nlbarber: (bluebird)
Lots of activity at the feeders and in the yard, despite me only filling the feeders off-and-on. Yesterday a brown thrasher kept me company while I gardened, perhaps trying to point out the empty suet feeder. I filled it yesterday evening, and today there are at least 2 thrashers chasing each other off the feeder. One of them took a nice dust bath in the mix of pine tree shreds and clay left by last year's stump removal. As I was finishing up this post, a northern flicker used the same spot, so maybe I have a "dust spa" in my back yard. I haven't seen a flicker in several year--hope it sticks around.

Bluebird and progenyDaddy bluebird showed up with 2 kids today, I guess to let them scope out the suet. One made it to the suet cage, then sat there begging. The other waited on the support pole for Dad to bring the goods.

As I was gardening in the back yard, it became obvious that the bluebird box I'd put up was, in fact, in use--I'd spotted grass and sticks through the hole but never caught sight of a bird entering or leaving. However, now the box is cheeping. After repeated bouts of standing around with camera or binoculars to get a good look at the occupants, I finally got a couple of non-backlit, not too blurry photos and think they must be house wrens. They disdain the hole in the box and are using the crack at the top, which apparently suits their desire to bring in larger sticks for nesting material. Small birds, very hard to see any distinguishing marks (not that I'm good at it, anyway--the rose-breasted grosbeak is about my speed), looking grayish-brown, lighter below, insect eaters (lots of grasshopper-ish things being fed to the chicks this weekend), and a faint light stripe above the eye. One of my books says "the most nondescript of the wrens".

House wren House wren House wren

Saw the first hummingbird of the season yesterday, so I changed the feeder solution to try to make it more attractive. No more hummers yet.

Also seen this weekend on or around the feeders or bird bath, the usual suspects: blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, house finches, sparrows (still need to work on sparrow ID), Carolina wrens, tufted titmouse, and Eastern towhee. Not so usual is the pair of goldfinches--they are around, but don't often visit the feeder area since I gave up on thistle feeders.

The crow(s), who can go through a suet cake in a couple of hours by flapping up to the feeder and stabbing to knock large bits through the cage to the ground as they 'hover', have not yet discovered that I put suet out. Maybe they've moved on....I hope. The chipmunks are at the backyard seed feeder, though, so I'm off to Home Depot for hardware to install the squirrel baffle on that pole. Won't stop the squirrels, but the feeder has one of the squirrel-cages around it that's fairly effective. Chipmunks fit right through the cage openings.
nlbarber: (bluebird)
Rose-breasted grosbeakA rose-breasted grosbeak. Might be the first I've ever seen--I certainly had to dig in the bird book to decide what he was. My Atlanta bird list says they are "common" in spring and fall (one step down from "abundant") as they migrate through.

Very handsome bird, indeed. I'm glad to add it (well, the male, anyway) to my "will know on sight" list.
nlbarber: (bluebird)
I bought a new bluebird house yesterday, paying an outrageous sum for the copper-roofed model with the predator block. I wanted the predator block, as the problem with the old house is that the the hole has been gnawed or pecked to twice its original size. Copper roof? Useless, IMHO. However, I'm already a little late in the nesting season 'round here, and could only find a utilitarian birdhouse model with a predator block (plus the unwanted copper roof) at $Pike$.

I got it installed today after several attempts. The old house faced away from my line of sight, and 180 degrees from that would be still really out of view. There is one hole on the pole at a better angle for viewing, but the house is designed to mount with 2 screws (and not quite at the same distance as the pair of holes, so I'd had to drill a new hole for the old birdhouse). I made one attempt at drilling a new hole in the mounting pole, but I don't have the right drill bits so only achieved a small bright spot in the paint. Apply thinking cap...aha! Mount house on the one good hole, and anchor the top of the house to a screw in one of the badly angled holes with wire run to a cup-hook screwed atop the house. Hey, a little RubeGoldberg-ish, but it seems to be secure.

I don't seem to be too late. A pair of bluebirds were just checking it out, but never seemed to actually enter the house. First the female then the male flitted from nearby branch to the hole, peered in multiple times, then left. I was wondering if the 'new wood' smell was too strong, but now I think the bluebirds may have been too late--there seem to be a pair of chickadees going in and out. Must decide if I really want bluebirds, or if chickadees would be OK this year...
nlbarber: (bluebird)
It's a beautiful sunny Sunday, temp about 45 degrees F, so why am I at my computer? Skip that question...

I am managing some desultory bird-watching as I deal with bills and email, at the feeder setup in the backyard. A pair of bluebirds (male and female--must get that nest box with the gnawed out hole replaced SOON) and a wren scavenging suet cake crumbs that the squirrel scattered on the pinestraw, brown thrasher, mourning dove at the birdbath, downy woodpecker on the suet cake itself. I turned back to my screen a few minutes ago, then caught movement at the corner of my eye. A Carolina wren had landed on the ledge below the window sill and was staring intently into the house. Lots of head cocking and turning from side to side, some long stares, then it had enough and flew away. It's cool to watch a bird at an arm's length distance.

Good thing the cats are napping elsewhere this morning, or the wren would have had quite a scare.
nlbarber: (bluebird)
My little patch of grass behind the patio is covered with blackbirds: red-wings male and female, and one towhee. Whoops! There they go, spooked by something towards the street. Don't know what they were finding out in the sparse grass, though the ones who were over under the feeders surely did better. I don't think I've seen a blackbird flock in my backyard before.

Now it's back to the usual. Mockingbird on the suet feeder. Wrens waiting for a chance. Bluebirds. Nuthatches. Warblers and sparrows I can't identify. The downy woodpecker will re-appear soon, I'm sure.

Note to self: go find a new bluebird nest box to replace the one that's had the hole gnawed or pecked out to twice the original size...
nlbarber: (bluebird)
I was at my computer and thought I heard a thump, which was confirmed when Fish and Fred left the room to investigate. So I went too, and on a hunch opened the front door to look outside the bird window. Sure enough, clinging to the underside of the brick ledge under the window was a brown-headed nuthatch.

brown-headed nuthatchIt (I refuse to speculate on its sex) had its beak open, and was a little wet from the rain. Afraid it was shocky, I picked it up and held it in my cupped hands to warm it a little. After a while its head came down and the beak closed, then it began to turn its head back and forth looking at me and its surroundings. A few minutes after that I got its feet around a finger instead of curled up, and still it sat on my hand. Eventually I decided to try to put it on a dry branch of a shrub. As I moved to do that it flew, landing on the window frame up next to the soffit. It sat there a good 10 minutes or so (allowing the photo-op) before flying off to the big pine tree next to the feeders.


Feb. 1st, 2009 02:44 pm
nlbarber: (bluebird)
Theoretically, bluebirds are here year 'round. I never seem to see them in deep winter, though. Either 'deep winter' is over for Atlanta this year (tomorrow is Groundhog Day, come to think of it, so another opinion on that subject will be available soon) or the pattern has broken, as there's a pair at the back yard feeders right now, male in fresh, bright blue, plumage.

Must go make sure the bluebird box is cleaned out, in case they're looking for a nesting spot....
nlbarber: (bluebird)
I was standing in my driveway, chatting with my tree guy who had just given me an estimate for the periodic trim dead limbs/remove dead trees/tree health stuff. We are still talking trees, so were staring upwards when a large hawk flew by with a squirrel securely grasped in its talons. It flew on to a big pine across the street, landed briefly, and apparently then moved on--we walked over to try to take another look but didn't see it by then.

Joe was pretty sure it was a red-tail--I didn't see the characteristic tail feathers, but then I was surprised enough by just seeing a hawk so close that I wasn't looking for ID marks. It sure was BIG, whatever the species.
nlbarber: (bluebird)
This brown thrasher is most interesting. It's working on the suet/seed cake that's in a hanging wire basket. It has a difficult time with the basket--frequently ends up spinning around and around, has trouble getting in position to peck at the suet, etc., but eventually either gets a piece in it's beak or knocks some to the ground. If on the ground, it flies down to collect it's booty. In either case, it then flies off across the neighbor's yard--I'm guessing it's feeding either a mate or babies, though it seems a little early for babies.
nlbarber: (gbbc)
Yesterday's count, in the morning hours before I left for the JazzerThon. 12 species:
Mourning Dove - 2
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Carolina Chickadee - 1
Tufted Titmouse - 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Brown-headed Nuthatch - 1
Carolina Wren - 1
Northern Mockingbird - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 4
Northern Cardinal - 2
House Finch - 6
American Goldfinch - 2

Today I observed most of the day, either from the kitchen eating area looking at the front yard feeders, or from the computer desk where movement at the backyard feeders often catches my eye. 18 species:
Mourning Dove - 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Carolina Chickadee - 1
Tufted Titmouse - 1
White-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Brown-headed Nuthatch - 1
Carolina Wren - 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
Eastern Bluebird - 2
Hermit Thrush - 1
Pine Warbler - 1
Song Sparrow - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 5
Northern Cardinal - 2
House Finch - 6
American Goldfinch - 7

Three of these are new-to-me species, and I'm a little tentative on all of them--on anything but a slam-dunk ID, I always wish I had an experienced birder at my shoulder who could confirm my work. The ruby-crowned kinglet I'm fairly sure of, because I don't see another option for a very small gray bird with a red stripe/crown. The next-least-certain is the hermit thrush--the key says the tail is reddish, but I didn't notice it as different from the brown back. Body shape and beak look right for a thrush.

Least certain is the pine warbler. Off and on all day I saw a bright yellow bird, too large for a goldfinch in early mating plumage and with a slender beak instead of the finch's conical one. I got lost in the warbler pages every time I tried to work out what it was--and of course, the bird would also flit away leaving me without a reference. Cruising over the GBBC report for Decatur shows that only 2 warblers have been reported, and only the pine warbler could be my bird (and it was on a number of lists). I decided I was sure enough of it to include it on my report.
nlbarber: (gbbc)
I didn't manage any bird-watching yesterday on the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count. Did a little better today, basically while eating breakfast and again in the late afternoon. For a short while (right after I poured the milk on the cereal, in fact) there was all kinds of activity at the front feeders....and then the birds just left. None in the front yard, none in the back, and it stayed that way until I left for Jazzercise class almost an hour later. 'Tis a mystery.

Species and count:
Mourning Dove 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Carolina Chickadee 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 2
House Finch 3
American Goldfinch 7

With the JazzerThon tomorrow, I'll be limited again in my bird-count time, but I'll make another attempt anyway. Maybe I can have soggy cereal 2 days in a row for the bird count!


Feb. 10th, 2008 08:59 pm
nlbarber: (Default)
Sunday: 3 loads of laundry. Read the paper (mostly). Read a book (re-read of a Nora Roberts). Listened to part of Busman's Honeymoon on audiobook, while doing kitchen chores. Mailed a BookMooch request at the Post Office, returned about-to-be-due library books, grocery shopped. (Three stores, none of which had my Kashi Good Friends cereal. I shall be Very Annoyed if this has been discontinued, as it's half of my standard breakfast-cereal mix.) Roasted misc. chicken bits before putting into a stockpot, eventually realized the stock wouldn't be done in time to have soup for supper and made a rice noodle/broccoli/leftover pork chop stir fry. Stuffed hairball medicine down all three cats, as one (Fish) started the Hairball Cough. Cleaned out last year's bluebird nest from the birdhouse--it was a nicely packed base of sphagnum moss, presumably raided from an old flower pot (not one of mine, I don't think), and a neat shallow cup of mostly pine straw. Seemed a pity to pull it out, but I gather parasites are a problem in old nest material eventually. All the instructions say to clean 'em once a year, anyway.

Have not caught up on the trust bookkeeping, started taxes, or cleaned the home desk.

And so it goes...
nlbarber: (bluebird)
There's a crowd at the bird bath--2 robins all plumped up against the 20° (F) cold, and 3 cedar waxwings, plus more robins on the ground. But it appears that the waxwings are hopping around on top of what should be the water, so I think things are frozen solid. I may take a pan of warm water out shortly to (briefly) provide some liquid.

Over at the feeder area it's bluebird city--2 males, 3 females. Plus a wren, the usual collection of house finches, and a downy and a red-bellied woodpecker are trading places on the suet, running off the bluebirds. A dark-eyed junco just appeared to scavenge on the ground.

I noted a female bluebird going in the nest box this morning. Do they use the nest for shelter at this time of year, or are they nesting already? Seems a little early, and I haven't cleaned out the box from last year. I thought I had at least a month or so before I needed to do that...
nlbarber: (bluebird)
It's big-bird time at the bird bath: 2 flickers and a red-bellied woodpecker on the rim, and at least 3 blue jays looking for space. A couple of brown thrashers are also in the vicinity.

Over on the feeder, a little Carolina wren was in the suet feeder cage this morning. Took a couple of tries for it to find its way back out, under pressure to get out of the way of the jay that was waiting nearby.


Aug. 4th, 2007 06:09 pm
nlbarber: (Default)
It's hot. And humid. Gosh, San Diego was lovely...

I filled the bird feeders this morning, both seed and suet. I can see the suet cake in the backyard feeder from the window by the computer--the feeder is a cage-style that's much larger than the suet cakes I buy. The suet cake is slumped into a curved shape at the bottom, as it's too hot out there for it to hold its shape.

Current temperature is 93°F at 6 PM.
nlbarber: (Fish-Fred)
Well, I tried. But I think perhaps the almost-fledgling is/was TSTL (too stupid to live).

It started late this afternoon, when I went outside to go plant a few annuals. I paused while still inside the garage because a brown thrasher was sitting on my garbage can, just outside the garage door. When I finally went a little closer, I spotted the baby, sitting right next to the garbage can wheels.

I grabbed gloves and the available nest-substitute (an empty clementine box), scooped up the baby, and wedged the box inside a large boxwood. Baby squawked loudly, parents answered with alarm calls, but held off on dive-bombing. After a few minutes I saw the adults perching on the boxwood branches, and assumed all would be well.

Fast forward an hour or so, when my dinner was cooked and I was about to eat. I decided to close the garage door so the cats could wander in there (a favorite activity of Fish and Fred). As I closed the door I thought I heard a chirp, but decided it was from outside. I went back to the kitchen and served my plate--and heard another chirp. Dash back to the garage, and there's Fish staring intently at the stack of paint cans...and the thrasher fledgling, wedged beside them. Fish luckily had no idea what to do with it and Fred had apparently decided to leave the scene, so baby bird seemed unharmed. (Agatha had retired for a post-prandial nap and missed the entire episode.) I recaptured it and put it back in the boxwood. Parents were nearby and scolded as soon as the baby started squawking.

However, it's now dusk and the baby is nowhere to be seen. One adult was perched on a yard waste bag, chirping repeatedly, but I didn't hear any replies. Or perhaps that was a scold, because I then spotted the orange tabby from one of the neighboring houses sitting near the boxwood. I ran the cat off and didn't see any signs of an ex-fledgling, but that's not the only free-roaming cat around.

Impatient little one! In only a day or two it probably would have been able to fly, but apparently just couldn't stay in the nest until then.
nlbarber: (bluebird)
Two babies! One's good bit bigger than the other--it must have gotten a head start by hatching early, or maybe just had its feathers fluffed out. Looking at relative size to the parents, the fluffed feathers looks more likely.
nlbarber: (bluebird)
I've been wondering if the bluebird pair that took up residence in my birdhouse this spring had raised any young. I think the question is answered--on the feeders outside the study window are male, female, and one fledgling bluebirds. Baby is flying pretty well, but is still begging for food when a parent comes nearby. They began all perched in a row on a horizontal bar that holds a feeder, and Dad delivered a little food. Now Dad has gone off, Baby is on the gas grill (but is trying to figure out how to land on the suet feeder), and Mom is watching from the top of a feeder pole.

Baby is nattily attired in a blue tail, blue wing tips (pun intended), and spotted/stripey chest and back.


Apr. 15th, 2007 11:06 am
nlbarber: (bluebird)
In my lapsed month of LJ, I missed the period in which I decided that the newly mounted bird house didn't seem to be attractive to anyone this year. I got it up a little late, perhaps, and rationalized that it might need a year to season, lose the human smell, etc. Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in that corner of the yard trimming shrubs, digging up liriope, and clearing deadwood out of the hydrangeas, and saw no activity and heard no noises from the birdpole.

This morning, though, ensconced at my desk to try to work on taxes, I spotted a male bluebird pausing on one of the feeder poles. He flew on, and I see him head for the birdhouse. A little later I spotted a female bluebird clinging to the outside, poking her head inside. Then she left and the male emerged from the hole. By now bluebirds should be hatching their young, I think, so either this pair is quite late or they've been using the birdhouse for a while and I've just been oblivious. I'll be watching from now on, for sure.

In other morning bird activity (anything to avoid the taxes), the goldfinches are enjoying the thistle sock--maybe 2 pairs, certainly 3 males are around. A downy woodpecker has found the backyard suet block (been working on the front one for a while), a brown headed nuthatch has joined the house finches, titmouses, chickadees, etc. on the tube feeder, and an Eastern towhee pair are scouting for seeds on the ground. The cardinals and red-bellied woodpecker are sticking to the front yard--I think the feeder there is the only one they can fit on. The white-breased nuthatch and the cardinals are also front yard only, at least lately.


Mar. 11th, 2007 10:32 am
nlbarber: (Default)
Hawk in the yard! I didn't get a long or a good look, as said bird moved fairly quickly from perch to perch and then out of sight. The one look I got with binoculars was of the back, which looked to be a fairly uniform blue-gray. Coopers? Sharp-shinned? Or something else, perhaps. Will hope for a repeat sighting so I can get a positive ID.

And in other bird-watching news, I painted the old bird pole a couple of weeks ago, and mounted a bird house on it. Blue bird sized house, but so far the only action I've spotted was a chickadee checking it out. I really don't expect to attract a tenant the first year it's out, anyway, but it's fun to keep an eye on it and hope.

The bird pole, BTW, was in the yard when I bought this house back in 1994, and had an old, partly broken feeder on the top of it that was too high for me to fill, plus being too damaged to hold seed anyway. A year or two later robins nested on the feeder platform, and sometime after that the feeder destruction was completed by a limb falling on it in an ice storm. So the pole and its squirrel baffle sat rusting in the yard while I thought about painting it and mounting either a feeder (at a height I can reach) or a bird house on it. And now, after approximately 6 years of contemplation, it's done. The bird house isn't ideally mounted for observation because of the orientation of the existing holes, but it will do--from my desk here, I see one side, which means I should be able to spot birds going in and out of the entrance hole that's perpendicular to me.


nlbarber: (Default)

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