Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thirsty Turkeys

Earlier in the year, we had as many as twenty five wild turkeys in the yard at once.  After the snow melted and the spring bloomed, most of the turkeys moved on, and we would only see a few at a time.  Over the summer we hardly saw any.  There were a group of four who stuck around the longest time.  They stayed well into the spring and liked to eat the seed that the other birds knocked from the seed feeder.

welcome back turkey

I'm happy to report that this group of four has returned.  One hot humid day they walked out of the woods and visited the feeder again.  They stayed in the yard all day. 

turkeys under feeder

After they ate under the feeder, they lounged in the sun.

turkey lounging in sun

They even drank from the bird bath, which I'd never seen them do.

turkey drinking from bird bath

They remind me of deer the way they stand in front of the bath and gently drink.  I guess I expected them to land on the rim like the other smaller birds. 

turkey next to bird bath

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Sunday, August 25, 2013

House Sparrow Feeds Fledgling

As I mentioned in my last post, many young birds are out of the nest and moving about the outside world with their parents.  As the summer marches on, it becomes more difficult to identify young birds, as they grow and act more like their older counterparts.  I had the pleasure the other day of observing a parent child on the bird bath.

house sparrows on bath

On the right in the above picture is a male house sparrow.  I thought the other bird, also a house sparrow, was a female, and probably an adult.
house sparrow feeds fledgling

I soon saw that I was wrong.  The male bird started to feed the other.  I wouldn't have known the fledgling was new to the world if I hadn't seen this.

house sparrow feeds fledgling continued

As I take a second look, the young bird does have that somewhat mystified look young of many species, bird and non bird, seem to have!

house sparrow feeds fledgling last one

I have seen several male house sparrows feeding young out of the nest young this summer.  Disliked by many for being a non native species that crowds out other native birds, the house sparrow has some endearing qualities.  Just to look at them here, these two look quite pleased and happy with themselves and the world.

house sparrows on bath looking satisfied

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Crazy Days at the Feeder

One of the things I notice most in late August is the number of birds that come to the yard in flocks.  The beginning of the month brings a lot of young birds born during this season.  Often they are seen hanging around with their parents.  As the month winds down, I see fewer family units and more groups of one species all together.  In some cases it's becoming more difficult, depending on the species, to tell the fledgling birds from the adults. 

With the large number of birds passing through, this time of summer the seed feeder sees a lot of action, as different species compete to grab the best spots.

cardinal nuthatch and house sparrows on feeder

Usually I fill the seed feeder with only black oil sunflower seeds, but this particular day I was short on those, so instead I used some extra wild bird seed (so the packaging says) which contains mostly millet and an assortment of various other seeds including sunflower seeds.

I didn't hear too many complaints from the birds.

tufted titmouse has company on feeder

I used to try to keep the feeder stocked at all times.  When I did, I found I was filling it several times per day.  Now I've decided I, and the birds, need to live with having the feeder empty for a large part of the day.

mourning dove and house sparrow winging at feeder

The birds feed in a frenzy, and eat all the seed within a few hours.  One would think with the abundance of available wild food this time of year the feeder would be less appealing, but I guess there is nothing like an all you can eat "free" buffet.

mourning dove and house sparrows on feeder

I suppose the birds which migrate need to fuel up for a long trip.  The ones who don't?  They also must instinctively feed now in time of plenty, not knowing what the coming colder winter will bring.

tufted titmouse with seed

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blue Jays in August

I love August!  Many birds are molting, making for some confusing and fun looking plumages.

bald blue jay

This Blue Jay has been hanging around the yard the past few days.

bald blue jay on bird bath

He came through with three of his friends.  They didn't stop.  This one took advantage of bath and feeder.

bald blue jay on bird house

By September, he should look back to "normal".

bald blue jay looking around

For now, he is one of many birds with changing appearance.  At least in the Blue Jay's case, it's easy to tell he is indeed a Blue Jay. 

bald blue jay another look

Some other birds change so much, you have a challenge to identify them.  Fall brings many more appearance changes, and migrating birds as well.  I'm looking forward!

bald blue jay from behind

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Yet Another Flycatcher: Eastern Wood Pewee

I didn't think this would happen, yet another species of flycatcher graced the yard!

One of the most common late summer voices in the woods is the eastern wood pewee.  Seems every time I've been out, I have been hearing "pee-weeeee" ring through the trees over and over all day long. 

You would think, with hearing so many birds, I'd have seen one or two, but these birds are difficult to find, and I had yet to see even one all spring and summer.

eastern wood-pewee

I was thinking of them the other day as again I heard "pee-weeeee" in the yard, coming from somewhere in the nearby woods.  I remembered last year, in August, one of them finally appeared in the yard. 

Sure enough, the other day, I saw my first one of 2013.  A flycatcher sat high in a box elder tree, flying back and forth from his perch as he hunted the air for something to eat.

eastern wood-pewee from the side

I thought at first it was an eastern phoebe, but usually the phoebes around the yard perch much lower in the trees.  Also phoebes wag their tails very consistently when perched.  I watched this bird for quite some time and he never moved his tail.

Whenever I have any doubt on ID, I take as many pictures as possible so as to later be able to search through the pictures, looking for clues.

eastern wood-pewee another look

A few things finally convinced me this was an eastern wood pewee.  First, the below picture.  The lower beak shows yellow.  The phoebe's beak is completely black.  The second picture shows white wingbars.  The phoebe has less distinct wingbars and the other similar flycatchers (the Empidonax genus) have more distinct ones.  Also this bird has very long wings; the Empidonax flycatchers' wings are not quite as long.  The wood pewee has grey on the breast and grey markings on the white area under the tail, as does this bird.  Finally the phoebe shows much more contrast between a dark head and white neck, this bird has less contrast.

Given these points, I think I'm right, but I could be wrong!

eastern wood-pewee singing

It would have been most helpful if the bird had sung!  But no, after hearing "pee-weeeee" so many times this summer, this bird only sat contentedly, silently!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A House Gone Quiet

Shortly after the house wrens fledged earlier this summer, I noticed that the wrens were continuing to use the bird house.  Before I knew it, I was seeing parent birds bringing food into the house again.  Shortly thereafter, I heard the telltale sound of baby birds begging for food.  Confirmation of nestlings in the nest.
Two days ago it struck me how quiet the house had become.  I realized I hadn't seen or heard the parent birds in a while.  Certainly the wrens like most other birds were quieter this time of year, but still I had been hearing them every day.
Today I made a point of watching for the house wrens.  I didn't see or hear them.  The house itself was quiet.
house wren house
Once or twice i thought i heard the faint calls of baby birds coming from the house.  Could the parent birds have deserted the nest?
I have heard and seen a couple of Carolina wrens in the yard.  I don't know if they compete directly with the house wrens for territory.  The Carolina wrens were not around all summer, why were they here now?
house wren house closeup
I just went down to the box and tapped on the house.  Nothing, not a sound.  All I can see inside are sticks, but that was all I could ever see.  The baby birds were always well hidden deep inside.  This box is not one of those that easily opens.  I'm going to wait a while until I open it for cleaning.  Am not looking forward to that!
Some pictures from "happier" times!
house wren big stick
house wren big stick into house
house wren yelling
house wren on perch
house wren not quiet
house wren singing softly
Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cedar Waxwings, Heard Then Seen

Flocks of cedar waxwings have been around just about everywhere I've been walking the past few weeks. They are a beautiful bird with surprising coloring; you can see the "wax wing" red tip in the picture below, as well as the yellow tail tips.

cedar waxwing

I'd never seen them in the yard until now.  They must have been here other years,  but I missed seeing them.  This one below stuck his head out of the pignut leaves for a few seconds.

cedar waxwing in pignut

Often you hear them before you see them.  They make a very high pitched "zeet"-ing sound, over and over.  I'd heard them a few weeks back, so sat out in the yard looking for them.  They were very close, but they seemed to hide in the interior of trees, and I couldn't find them.

cedar waxwing perched high

I finally saw a few!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Sunday, August 4, 2013

One More Flycatcher: Eastern Kingbird

My latest posts on phoebes and Great Crested Flycatchers got me thinking about the one other flycatcher I've seen around this spring and summer, the Eastern Kingbird.

two eastern kingbirds

As with the Great Crested Flycatchers, I don't have much insight into the lives of the kingbirds based on my experience with them here at home.  I only saw them a few days in the spring.   I did have a pair, though, so was hopeful they were breeding.

eastern kingbird flutter

Where they ended up the rest of the summer I don't know.  I never heard their calls again.

eastern kingbird flutter continued

It's funny to think the Great Crested Flycatchers and the Eastern Kingbirds both might have found this habitat appealing.  The Great Crested Flycatchers tend to be more forest dwelling birds, while the Eastern Kingbirds prefer open habitats.

two eastern kingbirds in sun

Part of the benefit of having an open yard at woods edge is that you get the benefits of both habitats, the open and the more closed in wooded.

eastern kingbird flies away

I hope to see more of the kingbirds next year.  Wherever they are, they'll be heading back to South America any day now.

Enjoy the day,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Phoebes Nesting Nearby

Day after day of watching gives us a look into what's going on in the bird world.  I talked about the Great Crested Flycatcher in my last post.  I was thrilled just to catch a glimpse of this bird near the yard.  I was so happy to see him, but was left with the impression of a glimpse of a stranger, a bird I don't know.  I don't know anything else about this bird's life, other than it flies from tree to tree and says, "Reap"!

Another flycatcher, the Eastern Phoebe, I have more of an insight into.  I have seen phoebes here for three years.  I have never been sure, though, if they have been just passing through, or whether they are breeding nearby, because I never saw them throughout the summer, and I never saw them paired.

phoebe in pignut tree

This year was different.  Two phoebes appeared in the spring.  I usually saw them hunting bugs from a perch in our pignut tree.

phoebe in pignut looking other way

I never got a picture of the two together, but I did often see them both at the same time.

I never found their nest.  I believe it to be in or near our neighbor's yard.  Always though, the birds come to this yard to hunt.

Phoebes often nest on human made structures, like bridges, or house eaves.  They also love water, so a common place to find them is near a foot bridge over a stream.  In the case of our yard, of course we obviously have human made structures, but what about the water?  There is a stream maybe a quarter mile away, not real close.

I took these pictures of one of the phoebes on our bird bath.  Is a tub of water enough water for phoebes?

phoebe on edge of bath

I haven't seen any fledgling phoebes, but I still see the pair around hunting.  I don't know how successful their nesting has been, but since they were here all summer I assume at least they tried.

phoebe relaxing on bath edge

Compared to the Great Crested Flycatcher I know more about the phoebes' lives, but not as much as I would like.  I would like to see some baby birds!

phoebe on bath edge thinking of flying

As I look at these pictures again, I wonder - could this bird on the bath be a juvenile?

Enjoy the day - Cheerily