Category Archives: goldfinches

Backyard Birds, Part One

Despite the polar vortex heading our way this weekend, spring is trying to sprung on us.  And the feathered visitors to my backyard are showing the way.  Bright new plumage is emerging and old friends are returning from warmer climes, though some winter visitors have lingered on.
The bird I’ll introduce to you first is a Downy Woodpecker.  We’ve seen these lovelies all winter long, and this spring they’re still pecking away at trees and the wooden poles holding up our feeders, as well as chomping away at suet.  I noticed that they seem to come in different sizes.  I’m not confusing them with Hairy Woodpeckers, who seemed to disappear from my feeders in the winter, only to return in the spring- especially for suet. We also have gotten a few Yellow-Bellied Woodpeckers throughout winter and spring – and a Flicker or two. Unfortunately, so far this year, we’ve only gotten  photos of the Downys.
Bluejays can be real stinkers – one of the biggest bullies at the bird feeder.  We have four who show up together and try to boss the other birds away.  Often they succeed, but we also have some extremely aggressive Cardinals, Chickadees, and Goldfinches who won’t take excremental effluvia from no one.  So, the Bluejays aren’t always the boss of everyone.  Still, they are beauties, aren’t they?
Speaking of Cardinals, we have more than a few pairs visiting.  I suspect the same couples hang out here through the years, and their kids may even take up residence in the yard as well.  The other day, I saw a female feeding a male black-oil sunflower seeds off the feeder.  I guess when you both brood and fledge the kids and take them out to lunch, you split courting and parenting even-steven.
And in these pictures below, you can get a gander (so to speak) at the ‘ttude both Cardinals and Chickadees possess that enables them not to take any guff from Bluejays.

Who you lookin’ at?

Here’s a less belligerent  chickadee.  They have to be one of my favorites!  I love their cheery calls and the way that that bounce through the air in flight.  They seem to disappear in the mid summer and not return in number until almost fall. Then they stay winter through spring.

 

Juncos always herald the beginning of winter, with their castanet-like calls and the flash of white fanning out in their tales when they take flight.  I haven’t seen any for about two weeks now, but they did seem to linger much later this year.  I love how on some their grey feathers almost shine blue.

 

Speaking of blue, I adore the soft blue backs of the White-Breasted Nuthatch.  It’s fun to watch them scoot up and down a tree, searching for a snack.  You can always tell they’re around by the ack-ack-ack call they give.  Like the woodpeckers (in that family, right), they go for suet the way my cats go for dental snacks. I used to see Rust-Breasted Nuthatches when I lived in Lowell or in Connecticut, but I can’t remember seeing any in Auburn.

 

But let’s look at some spring birds.  The Goldfinches never completely left us, even in the winter, but now their numbers have increased.  Better yet, the boys have shed their drab winter coats and put on their bright, yet soft, yellow finery. You can see that the fellas in these pictures have pretty much converted their outfits to suit (ha!) the season. They LOVE sunflower seed hearts the best of all, but real troopers that they are, they will also go for black oil in the shell.  They also will take guff from no one when food is involved.
One of my favorite returnees is the Catbird.  Another suet gobbler, this guy bobs her tale and shoots about with glee. I especially like this picture because you can see the bird has got her cap on.   Like the Mockingbird (a relative), this character has many calls.  My favorite is when she calls my name, “Sharon!”
We don’t yet have pictures of all the return visitors.  The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak has been back for several days, but we haven’t gotten a good picture of him.  I’m waiting hopefully for the Baltimore Oriole, though I did see one on a rail trail yesterday. You can see one of the first harbingers of spring in this group shot:  the Redwinged Blackbird (center). 
Another typical spring sojourner is the grackle.  Mourning Doves are always with us – and pretty greedy, too.
However, we did have some real excitement when we saw this fellow on the ground beneath out feeder this week:  a male Rufus or Rufous Towhee (I have heard it both ways!).  It’s not the best shot because we had to grab it fast from indoors and a little far away.  Still, you can see the wonderful colors.  I haven’t seen one of these guys in like three years – when I was on a rail trail in Millerton, NY.  Thrilling, isn’t it?

So, I guess that’s all for  now.  The end is in sight!

 

Birding with the Yangs

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These past few weeks, Yang and I have had some wonderful bird sightings, sometimes, literally, in our own back yard.  Case in point, one Friday, Natasha was meowing at the door all day. Then Rosalind was in the pantry window bird-chattering away, while I worked on my novel in the dining room.  I stopped and suddenly became aware that I’d been hearing a high-pitched hawkish call.  I got up and looked out the window in the dining room, and what did I see in the patch of sea roses, but two Merlins!  One flew away, while the other hung out for some time – before attacking a sparrow who out-smarted him.  I got these pictures through the window because I was afraid going outside would drive my visitor off.  Hence, it’s much blurrier than I’d like.  What do you think of this new guy?  I haven’t seen him since, but I did find an ominous splash of tiny white bird feathers on the nearby back porch.
Our bird feeders have returned to us the usual suspects.  Lots of Titmice and some Chickadees battle four pushy Blue Jays.  We also have two male and one female Cardinal  visiting.  One of the males is pretty aggressive.  While he’s fine with the little birds, he’ll go after the Blue Jays and drive them off!  We also have Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Goldfinches wearing their winter buff, and even a Yellow-bellied Woodpecker.  One day, a Carolina Wren gave me such a scolding when I came too near the juniper bush!
On a visit with friends on the Cape, we came across one of my favorite, but rarely seen, birds.  At first, seeing the creature head on, I perceived a bird with a brownish head and chest with a white belly forming a “v” into the brown chest.  I claimed I’d never seen such a bird before, until he took flight and I saw the luscious blue.  Bluebirds! A good-sized flock of them!  I noted in my Peterson’s that Bluebirds are usually found year round in New England mainly on the Cape.  How appropriate!  The Bluebird was one of my “must see” birds for the year.  I still need to see an Indigo Bunting, a Piliated Woodpecker, and a Scarlet Tanager.  It’s probably too late in the year for the first and last, but I’m holding onto hope for that Pterodactyl-sized woodpecker.  The Bluebird photos are courtesy of Andrea Krammer.
Today, when we took a morning walk (about 7:00) on the Blackstone River Trail, we saw some interesting birds.  A Great Blue Heron and a black Cormorant were fishing in the same part of the river.  Then, atop a tall dead tree, we saw a bald eagle.  We watched as he sat there majestically for some time before he soared off away from us and the river. We didn’t have the means to get a picture, so I’m borrowing this one below.

I can’t wait to see what the remainder of the year brings!
Source eagle image:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eagle_on_roots_-_crop_3_(430008061).jpg

 

Old Friends Return!

The snow has finally been gone for some time now. Even though it’s raining and chilly today, we’ve had a whole week of sunshine and warm weather with just a touch of rain to treat the thirsty plants. And our spring birds are back! April brought a caravan of wild turkeys, one at a time, through my yard and past my sun porch. Though I was too busy watching them to take a picture, I did get some shots of one of my favorite avian harbingers of spring, the Redwinged Blackbird. He showed up at first on March 3rd, then I gradually saw more males flashing their yellow and red epaulets. They sometimes get resistance from another spring returnee, the Boat-Tailed Grackle, but the Redwings are pretty staunch in defending their places at the feeder. Just over the past week or two, I’ve been seeing the female Red-wings show up as well.
I mustn’t forget to mention the multitude of Gold Finches. They do tend to stay around all year, though the number of their appearances dwindles in the winter. However, in March and April I would see more and more of them. I loved watching their dull winter coats turn gleaming yellow as the spring progressed. I like that they are feisty and don’t let the bigger birds bully them off the feeder.
Another of my favorites is the Catbird. I first spotted one this year on May 5th, but this day I was lucky enough to catch two together, feeding with a Mourning Dove. I love how the Catbirds have such a plethora of different calls, many so musical. For me, it’s fun that one of their calls, though not of the musical variety, is “Sharon!” They’re always looking for me. It’s nice to be wanted!

 

We really hit the jackpot this week! Shortly after spotting a sleek, coppery fox gamboling in my yard, Rosalind focused my attention on the backyard feeder, and what did I see but a male Rose Breasted Grosbeak (5/8)! The next day, I heard a lovely birdsong (not Cindy) in the trees, and when I investigated, I saw the Grosbeak again! I’ve seen him at least once a day since, usually feeding on suet or black oil sunflower seeds. He’s quite the cheeky fellow, for when I was feeding the fish in our small pond, he sang me a song. When I repeated it back to him, he popped over to the nearby birdfeeder and chowed down for some time. This morning, he finally brought Mrs. Grosbeak to one of the feeders. I’m glad that these Grosbeaks are not easily intimidated by Grackles, Blue Jays, or Mourning Doves.
In the same week, (5/9) Yang called me to look at the backyard feeder, and what did I see but a Baltimore Oriole! He also appeared for a snack on the suet feeder by the side of our house, as well. I haven’t seen him in a few days, but my neighbors usually report on him. Of course for all these birds, I may not be seeing the same one every time, but it is fun to note that they seem to show up at almost the exact same date every year. It’s lovely to see old friends!
Of course, I have lots of help bird watching.

Birds of Spring

 The other day I did a post on the birds of winter.  I still have enough pictures for a Part II; but, right now, let’s accentuate the springitive (so to speak). Many of my favorite warm weather birds have returned.  Even before the snow was gone in March, I caught this shot of a Robin in the Canadian Maple outside my window.  Apparently, the winters are warm enough that most Robins don’t go South for the winter, but stay in the deep woods up here.  Nevertheless, this was one of the first Robins I had seen in quite some time.  Our Robins are quite different from the blue and rust-colored English Robins.  As you can see, this guy is much bigger and is actually grey/black on top.

 

To me, of the first avian signs of spring is the return of my friend the Redwinged Blackbird.  He’s always at my feeder and showed up for the first time on 3/2.  I had a hard time catching him on film, but I did manage to sneak around the window and get a few pictures.  Yang helped as well.  I’ve also seen a female at the feeder, though I wasn’t able to get a picture of her.  So, it looks as if he brought the Missus.  Of course, there could be a whole bunch of different birds showing up, just one at a time.  Still, I like to think that he is my old-time buddy, as is his wife, who comes back every year to whistle in the spring with his trademark call.

 

 

 

 

 

My next favorite harbinger of spring is the Rosebreasted Grosbeak.  For years, I’ve seen either some females, a male, one year two males, or pairs. This year, I saw the female first.  Don’t you love the impish way she peaks through the window here?

Then, not many days later, the male showed up. He only would show me his back at first, the little stinker.  However, before long, I was able to get some shots of that rose breast for which he is known.  Isn’t the pink just like pure liquid color?  And the pristine white proves a gorgeous contrast to the rose and his black feathers. They both love the sunflower-seed hearts.  Already shelled, the seeds don’t require them to put their grosbeaks to work cracking.  I first saw them here on 5/4.  I hope they stay a few weeks.  Maybe they’ll nest and have baby grosbeaks?

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s two more shots of the Grosbeaks, just because they’re so fun to see.

 

My next favorite harbinger of spring is the Catbird.  They are so perky and intelligent. Many a time I’ve sat quietly by the fish pond and one has come over to drink, getting quite close to me. And they have so many delightful calls.  I believe they are related to the Mockingbird, so that would explain their extensive array of  vocalizations.  I think one reason that I’m partial to them is that one of their calls sounds like, “Sharon!”  My name.

They adore suet, so I play bird police and chase away the grackles and starlings when they try to hog the suet block.  Don’t you just love the sassy way Madame Catbird gives a little cock to her tail?

 

Another favorite pair are the House Finches.  They may occasionally show up in the winter, but I never see too many of them until spring.

 

 

 

All year round, we have Goldfinches.  In the winter, even the males turn a drab olive.  It was neat to watch them gradually change to a more brilliant color as the spring progressed. However, whatever their colors, neither male nor female Goldfinch will abandon our feeders – especially the ones with the sunflower hearts.  They are delightful old friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking old friends, the Hairy Woodpeckers had a grand old time going after suet and sunflower seeds.  We also had many Downy Woodpeckers and, from time to time, Flickers and Redbellied Woodpeckers.  The Titmice, chickadees, Cardinals, and Nuthatches have kept us company year round as well.

So, it’s up to Yang and I to keep our avian friends up to their beaks in sunflower seeds and suet.