You’ll pardon me for paraphrasing the B-52s, but bird watching in my back yard since spring has sprung really has been like living in my own private Audubon. Yang pointed out that we often see more birds (in number and variety) through our sun porch windows than we do on many of our nature walks! It’s been a delight to see many old friends return.
First back were these Mockingbirds. Usually we see one in February or early March. S/He doesn’t stay long, but chows down for a day or two – maybe a week – and then is on the way to wherever Mockingbirds like to chill. This year, we got TWO. A honeymooning couple? I don’t know, but they were a pleasure to see.
Another of the spring early birds are the Red-Winged Blackbirds. In my yard, they are one of the earliest sign of spring rolling in. These guys actually showed up in the end of February – and I’ve never seen so many of them! Usually their numbers tend to thin out as we get into May, but this year we still have many of these visitors with the red and yellow epaulets. You can see this chap flashing his shoulder embellishments as he shares the feeder with a grumpy-looking Grackle – tons of Grackles off and on since February. Below is the blackbird taking a turn on the suet.
In fact, everyone seems to be into suet this year! You saw the Mockingbirds above. And get a load of both the female and male Downy Woodpeckers. You can distinguish their genders by the red dot on the back of the male’s head.
These two aren’t the only woodpeckers who visit us. Through the winter and still into the spring, we’ve had a pair of Redbellied Woodpeckers chilling with us. In fact, this male is probably the one Yang and I saved from frostbite after he was stunned from hitting a window – the woodpecker, not Yang. Anyway, we call him Red and his mate Ruby. Original, aren’t we?
Of course we also had a spring newcomer woodpecker: my friend Flicker (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.). Just last week, I saw him hunting insects where my and my neighbor’s yard meet.
One of my favorite returnees is the Catbird. I love the way they say my name in one of their calls: “Sharon!” Last year we had two. This year, I’ve seen four! I don’t think they’re all pals, either. One day, I saw two of them in my Canadian Maple with their heads up, beaks pointing skyward, and their shoulders thrown back in a stand off. Bird number three was merrily chowing down on suet all the while. Who knows where number four went. Still, I do see two, three, four of them traveling together, making the rounds of the bird feeders in my yard.
We’ve also had some more colorful returnees as well. Although a Goldfinch or two would come by during the winter, we had a huge influx in April. They’ve thinned out a bit, but it’s been fun watching the boys gradually change back to their bright yellow duds. They’ve also broadened their tastes. Rather than only snacking on sunflower hearts, they are now going for the black oil seeds, no longer too lazy to crack them open with their powerful finch beaks. This fella is giving the feeder a quizzical study before he zeroes in on dinner.
Finally, May brought back two of my favorite friends. First, the Baltimore Orioles. This year we’ve seen two adult males and one juvenile. These guys love their oranges! Yang gets them the good ones from the Asian grocery store in town.
One day, Yang and I saw Dad taking his young son out for his first drink.
Then they both turn to our window and stare: “What’re YOU lookin’ at?!”
One week later, who should come to town but the last of our colorful spring regulars: the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. Usually we get a couple of couples. However, this year, I’ve only seen the male. Still, for all I know, it’s not the same male every time. There could be a bunch of them, each showing up one at a time. However many, these guys are always gorgeous to see! Here one of them is sharing the feeder with a House Finch. He doesn’t look too chummy, though, does he?
Of course, we’re not the only ones who like to watch the birds from the sun porch. But the girls are kept safely apart from feathered visitors.
Now, bring on the Indigo Bunting and the Scarlet Tanager!
I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of photography around the yard lately, since I’ve been so busy with writing and traveling. However, we do have many neat critters to see. We still have many interesting birds, for example, a turkey for several days, visiting around 5:00 in the afternoon. Rosalind noticed the turkey first and tipped me off. so, we got some nice shots of her.
The cardinals have been bringing their kids to visit. I see plenty of Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, but I’m not sure how many adolescents they have because they are all olive colored with black beaks (The beak helps you distinguish kids from female adults). I only see one baby at a time, so I don’t know if it’s the same one repeatedly or different Cardinal kiddos every time. Last year, the parents brought quite a few to the feeders, and we had about six males and females in the winter and through the spring. Then, we only seemed to have two adults. My guess is the last generation of kids moved off to college or got a job and nest in a new territory. What do you think, Cardinal experts? Anyway, this kid is pretty aggressive. He was on the feeder with a female Rosebreasted Grosbeak, who had scared every other birds off, including Mommy Cardinal. Not this kid! He kept pecking right back at her for some time.
Speaking of Grosbeaks, we have at least three males (whom I’ve seen all at the same time), but I’m not sure how many females. I have noticed that I do see a pair show up frequently, though I usually see a male or two show up without the wife. Occasionally, I’ve seen a female without the hubby. These two like to hang together on this particular feeder. They also decided to check out the oranges we put out for the Orioles as well.
The catbirds used to come frequently in the beginning of the summer, then they disappeared, pretty much, for about a month. However, now they are BACK. And they are aggressively defending the suet, cocking up their black tails and showing off that red spot underneath. I’m glad to see them-and hear them call my name, “Sharon! Sharon!” There’s one outside my window right now!
I’ll have to do another bird blog, to show you more pictures of our other feathered visitors.
So, summer is here and all the flora and fauna is out in full force at chez Yang. We have plenty of avian visitors, as well as furry beasts. The flowers are coming along nicely – or were until the insects and fungi started to stage their voracious assaults. Anyway, lets take a tour!
Yang and I were joking that we have about 14 gardens spread around our property. He set out to improve some of them this year. We had a triangle of standing flox, dianthus, balloon flowers, and black caps, with a delphinium and two fox gloves returning from last year – all overrun with God knows what. Yang cleared out what we didn’t want, and we added new delphinium and foxgloves, transplanted some more delphinium, and rounded things out with asters and ageratum. Above is how the plot looked initially.
Now, the foxglove in the foreground is literally (and I know what the word actually means) taller than I am. The delphinium from last year has also shot up. The other foxglove from last year is also doing well, despite a slow start (left of big foxglove). The black caps are ready for harvest – I’ve already had black cap and walnut scones and black caps with ice cream. There are more to be plucked. Sorry, I didn’t take the pictures earlier, so that you could see the flowers in full bloom. Here’s a close up of the tip of the tallest foxglove, where the flowers remain. The bees love this garden!
This is the peony garden on the other side of the house, named for – you guessed it! – pink peonies given us by Rosemary Adams years ago. You’ll notice that there is chicken wire around this garden. Why? That gets us to the fauna flourishing this year. We’ve been sighting innumerable rabbits around our property and that of the neighbors on either side of us. Apparently, they believe delphiniums are delicious! Especially, the expensive ones you send away for in the mail. Grrrr! Anyway, here you see one of the wonder bunnies taking a sun bath alongside a Flicker hunting for her dinner in my neighbor’s yard, right next to my fish pond. Sociable little devil, isn’t s/he? Some days, I look out in the backyard and see one of the rabbits, some birds, and a chipmunk or two amicably chomping away on clover and seeds or bouncing about under the bird feeder there. It’s like living in a Disney movie.
Speaking of chipmunks, we’ve got quite a few digging holes and taunting my cats in the yard, especially when the girls are looking out the window. Natasha is particularly in Ahab mode, sitting patiently outside a hole or drain spout in the yard, waiting for the munk to make a fatal mistake. She nabbed one once, but we managed to get it free of her. Our reward will be more holes, devoured sunflower shoots, and gnawed planks on our porch. Behold what Natasha calls Nemesis.
With all these evil fur balls waiting to decimate everything we’ve planted, Yang created a larger central vegetable garden, fortified by a wire fence and chicken wire. We’ve got pumpkins, peppers, eggplants, bachelor buttons and delphinium growing in here – yes, we know we can’t eat the last two. We even have some volunteer tomatoes growing from last year. This fence is DEFINITELY necessary. Several times, I looked out to see a rabit sitting outside the fence and staring in. Another time, I found a big pile of rabbit scat directly outside the gate (which is tight to the fence and flush to the ground). I know wascally wabbits when I see them. I’ll keep an eye out for heavy equipment deliveries from ACME.
The birds are less destructive visitors, and they enjoy the gardens – especially the ones with feeders. Here is an oriole feasting on orange halves. I haven’t seen any in a few weeks or even heard any in the woods. Perhaps they have moved on to their next migratory stop. The catbird loves our suet feeder, and loves to hang out on various perches around the gardens. We caught him in is ablutions. You can enjoy a commentary from me and Natalie Wood in Inside Daisy Clover.
We also have window boxes filled with lovely color combinations of flowers. Some flowers have passed now, but the pots and window boxes, on the whole, most are still a pleasure to see.
Our roses have done nicely as well. Years ago, I bought about four sea-rose bushes and now they have spread to create a slope of beautiful scent and sight behind our house.
One of my favorites is a single yellow rose given us by my mother-in-law about twenty years ago. Every year we get at least one bloom. Lately, it has only been the single bloom. However, this year, that single bloom was the biggest I’ve ever seen on the bush. Beautiful, isn’t it?
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.
We went to Mt. Auburn looking for birds and beasts. In the past, we’ve seen rabbits, ground hogs, foxes, hawks, and robins, but we had a few surprises this time. This is a lovely catbird. I’m afraid you can’t quite distinguish his/her black cap. We have at least one who lives near our house and is rather friendly, visiting the bird feeders, sipping from the bird baths and fish pond, and plucking up multi-legged critters from the ground. We also saw tons of robins. I wanted to include this picture for my British viewers. Your robins are adorable, petite, and feathered lovely blue and rust. Ours, as you can see, are longer and larger, with a grey/black body and striking rusty-red tummy. Their faces and build are similar to your blackbirds, though yours are really black. I heard that your robins were struggling. How are they doing now?
Here was a nice surprise! Down by one of the ponds, we found quite a few painted turtles sunning themselves. Look at this guy stretch his hind legs. Seems comfy, doesn’t he/she. Meanwhile, in the pond, a baby was swimming around like crazy, having a ball. maybe this guy on the shore was a watchful parent?
We really had a surprise when we saw and were able to follow a Great Blue Heron around the cemetery. We expected to see him wading in one of the ponds. That’s how we usually see them, but not this guy. He just took himself on the most casual of strolls, looking around, chilling out. maybe he was looking for a friend?
Heading back to our car we got the biggest of surprises! A flock of about 8 or 9 wild turkeys! Notice the “beards” hanging from some of the birds. I’d never noticed that before.
I talked to a woman who was planting some flowers at a relative’s grade, and she told me the turkeys were making her nervous. Apparently, a turkey had gotten too aggressive with one of the workers in the cemetery last week, with things had not going well for the turkey. I have heard that these wild bird can be exceptionally bold. These guys didn’t bother us, but then, again, we didn’t bother them, either. I prevented Yang from mentioning either dreaded trigger word: Thanksgiving or drumstick.