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.
Dad says, “Watch me, son, it’s simple.”
The Kid dives in and proud Pop looks on.
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.
Right after I did my last backyard bird posting, wouldn’t you know that Mr. and Mrs. Grosbeak made their return. And they were ultimately joined by some exciting friends. But enough about the friends later – first, let’s get to the Grosbeaks.
First, I saw the female and managed to get some nice shots of her. I never noticed this on females before, so I’m not sure if this gal is unique, but you can see from these pictures that this gal has some lovely orange coloring, analogous to where her hubby has his rose breast – a broad splash, with a narrow taper. There may be another couple, because I believe that I have also seen a female this year without the orangey coloring. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled. We’ve been having Rosebreasted couples visit us for more than five years. At first, we had only females, then one year males joined in. One year we had two males. We may have more than one couple as it is, but I just haven’t seen all four at the same time.
Anyway, is it me or is this girl giving Yang a smile?
It’s fun to watch the male and female come and feed together. They seem to prefer the single copper-topped feeder. I usually hear one of them singing, then, there they are, having a meal out! I love to hear them sing in the trees as well. I can’t help wondering if they have any nests nearby. I do know that the pair with the gal in the peach-colored breast feathers makes the round with some of my neighbors, as well. According to the Cornell Ornithology site, both parents brood the children, with the Daddy often singing away in the nest. Here’s a link for more information on these wonderful birds. I also love to watch the males fly away, with the flash of black and white on their wings like a special optical effect.
I have also noted that these birds can be pretty aggressive. No Grackles, Starlings, Mourning Doves, or Blue Jays better mess with them when they want to feed. Who you Lookin’ at?
Another fairly aggressive beauty that I found on my feeder this year was the Baltimore Oriole.
Yes! We do have Orioles this year! Usually, one or so will cruise through in May, take a look at our suet and seeds, then turn up his beak and take it on the wing. This year, I got wise and noted how people placed their orange halves for Oriole delectation. It worked! I cut the oranges across the equator, then impaled them on the trellis for our Morning Glories. Now I can’t keep the Orioles away. We have two adult males, one juvenile male (below), and two females, one orange and one yellow (yellow to the right). And woe betide the Oriole who wants to join another Oriole at the juice bar, even if it’s a female with a male or they can sip from different halves. Orioles may have lovely calls to announce their coming, but their aggression chatter is NOT soothing. We even had an Oriole/Grosbeak confrontation – Mr. Grosbeak won. Still, if two Orioles can rarely feed together, the disappointed party will usually go to town on the suet. One time, Yang looked up to see a male Oriole perched on the window ledge and staring in at him!
If all this weren’t exciting enough, on three separate days we had a hummingbird on the hummingbird feeder. I couldn’t tell you if it’s the same one or not, but there have been repeat appearances. Yang was even able to snap some photos, as you can see – well, you can see better if you click on the photo. I normally don’t see these guys until July, but I’d been hearing on FB about all kinds of sightings. So I thought, maybe if there are no flowers around, the hummers would be more interested in my feeder. Bingo! It worked.
Now, for my final extraordinary sighting. I’ve never had a clear look at one of these guys before. I’ve always wanted to see one in all his glory. It seemed as if everyone in Massachusetts was sighting these guys but me! Then, yesterday, while we were watching the episode of Father Brown that I’d dvr’d, Yang said, “Wow! What is this strange bird. I’ve never seen this before.” I hopped up, took a careful peek around the window curtain, and there it was in all his indigo glory! Yes! My first full-color Indigo Bunting! Well, I guess he hasn’t completely changed from his winter to his summer duds, but he is still something!
I don’t know if he’ll be back. He wasn’t crazy about the oranges, he was skeptical of the suet, but the sunflower hearts did seem to grab his attention – though the Grackles kept getting in the way. Let’s hope we see more of him! Wow! What a bird- watching season!
Yang had his nice camera out over the past few weeks and got some beautiful shots of lots of birds on our feeders and in our yard. Here’s one type that I hadn’t seen before, the Pine Siskin. At first, I thought these guys were just House Finches, but I noticed they had yellow tips on their wings and tail feathers. That was different. I looked them up in my trusty Peterson’s – sure enough, I realized we had some Pine Siskins. I haven’t seen these guys for a few weeks, but we enjoyed them during their visits.
You can also see that though they be little, they are fierce! This P.S. was having a nice snack.
However, surrounded by pushy Grackles, Mourning Doves, and Sparrows, he struck a blow for Pine Siskins (and dinner) everywhere by giving the others hell!
He seems to get along much better with the male Rosebreasted Grosbeak.
And speaking of Grosbeaks, Yang got some wonderful shots of the male. Usually, we have at least one pair and at least one unattached male. That’s how things worked out this year. The Grosbeaks come in late spring and usually keep attending our feeders until early or mid-July. This year, I don’t remember seeing any of them after the first week of July.
If you like your birds red, white, and black, Yang also got some shots of a Hairy Woodpecker. As opposed to other years, we hadn’t seen many of these birds in 2019. We did, however, see lots of Downy Woodpeckers. This guy seemed to be not only lovin’ the suet, but looking for more!!
If you want more Woodpecker types, here are some shots that Yang took of a Flicker in our yard.
He loves hunting in the grass!
Like me, he is now taking off! Enjoy your own backyard aviary!
We’ve been seeing lots of beautiful birds as we move into June. Many of the usual suspects are still showing up. I managed to get some interesting close ups and Yang took some videos, so our birds are moving-picture stars!
One day when I was exercising in the parlor, I was lying on the floor, and when I cam up to window level, I saw the Rosebreasted Grosbeak up close. So, I snuck off to get my camera and managed to take some wonderful close ups! You’d swear he knew what was going on and decided to pose! We’ve been so lucky to see one of the males almost every day. We often see one male and one female together, while sometimes we also see a lone female. We can hear their birdsong quite often. I suspect they may be nesting fairly close by. Maybe they’ll bring the kids to brunch some day.
We’ve also been blessed with some frisky catbirds who mainly love to chomp down on suet from the two such feeders we have in the yard. I and the cats often watch them through the sun porch windows. Today, one was chattering to me while I was hanging out the clothes on the line. Anyway, here are some shots that Yang took for me.
The Downy Woodpeckers also like to feast on the suet as well. Yang got a few shots of one doing so. We haven’t seen many Hairy Woodpeckers this year – or Flickers or Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers. Maybe the latter were too scared.
Yang also took some videos. Here, we have The Adventures of Cardinal with special guest star Rosebreasted Grosbeak and a cameo by English Sparrow Roll ’em!
We also have some mammals in our yard as well. I managed to get a few shots of a baby rabbit, from which we strenuously held back both Rosalind and Natasha on separate occasions. Enjoy watching him/her nibble.
Someone else enjoyed watching the bunny, as well. She thought he looked delicious, er, adorable. We made sure that she was restrained.
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.
I’ve had the pleasure of many wonderful bird sightings since spring began. Some are old friends, and at least one is a new addition. Because I don’t have a fancy camera and the birds are too shy to let me get close enough or they don’t stay still long enough for me to get a good shot, some of these pictures aren’t the best and some I had to find online – but I hope you enjoy hearing about what I’ve been seeing lately.
One of the first signs of spring was the return of my friends, the Red-winged Blackbirds. They’re usually the first to arrive, so I’ve been seeing them March 6th. They even stuck it out through our April torture by snow. I’ve seen several males and also several females. I guess these folks must find my feeders quite the congenial place.
In April, I was further delighted by the return of the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. Interestingly enough, my first sighting this year was almost exactly the same date as my sighting last year. This year, we have at least one male and one female – it’s hard to tell if I’m seeing the same or different ones every time. Happily, even as we move through June, I still see these beauties every day. Please forgive the fuzziness in some of the pictures. It’s rather hard to compensate for the pattern-effect of my window screens.
Also back once more is our buddy from last year, turkey Raymond Burrd – though I have since figured out that “he” is a “she.” Still, if there can be gals called Micheal, Jamie, and Ashley, having one named Raymond shouldn’t be any problem. It’s the twenty-first century, folks. Get over it! She has shown up every day, sometimes more than once a day for over a week now – starting 6/4. She’s pretty friendly – not that she’s asking me to tea or anything, but she doesn’t startle and run away or threaten me when I have to walk past her for one reason or another. If I’m enraptured in reading, she’ll wander by quite close without turning a feather. My neighbor said he thought she was going to hop into my lap the other day! Although Natasha was howling out the window at Raymond in the beginning, she and Rosalind have settled down to a minor glance in the turkey’s direction while looking daggers and claws at chipmunks and morning doves.
We were not able to use the front porch for a while because the Robins would shout up a storm at us – they had built a nest in a rhododendron surprisingly close to one of the porch columns. It was so surprisingly close that I happened to glance down and was shocked to see two young, speckled robins checking me out from a nest. Needless to say, the flowers on the front steps went thirsty for awhile. After some time, no Robins could be heard squawking in the rhododendron, so I checked and noted there were no kids in the nest or parents around. Fledging must have occurred, and the parents probably figure they’d move to a neighborhood with less traffic for their next clutch. That’s why I was able to take these pictures.
We also had a Baltimore Oriole visiting our yard. I had heard him for some time, then found him sitting in the juniper bush outside my bedroom window. I ran to get my camera, but he’d taken off when I got back. I have seen him in the high trees in my backyard and hear him as well. In fact, I’ve had lots of Oriole and Yellow Warbler sightings. We saw both types of birds at the Blackstone River Trail and I later had about six sightings of as many as two Orioles at a time by the Quinnebaug River in Putman, Ct. There were also plenty of Yellow Warblers, too. I wonder if the plentitude of Orioles has anything to do with the large number of Gypsy Moth Caterpillars invading New England now. I could hear the caterpillars in the trees by the Q. River – I’m too delicate to tell you what I’ve been informed that I was hearing the caterpillars doing. Let’s just say I was glad I had a hat on!
On a trip to the rail trail that runs from Falmouth to Woods Hole, my husband and I were lucky to see Ospreys hunting and feeding their kids. Here’s an older picture from the same area. We also saw out first Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. It’s quite the lively bird, and you can’t miss the white vertical bars on the sides of its tail. This link shows the little guy in action and captures his blue-gray colors.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen as many goldfinches, chickadees, Titmice, and nuthatches of late – though I have seen s few. I know they sometimes disappear around this time to brood their young, then return with the kids, when they can fly, for family smorgasbord. I hope they haven’t been driven out by the greedy Grackles, Mourning Doves, and Sparrows. Though Sparrows can be pesky, I have to admit these guys are cute.
At least I saw the Catbird again yesterday while I was reading! This picture is from last year.
Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers have come by, as well as a Flicker. Here are two neat, albeit window-screen-fuzzed, photos of a Hairy Woodpecker. Like most Woodpeckers, this guy just loves that suet!
Oriole image from Pexels.
Yellow Warbler image from: Pixnio.
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.
This week has been gorgeous! ––the weather, the birds and their spring songs, the flowers (and, unfortunately, their pollen!). I think, I hope, that spring is really here. I got my hopes up when one of my favorite flowers burst into view a few weeks ago, the Early Snow Glory. I love this purple/blue star with its snow center and lively slender yellow stamens. This year, they’ve migrated all over my yard. Beautiful. The hyacinths, grape hyacinths, and daffodils have all blossomed, with lilac and pink hyacinths just now drooping their flowers. But now the Bleeding Hearts are taking over.
The birds are wonderful to see, too. The Gold Finches have transformed from winter olive-drab to brilliant yellow. The house finch couple, the male looking as if he had been “dipped in strawberry syrup” (Peterson’s), are showing up far more often. A more romantic pair are the cardinals; the scarlet male tenderly (really) feeding his olive Mrs.––or Ms.
The Red-Winged Blackbird whistles his presence then bares the startling orange and yellow of his epaulets. Best of all is our pair of male
Rosebreasted Grosbeaks. Their black hood, the flash and flicker of black and white patterns on their fluttering tails and wings, and the liquid pink on their chests are a visual delight.
Maybe last year’s Baltimore Oriole will return? I think I’ve heard his song, sometimes, in the trees behind my house.
Oh yes, the humans aren’t the only ones in our house who enjoy bird watching.