Friday, January 27, 2012

It's a bird's world

 Outside my kitchen window I have my bird feeding station. The camera is always on the pantry shelf and I take an occasional look every now and then. Sometimes I end up staying for longer stretches, watching them come and go.

The downy woodpeckers are my most frequent visitors - two couples. But a couple of times I have been honored a visit by the Hairy woodpecker - larger and with longer beak.  If you compare with the (very wet) downy female in the next picture you can see the difference. Otherwise it can be hard to tell, they look very similar.

 Not all visitors are there for the seeds. This Cooper's hawk came by a rainy morning and sat right outside. By the suet feeder the small wet Downy sat veeeeery still, and survived unnoticed. I kept the memory of the hawk's eyes with me all day. (You can't see it in this picture, but Cooper's are easy to identify if you see their tail feathers with 3 distinct bands.)

A few days later it returned just briefly. You can only tell the sex by their size, females are larger, so it is hard to tell without seeing them both at the same time. I would not be surprised if this one is a female.

 Some visitors are a little less welcome than others. The starlings didn't show up until March last year so I felt that I had been able to nurture my little friends for a long time, but this year they have been around from the start. European starlings are aggressive towards other birds at the feeders and also when it comes to finding nest sites. When they're at the feeder they come in groups and don't leave until the food is gone.
 The redbellied woodpecker is a feisty big bird but was eventually bullied away by the starling and his flock.

 I decided to take down the suet feeders for a few days hoping that the starlings would move on. And it helped a bit. Next picture is of the redbellied woodpecker trying to eat from the regular feeder. Woodpeckers have stiff tail feathers to support them against a vertical tree trunk. He has to work harder to access the food from this feeder.

On a snowy day -or should I say The snowy day we had! - the juncos move in from the forest. They fluff up their feathers with air to keep warm. They only eat from the ground so I make sure to throw out some extra for them and the mourning doves.

I wasn't surprised to see the hawk again during the snowfall.

The white throated sparrow is another ground feeder that often comes in bad weather. There is one pair, seemingly very shy, usually only comes by in the morning. Their feather pattern is very intricate and pretty.
 I do love my little chickadees. I have seen up to 6 at the same time, they take orderly turns and seem territorial without aggression. I still haven't managed to get them to feed from my hand, but they are definitively the most courageous ones and often return to the refilled feeder even before I'm back inside.
The cardinals rarely make it over but I see them in the yard.

 I have a resident couple of nuthatches, eating both suet and seed.

When it snows, it also shines of goldfinches! Goldfinches don't appear to be too territorial, they easily share space and don't chase away any newcomers. As a contrast, I watched three male house finches fight each other so hard for space at the feeder that little or no eating was accomplished.
 I've also had time for one more tree climbing adventure, this time I was joined by my 
husband. My friend and climbing mentor Andrew Joslin helped us arrange for a birthday party together up in a white oak. Big thanks to both of these amazing guys for their willingness to make this happen!

1 comment:

  1. That's quite a nice collection of visitors to your feeders. Our winter has been so mild and snowless, few birds have ventured to our inner-city feeders, and I'm missing them.