Tuesday, March 25, 2014

So Long Winter

Hello Spring!  Where are you?

Still feeling like February here, with temps below freezing, and snow in the forecast.  We have had enough mild weather for most of the snow to melt, but the ground is still frozen.  As winter stubbornly holds on, it seems the bird assemblage does the same.  Every day I look outside and see juncos flying about, and they are the most common bird on the ground in the open.  They congregate under the feeder and eat seeds that have fallen from the tray.  Usually there are six to eight of them at any one time.  I would expect to also see some sparrows, maybe a song sparrow or two, or some white throated sparrows, or even a migrating fox sparrow, but for some reason only the juncos are filling the role of under feeder visitor.

junco looking for seeds

I know one day later this spring the juncos will fly away for the summer, and I will miss them.

The most common on feeder bird of late has been the house finch.  For much of the winter the house finches have maintained a low profile, but in March I have heard the males singing every day.  When they are not singing they come into the feeder.  Unlike the chickadees and titmice, they are happy to sit on the feeder and eat for several minutes at once.  Titmice come and go, the house finch eats on.

house finch on feeder

If I could pick one bird to remember the winter of 2013-14 by it would be the wild turkey.  The turkeys have continued to visit the yard almost every day.  Sometimes twenty or more congregate for several days in a row, then they are not seen for some time.  Instead a group of three males comes by.  They hang around the feeder for a while, then make the rounds of this yard and the adjoining ones before returning to the feeder area to halfheartedly peck at the ground for bird seed.

It's as if they're bored and ready for spring too!

As an aside, one of you has told me that turkeys are not very pretty.  I disagree!  Their feathers shine in the sun.  This time of year when nothing is in bloom they show the prettiest colors around!

pretty turkey

Also this time of year the male turkeys are displaying.  They look pretty neat when they do.  They are a majestic bird!


In other March news, the downy woodpeckers have apparently abandoned the birch snag they were so interested in a few weeks back.  The downies are still around, but they must have chosen a different tree for their nest, because they are definitely not at the birch anymore.  I'm disappointed.

That's my winter wrap up.  I am ready for some spring migrants to visit!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Sunday, March 9, 2014

House Sparrow, Not What I Wanted To See

This morning while bird watching in the yard I saw something I definitely did not want to see.  A few posts back I told how I put up a birdhouse in the hopes of enticing bluebirds to nest.  Unfortunately the bluebirds have not shown an interest.  Instead today a male house sparrow began bringing nesting material into the box.

house sparrow on bird house

House sparrows pose two problems.  One, they are a non native species whose success here has come at the expense of other cavity nesters, such as bluebirds.

Second, speaking of bluebirds, house sparrows are notorious for attacking nesting bluebirds and destroying both the eggs and the adult birds when they catch an adult in the nest box.

So if one is trying to attract bluebirds, hand in hand comes the responsibility to watch out for house sparrows and place some controls on their nesting.  I won't let them nest in a box.  When I saw this sparrow pick some nesting material -

house sparrow with nesting material

- I knew it was time for the box to come down.  I went outside, scared the bird off, and took the house down.

I felt kind of bad for the bird, but he'd been at it only for a few minutes.  Honestly too I felt guilty.  I knew the house sparrows were around and still I sought to bring in bluebirds.

Not to mention the house is not the right kind of house for bluebirds to begin with, but that's another story.

I think this year I will keep all the birdhouses inside and let the birds find their own nest spots.

As for the house sparrows, they will not be happy with me after this weekend.  In addition to taking down this nest box, I also closed off one of the places in the roof slats where they have been nesting the past few years.  I meant to do it last year, but by the time I thought of it they already had baby birds in there.

house sparrow checking out house

I won't be seeing this scene anymore this year.  Last year this box provided a home for house wrens.  They'll also have to find other quarters this year.

Enjoy the day -


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Quick Downy Update

The downy woodpeckers continue their work on the birch snag.  The last few days both the male and female have been around.  The female is doing most of the work now.  The male's contribution at the moment seems to be chasing the female around the yard.

Yesterday I saw some movement within the hole.  A second later, the female poked her head out.

downy female gets comfortable in birch snag

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Downy Update

Last we saw our male downy, he was on a birch snag building a hole.  This week he continued his efforts.

male downy on the birch

I marked his progress by how deep he could get his body into the hole.

male downy back at work

In this next picture you can see how much deeper the hole is getting.

downy inspects his work

Later in the week, the female downy appeared.  You can tell she is a female, she does not have red on the back of her head.

female downy appears at entrance

She continued to work at the site.  Unlike the male, she did not peck at the hole.  Instead, she would crawl inside and seemed to dig out the wood.  All the while she made soft "tweeking" noises.

female downy continues work

Stay tuned - 

Enjoy the day - Cheerily