have are kept as indoor cats only. Period. There is one neighborhood cat that has a range of at least a half mile. He [?] climbs trees to wait for birds. I don't believe he is a stray as he is well-fed. I figure the birds are a dietary supplement for him. Besides fast cars, cats running loose can and do get into fights and other sorts of trouble. I know some people think that the idea of foxes eating cats has no basis in reality. I'm on the opposite side of that one. There's an island in the middle of nowhere in Maine that has both foxes and cats. Folks who live there swear that the foxes do stalk the cats. 

     We've got foxes-- gray and red both, skunks, possums, raccoon, woodchuck, coyote, several kinds of rabbit, beaver, shrews, deer, jumping mice, wild turkeys and some very large very fast hawks in the neighborhood. Add to that a bunch of feral cats along with some domestic cats and dogs whose owners are irresponsible. Things aren't exactly crowded here. For a city, that's quite a bit of wildlife.

                                 ~sapphoq and friends 

p.s. I was at the river today but duck migration was not in evidence. The water was fairly high for this time of year. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bird Feeder News: August 19, 2014




     The bird feeders in the backyard have been especially busy the last three days. I continue to have every goldfinch in the neighborhood visiting. And the grackles. [One neighbor commented on the large number of "blackbirds" around. I let it go. He wasn't asking for my help in learning how to distinguish blackbirds from grackles]. And the red finches, the house sparrows, the three blue jays [all happy with the addition of a feeder containing peanuts], the mourning doves, some hummers, a nuthatch, and the usual assortment of black-capped chickadees. The male red-wing blackbird has not been here. I figure he finally found true love with a female of his own kind.

     I haven't seen the red-bellied woodpecker lately at the feeder but the hairy has brought along her mate. A set of exasperated house finch parents had a fledgling reluctant to fend for herself[?] at the feeders. She follows them around squawking her head off. A pair of tufted titmouse had a baby in tow who also squawked but he[? who knows really] appeared to be willing to learn what to do.

     A few black-capped chickadees showed up a couple of days ago with the three tufted titmouse in tow. Yesterday, a bunch of tufted titmouse flew in and pretty much invaded the feeders all at once. They were happily flitting around all over the tree. The tree was singing with them. Noisy little birds, darlings who chattered much more than they ate. They seemed to be having a grand time. They made me laugh. Today too, they came but in smaller bunches. 

     Some brown-headed cowbirds have showed up along with the grackles. I was able to concentrate on sharpening up my identification skills. The brown heads are a giveaway. The tails, I compared with grackle tails in order to cement the differences in my head. They stand differently than the grackles too.

     To my utter delight, I've had first one chippy  and now two who are ground-feeding. They make little "chip" sounds as they eat, and fly.

     Yesterday I watched a huge gray striped cat climb an oak tree behind us. People, cats outdoors become killing machines. Your cats [and mine] are much safer indoors away from birds, traffic, and diseases. Just saying.

                         sapphoq n feathered buddies