Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Turkey in a Tree

Maybe I should rename this blog "Turkey Times".  Admittedly I love watching the wild turkeys.  They do some funny things!  Of late they've been especially active.

One afternoon I heard a rustling in the yard, a breaking of branches.  This turkey had flown into one of the pines at the edge of the yard.

turkey in the berries

Here's a shot of the tree the turkey landed in.  He was pretty far up.  See below - he's the brown blob I circled in blue.

turkey is here

The orange-red berries are oriental bittersweet.  The bittersweet vines wrap around and climb the trees.  They're a non native plant, but the birds don't seem to mind.

turkey in the tree

I've seen many a small bird eating the berries, but never a turkey, so I was surprised.  This one kept shifting position as he reached high and low for the surrounding berry clumps.

turkey with more berries

I know birds will let certain berries sit on vines for weeks before deciding that the time is right to eat them.  I assume earlier in the fall they have other choices for their diet.  Now that it's winter those food sources are scarcer and the berries are more appealing.

turkey reaching for berries

The berries and pine needles make for pretty holiday colors.  Maybe this turkey will star in next year's Christmas card!

Enjoy the day - Merry Christmas!  - Cheerily

Friday, December 20, 2013

Turkeys in the Snow

The year is ending as it began.  Snow on the ground, turkeys running around!

One evening after it started to snow, I saw this turkey running up the hill.  He cut a ghostly figure in the snowy twilight.

I sensed an urgency within him.  He looked like he was about to take flight -


flying turkey one


flying  turkey two


flying turkey three

No, he didn't take off, he continued running up the hill.  I have noticed the turkeys come out of the woods at times and for whatever reason run to the bird feeder.  They love to eat the seed that drops when the smaller birds knock it off the tray.  What triggers them though to come out running?  It would make sense if they came running after seeing me put seed out, but that's not what happens, they come running at seemingly random times.

Once under the feeder they dig at the ground to uncover any buried seed.  Over the dry summer they raked the ground so thoroughly that they actually dug a hole behind the feeder.  Even the snow wasn't enough to keep this dirt hole covered.  And a hole it is - it's not just a spot where the grass has died, the turkeys dug at least eight inches down if not a foot!

turkey digging

This guy's buddies meanwhile came out and made themselves comfortable elsewhere in the yard.  As much as their friend wanted to be under the feeder, the rest of the group were happy to poke their heads in the snow and take their chances elsewhere.

turkeys in snow

As suddenly as they came they decided to leave.

turkeys leaving

The turkeys have been a constant presence this year.  If this yard is any indication their population is doing well!

Sorry about being "away" the last few weeks.  The transition into winter has been fun but abrupt and it caught me off guard.  My bird watching schedule adjusted to the winter weather but my writing didn't quite keep up!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, November 25, 2013

One Last Redstart

As promised, here is one more post showing the American Redstart on the bird bath.  Here we are Thanksgiving week and I am still thinking about this beautiful bird from early fall!

american redstart one

This bird looks like a female but may well be a first year male.   After the first year the adult male is black and orange.  The immature male looks like a female, which has yellow markings instead of orange.

american redstart two

Twice this fall this bird came to the bird bath at dusk and made this display.  I'm assuming the same bird came twice, but maybe it was two different birds, I don't know for sure.

american redstart three

I don't know why American Redstarts flash their wings and tails showing their colors like this.  I also don't know why one would do this on a bird bath?

american redstart four

I have read American Redstarts do this behavior to surprise insects into showing themselves.  Maybe at dusk the bird bath is a hot spot for insect life.

american redstart five

The first time this happened I didn't get a great look at the bird.  This time this bird stayed for several minutes, and the light was pretty good, so I got a nice look.

american redstart six

Seems like an awful lot of color and beauty on display just to get a few bugs to eat!

american redstart seven

I have to admit that I come to bird watching as an observer, not as a scholar.  Maybe there are endless books written on this phenomenon; if there are, I haven't read them.  All I know is I'd never quite seen such a thing before, and it was a pleasure to behold.

american redstart eight

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fall Warbler Wrap Up

On this quiet November morning I am going through my pictures and notes to put together a final wrap up of what warblers were seen in the yard during fall migration.

Quite a few, many of which I couldn't identify.

American Redstarts kicked off the season.  They were here the longest, and they're the warbler we saw the most of.  I felt the same way last fall, that this was the warbler here in largest numbers and for the longest time.

The funniest thing about the redstart is that on two occasions, one I showed in an earlier post, the redstart took advantage of the bird bath at dusk.  I am going to post some pictures of the second occasion in my next post.  For now, see this fun flight out of the bath:

american redstart over bird bath

A close second this year was the northern parula.  I don't know if this is because this year I was better at seeing them, but for a few weeks every time I tried I could find one.  A lot of times there were two or three at once.  They are always hard to get a picture of, but I managed a few times to catch them in quieter moments.

northern parula

Black throated greens, black throated blues, magnolia, cape may, blackpoll.  Probably some pines.  Perhaps a Canada?  Not sure, and many more I won't guess at.

Last on the scene was the yellow rumped.  Out and about one can see many of them, but I only saw one or two at a time.  One was particularly active, day after day, flying in and out of my favorite birding tree.  Finally he sat still and we got a good look at the famed yellow rump.

yellow rumped warbler

Now that's a yellow rump!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

First Snow Today

A short and sweet posting!  This morning we had our first snow of the season.  Always this is an exciting day, full of wondrous winter possibilities.

cardinal in first snow

We only got a dusting, not the few inches they had forecast.  It started as rain early morning, then switched over to snow for a few minutes.  I went outside while it was still coming down.  One never knows, this could be it for the year, so I wanted to make sure I snapped a few pictures.

cardinal and goldfinch on icy tray

This cardinal and goldfinch did not let the icy weather get in the way of a morning snack.  I have a feeling we'd all better get used to the chill.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Friday, November 8, 2013

Winter Friends: White-throated Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco

The last few days have been very November-like: dark, cold, windy, and wet.  I am still "recovering" from the frenzy that was this fall's bird migration.  It seemed every time I glanced out my window, I heard or saw a new species taking up residence, at least for a day or two, in the yard.  Now those days are suddenly gone, replaced with cold and the critters who choose to take their chances with the upcoming winter.

white-throated sparrow one

Two of our winter mainstays are the white-throated sparrow and the dark-eyed junco.  Both are sweet looking birds, who more often than not are hanging out with a bunch of their friends.

dark-eyed junco one

Both these birds, both sparrows, gather in small flocks and feed on the ground.  I've taken many pictures of them feeding, but it can be tough to get a good shot of them, because they move so quickly and lift their heads up and down as they poke at the ground.  On nice afternoons you can find a few perched in the sun.  They sit still for quite some time, a contrast to how active they are on the ground.

dark-eyed junco two

They summer north of here.  I miss seeing and hearing them in summer in the yard, though we do find them nearby in the mountains.  But when they return to the yard, it's always noted and appreciated.

white-throated sparrow two

Now is a great time to become familiar with their calls as they are pretty vocal, and they may not have much company other than the chickadees and titmice in making noise.

dark-eyed junco three

It's great to have them back.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Early Fall Wrap Up: A Blue Headed Vireo Sings

It was another early October morning.  I was making coffee, and the window was open, because it was a beautiful warm day.

I heard a bird singing.  At first I thought it was a red eyed vireo.  The red eyed's song I am familiar with and you probably are too.  You can hear it day after day, all day long, all summer long, echoing through the woods, four phrases repeated over and over. 

I've heard its phrases variously described as some combination of, "see me, here I am, right here, see me".  I think of it as, "here I am, where are you, way up here, you can't see me!"  Regardless of what the bird is saying, you know you are hearing a vireo!

Yet the red eyed is not the only vireo who sings in these phrases.  The blue headed vireo sings a similar song, and this song I was hearing now turned out to be his.  I had never before been sure I'd actually heard a blue headed singing before.  An acquaintance of mine had told me I was mixing up my red eyed's song with my blue headed's song.  The blue headed's song is supposed to be somewhat slower.  Now was my chance to learn the blue headed's song for sure, because I looked out the window, and there he was!

blue headed vireo one

As I looked outside, I was really not expecting to see a red eyed vireo, because this song I was hearing was so....fun?  Sweet?  Lyrical?

All these words came to mind.  I decided the blue headed's song to me sounds like a red eyed who had been to a party!

The two birds actually look quite different.  The lighting was not good, but even so, you can see the white "spectacles" on this bird's face.  He really has a unique look to him.  Below is a shot from behind, you can see the blue head, and the wings folded with bright white edgings.

blue headed vireo two

As I did for the yellow-bellied sapsuckers that visited, I waited to post about the blue-headed vireo, hoping I'd have other chances to take their pictures.  Haven't seen any more recently; these pictures are from the first week of October.

I had also posted recently on the red eyed, here is a somewhat better picture of him below for comparison.  See, nothing like the blue headed.  So if you hear either of these birds singing, if you can find the bird, you can know for sure what you are hearing, because you can't visually mistake one for the other.

red eyed vireo

For the record, I went back and checked this blog last year.  I had an uncertain blue headed vireo sighting then, at the end of September.  I guess I will see him again, same time next year!

Meanwhile, one other vireo which migrates through these parts, the Philadelphia vireo, sings yet another similarly phrased song.  My mission this year is to find one of them.  I have never seen one, or heard one - at least as far as I know!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Early Fall Wrap Up: Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, New to the Yard

Early October continued to bring new birds to the yard.  Late one afternoon I heard a strange yet somehow familiar mewling sound.  Then two shadows flew high into the box elder tree.

They were two yellow-bellied sapsuckers.  Often we see these in the woods north of here, and they make very familiar sights and sounds in those parts.  Here in the yard, I'd never seen or heard them, so it took me a moment to place them.

yellow-bellied sapsucker one

This one above looks like a male.  See the red on the throat, a mark of the male bird.  You can also see the large white patch along its side, another familiar yellow-bellied identifier.

When I catch a glimpse of one of these birds, I'm always struck by the "busy-ness" of the markings on the breast, and the overall "smudginess" of the markings on the entire bird.  Compare these birds to pictures of hairy and downy woodpeckers.  Those birds are black and white, with little or no shades of gray.  When I see a "smudgy" woodpecker, I start thinking yellow-bellied sapsucker.

Both of these look like young birds, especially this one below.  He has a lot of brown to him, a sign of a younger bird.  You can also see a faint hint of yellow low on the belly.

yellow-bellied sapsucker two

It's been almost two weeks since I saw these birds.  I should have posted sooner, but I was hoping I'd see them or others again and be able to get more and better pictures.  This was my one chance though, I haven't seen them since!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Early Fall Wrap Up: Scarlet Tanagers Everywhere!

Mid October is here, and with it an astonishingly different assemblage of birds than just a week or two ago.  All the clich├ęs about the quick passage of time apply here.  It literally does seem like yesterday that I was sitting outside watching who knows which warblers flit in and out of the trees.  Now, white throated sparrows dominate, and the juncos have returned, along with chillier weather.

I spent some time yesterday and today looking at pictures trying to sort out all the bird comings and goings.  One thing stands out for late September/early October:  Scarlet tanagers were everywhere in the yard!

scarlet tanager one

Here a male, I believe, is enjoying a good bug, maybe a yellowjacket?

scarlet tanager two

He appears here in many a bird's favorite tree.  I kept seeing him as well in the flowering dogwood, though most of the time he kept well hidden as he searched out the remaining berries.  See his head right in the middle of the picture?

scarlet tanager three

I also saw him sitting up in a white pine....

scarlet tanager four

High up in the box elder....

scarlet tanager five

And low down in the box elder....

scarlet tanager six

scarlet tanager seven

Anywhere there were berries, you'd see this bird!

scarlet tanager eight

But most often, I'd see this bird up close, right near the house in my favorite bird tree.

scarlet tanager nine

Day after day, morning and night!  Now why couldn't this bird have been so visible in the summer when he was red??

scarlet tanager ten

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Monday, October 7, 2013

Black Throated Greens in September

One of my favorite warblers is the Black Throated Green.  I think the main reason is it's one of the first warblers I ever saw, and one of the first I was able to identify.  Plus it's just a great looking bird!

black throated green warbler two

They can be heard out in the woods in the spring and summer, especially north of here.  So wonderful to hear a bunch of them singing together.  Often they're tough to see because they are high in the trees.  They have a beautiful, funny song.  If you're lucky, especially in spring, they'll come out in the open.  The first one I ever saw I came upon sitting on a branch over a trail early in the morning in May.  He looked me in the eye and sang, "Zee zee zee zoo zee!"

I have seen them in the yard only during fall migration, so I always eagerly await September hoping to see them at home again!

They've been here mid September through the end of September.  I think they're gone now.  The first picture is the only shot I got where the bird wasn't jumping around a bunch.  This bird below was in and out of the pignut leaves, but I got a couple of not so great pictures.  What I like about the pignut pictures is you can see the fall version of the black band that wraps under the throat of the male....
black throated green with pignuts one

Especially in this picture:

black throated green with pignuts two

In breeding plumage that is completely solid black.

Also had one visit the apple tree:

black throated green with apples

They winter in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and also southern Florida according to one range map I saw.

Have a terrific winter!

black throated green two

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Finally There are the Grackles!

A friend of mine was commenting recently that flocks of grackles were visiting her yard and cleaning out her feeder with some regularity.  I sighed wistfully.  Secretly I was jealous, because I had not seen any grackles in our yard in weeks!  It is strange how some common birds come and go.

So I was laughing the other day because out of nowhere about one hundred grackles descended on the yard on a sunny afternoon!

yard full of grackles

Some find the grackle to be a nuisance, but I think it's a beautiful bird.  Its feathers iridesce in the sun!

pretty grackles

The birds were excited to be visiting.  They mobbed the feeder, but didn't seem to eat much.  Mostly they flew in and out and flapped their wings and squawked at each other.

grackles mob house

They also mobbed the bath and flitted in and out, continuing to call out to each other and make lots of noise while they splashed.

grackles on bath

They were a joy to watch.  They left as quickly as they arrived.  They stayed perhaps forty five minutes, then were gone.  Funny thing is, they didn't even clean out the feeder!

grackles on house

Enjoy the day - Cheerily