Summer Scene

gold finch (640x392) (2)I am enjoying our summer flowers and birds today. I love the summer plumage of the goldfinch and the scene as he stops by to eat some seeds from the cone flowers. (The silver/gray in the back of the photo is Dichondra (silver falls) from a hanging basket in a tree — Dichondra makes a great “spiller” for a hanging basket).

Rejected…. again

BluebirdThis year we were sure the Eastern bluebirds were going to nest in one of our bluebird houses. For the past several years, we have spent a fortune on mealworms, made sure there was always fresh water in the winter and pampered the bluebirds in every way we could in hopes of having a nesting pair. Each year, they have decided to eat the mealworms, enjoy the birdbath but when it came to nesting they still preferred a tree cavity or perhaps a neighbor’s birdhouse.

bluebird pair 3 (640x373)This year the birds gorged on mealworms.

bluebird 1-25-1 (640x424)They enjoyed the birdbath

030And then, we had a pair investigating one of the houses.

014The male inspected it.

012Outside and inside

034The female inspected it.

009The male guarded it and chased away the other males.

030They inspected it together. Lots of going in and going out. Surely they are going to nest this year.

bluebird pair 2 (640x441)But once again, they appear to have found another location for their nest. They still stop by to eat mealworms but no activity around the boxes now. Each year I threaten to not feed them mealworms if they are not going to nest. But each year, I give in to the beautiful blue color and head to the store for another container of mealworms. Maybe next year….

2013 Great Backyard Bird Count

bluebird pair 2 (640x441)This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. The four-day count is an opportunity for bird watchers from all over the United States and Canada to submit a list of the different species visiting their yards.

Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes or all day and then submit the total number of birds for each species observed during the count. The scientists analyze the data to answer questions about the winter bird population, such as; how the weather is affecting the movement of the population; what new species are sighted in particular areas of the country; what species are declining and what species are increasing.

On most days some of the species that we see in our backyard include:

red bellied (640x315)Red Bellied Woodpecker

nuthatch 2 (640x424)White Breasted Nuthatch

hairy cropped 2 (640x424)Hairy Woodpecker

carolina wren (640x417)Carolina Wren

goldfinch 2 (640x377)American Goldfinch

dove (640x424)Mourning Dove

titmouse (640x418)Tufted Titmouse

junco (640x424)Dark-Eyed Junco

2 chickadees birdbath (640x424)Back Capped Chickadee

070 (2) (640x464)Pileated Woodpecker

crow (640x414)Crow

male cardinal (640x399)Cardinal

sapsucker (640x386)Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

bluebird pair 3 (640x373)Eastern Bluebird

purple finch (640x424)House Finch

white throat 5 (640x424) (2)White-Throat Sparrow

song sparrow (640x424)Song Sparrow

Downy (640x368)Downy Woodpecker

Whether for a few minutes or hours, watching the birds is a lot of fun. So grab your binoculars and start counting!

Water for the Birds in Winter

bluebird 1-25-1 (640x424)A source of clean fresh water is essential for the birds. During much of the year, they can find natural sources but as winter hits in many areas,  the creeks and puddles become frozen. During the winter, a birdbath will be very popular with the local birds. If you live where it drops below freezing frequently, then you will need to add a warmer to the bath to keep it ice free. Birdbath warmers are sold in many bird supply stores and in “big box” stores with the birdseed.

titmouse birdbath 1-25-2 (640x424)

Here is a brief sampling of the birds at our bird bath. The cord over the edge of the birdbath is the cord for the warmer.

doves 4 birdbath (640x423)

goldfinsh titmouse birdbath (640x390)

chickadee goldfinch - 7 (640x424)

goldfinsh titmouse birdbath (640x390)

junco bluebird bb 1-25-4 (640x407)

nuthatch 1 (640x424)

2 chickadees birdbath (640x424)

gold finch bird bath 1-25 (640x424)

Two Sparrows

white throat song sparrow (640x424)There are two different types of sparrows sitting in our discarded Christmas tree (Christmas trees make great cover for the birds during the winter. After we remove the decorations, we move it to the patio for the birds). The upper sparrow is a song sparrow and the lower is the easily identified white-throat sparrow.

white throat 5 (640x424)Here is another view of the white-throat. They are winter birds in our area arriving in November and leaving again in the spring. They have the very distinctive white-throat and the patch of yellow by their eyes.

song sparrow (640x424)The song sparrow has stripes on its upper chest and frequently has a black spot in the center of its chest. It does have a white throat but not as distinctive as the white-throat. It also has stripping on its head. Both sparrows are ground feeders and add beauty and interest to the cold winter’s days.

song sparrow 2 (640x424)

The Pileated Feeder

070 (2) (640x464)The pileated woodpecker is a large, shy woodpecker that does not normally frequent feeders. Although, it usually stays in the woods, we are often treated to the sight of a pair of pileateds that live in the woods behind our house as they come to the edge of the tree line to feed.

pileated 6 (640x424)Though not traditional feeder birds, this is one feeder they will utilize. My husband made it by making a wire mold to hold four suet cakes which was attached to the tree about 14 – 16 feet in the air. When the suet is finished, my husband uses a long stick to remove the old plastic containers and insert new suet cakes.

emptying feeder (640x424)

filling feeder (424x640)

completed feeder 2 (424x640)

When we first put out the woodpecker feeder, we had problem with a raccoon climbing the tree and destroying everything. That is why there is now a band of metal attached to the tree below the feeder. That eliminated the raccoon problem. As you can see from the photo, below the birds lick the suet containers clean.

empty feeder (640x424)

In addition to the pileated, many other types of woodpeckers visit the feeder along with crows, bluebirds and other suet eaters. If you live in a wooded area where there are pileateds, you may want to try rigging up a pileated feeder and perhaps you will be rewarded with a visit by the special woodpeckers.

pileated cropped 2 (640x424)

red bellied and hairy (640x424)

tree (424x640)

Find the White Throat

White throat sparrowEven though it is officially spring, we have a few of our “winter” birds still taking advantage of the bird seed. There are a some dark-eyed juncos and I saw this white throated sparrow today hopping among the spring flowers and weeds (Look in the back in front of the boulder). They will  leave soon for their summer habitat and will show up here again late next fall.

Eastern bluebirdThe Eastern Bluebirds remain in the area all year and a pair stopped by today to enjoy the mealworms. Although I have several bluebird houses, they usually prefer to make their nests in some of the tree cavities. Whether in a bird house or in a hole in a tree, the resurgence of the Eastern Bluebird population has brought tremendous enjoyment to everyone who loves to watch birds.

Turkeys are Back

Two wild turkeys came wandering in the backyard today pecking at the stray bird seed on the ground. We have not seen the turkeys since last fall when we had groups of 20-30 roaming the yard regularly.

One year on Thanksgiving day we had 30 turkeys in the yard, however we were satisfied with store-bought turkey rather than what was in the back of the house. Continue reading

Great Backyard Bird Count

This past weekend was the Great Backyard Bird Count sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. The four-day count is an opportunity for bird watchers from all over the United States and Canada to submit a list of the different species visiting their yards. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes or all day and then submit the total number of birds for each species observed during the count. The scientists analyze the data to answer questions about the winter bird population, such as; how the weather is affecting the movement of the population; what new species are sighted in particular areas of the country; what species are declining and what species are increasing. Continue reading

Eagles, Snow Geese and Swans

We went by Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area this afternoon. In addition to the usual population of Canada geese and various types of ducks, the lakes now have a large population of snow geese and tundra swans. Middle Creek also has resident bald eagles and we enjoyed seeing them flying over the lake. Continue reading

Dark-Eyed Juncos

Arriving in October and staying until April, the dark-eyed juncos,also know as snowbirds, are a common winter bird in southeastern Pennsylvania.Often seen in flocks of 20 to 30, they are ground feeders and like a variety of mixed seeds. Continue reading