Sunday, July 27, 2008

Late July Bird Report

Rainy-day Hummers...okay, not a Monet!

I’m happy to report; I have identified one of the birds I hear in my yard and perhaps another. I spent a good portion of my day outside watching birds in my yard while puttering in my garden. At one point, I heard a familiar call, got out that ‘Bird Songs 250 North American Birds in Song’…and played recordings of birds I thought might be the two or more I heard calling across my yard. I can say, without much hesitation, it was a Say’s Phoebe. I’d play the call and hear a nearly exact replica…which sounds a little different than the Cornell version here. I’m learning (thanks Bill), that birds, like people, have ‘dialects’ relevant to where they live. Compare with this version…similar, but neither quite like the version in my book; go figure. Anyway, I’m convinced I have the Phoebes here. Perhaps the bad photo here is actually the Phoebe; the USGS reports the Say's Phoebe is "The Say's Phoebe is somewhat similar to pewees but is darker, wags its tail and lacks wing bars (adults)." Criminy though...that Olive-sided Flycatcher sounds quite similar. If I ever get more recordings of bird-sounds...I'm never going to complain if there are several different calls from the same bird. They gots repertoire, I tell ya!

PLUS… My yard has exploded with Grosbeaks; of both Evening and Black-headed variety. Both have young, but it is the Evening Grosbeaks who have most recently returned with youngsters I regularly witness begging for food. I think that is the ‘pleading’ call I’ve been hearing. I heard it all day and while I never actually saw a bird make the sound, every time I heard it…there were the Grosbeaks. These ‘youngsters’ are good sized, of course, and hardly bother to even flutter their wings all that much, but I’m thinking it is these begging-babies that I’ve been hearing. I looked up once and saw 16-18 Evening Grosbeaks flying high across my yard…and heard that peeping call they make. Other times I see six or eight Black-headed Grosbeaks around the sunflower-seed feeders or thick in the huge chokeberry bushes (now that the cherry trees have been stripped!).

The three male hummers above, are all Rufus Hummingbirds, looking quite different depending on the light. Just above is a Rufus male flashing his golden gorget behind a displaying female Rufus.

Male Downy Woodpecker: notice small bill
and small size compared to feeder.

Male Hairy Woodpecker:
Notice longer bill (same length as his head)
and larger size compared to feeder.

I also still have young Bullock’s Oriole families here…but they mostly give a scolding chatter when they show up. The young woodpeckers come, both Downys and Hairys, but just peep a time or two as they try to figure out how to maneuver the suet feeders. Today, a male red-shafted Northern Flicker brought a fledgling to the drier parts of my lawn. I see 5-6 American and 2-3 Lesser Goldfinch every day, too; like little dandylions.

Finally, a good shot of the Black-chinned Hummingbird's beautiful purple/blue throat; hard to see unless the light is right. Easier field-mark is the constant tail-pumping they exhibit.

That's a male Calliope on the left...could the scarce-colored gorget of the bird on the right be a young male...or a female? I've read some females get a few irridecent throat-feathers, sometimes.

Lots of Hummers…I got a few better pictures, I think. These are several females and perhaps young males...

Some folks have asked if the females also display...and the answer is yes, they do. Here are a couple females doing just that, though keep in mind, I am still trying to discern females from young males, however.

About the black netting against the big window: it has proved invaluable protection against bird strikes. Before I hung this netting, I kept finding dead birds below the new window; birds see and try to fly into reflections. The netting is not tight, might move a bit, and the birds see it when heading to the window. I've not found a single little body since hanging the netting. It's the same stuff one covers fruit trees & bushes...and I hardly see it when looking out the window.


Vickie said...

Hi Beverly,
I'm visiting from Stephen Lyn's blog, Nature calling. I am fascinated with your feeder photos with so many hummingbirds! I live in TN with a different breeding season, but only once last year did I witness four hummers feeding at my feeder and it was in the late evening light.

This makes me curious. Right now, I still have a breeding male on territory and anyone but a female approaching is quickly chased away. I suspect its a bit early for tolerance and once he begins migration, feeder activity may change....

Now I'm wanting to find a larger feeder! I do enjoy watching them.

Beverly said...

Hi Vickie…thanks for visiting!

Some thoughts on feeders:

• My hummers are territorial, too; it has been advised that I not put feeders in view of another…that will help with the ‘fighting’. However, mine are in full view of each other…and my kitchen window! I think they just like to scrabble!

• I have a friend who had one Rufus so feisty, he put a small, single feeder away from the others…near a bush the little guy liked. The hummer took that one over in a heart-beat, but left the other feeders for the others.

• Make sure they’re clean. The sugar-water will ferment and can grow mold in just a couple days when it’s warm. The birds will generally avoid dirty feeders, but when they do not…moldy feeders will kill them. With my larger feeders, I start off only filling slightly; until the hummers find the feeders and go through the stuff faster. At first I tossed a lot of nectar! LOL Having said that…my large and smaller feeders use the same base; go figure.

• I found pics of the feeders I use here (I love that Yahoo/images function. I fill up the 16-ouncers daily, and the 32 oz every other day or so. I drilled out the holes so the orioles could eat, too. You can see how easy these are to clean here; the bases of each are identical and have ten ports each. I’m not particularly enamored of the cheesy, wide, plastic s-hooks included, however. I found them at the dreaded Wal-mart for about $5 each for the large size. I also like that they have no yellow bits…which I’ve read attracts bees & hornets. I gots no bees & hornets at my feeders, I’m happy to report.

• Oh…and use plain sugar-water; the creatures don’t need food-coloring and additives any more than we do!

One last thing…I’ve heard folks in the east complain about the lack of hummingbirds this year. I do hope it’s just because they’ve taken a westerly route this year…and you’ll see more again next year! This year it is sometimes like walking into a swarm of bees; they’re thick out there…sometimes 30 or more!

Thanks again for visiting and most of all, leaving a comment. Checking out your blog briefly…it seems we have much in common. I’ll visit again soon. (Doncha just love Stephen's site?)

Bosque Bill said...

I think it quite likely that you have Say's Phoebes. However, I don't believe either of the previous photos you referenced is that species. The pale rufous on the Say's Phoebe's belly contrasting with the black tail is pretty obvious.

So one mystery solved, another remains.

Nice photos in this posting!

Beverly said...

Yes, I’m convinced I have Say’s Phoebes too, and really didn’t think the bird I saw and photographed earlier is one; it was quite dark; nearly an all-over gray bird. Unfortunately, I’ve not gotten photos of the Say’s I heard, but I’ve seen it before; much lighter…yes contrasting tail is a good marker!

So tell me; have you ever heard a lost kitten? You know that incessant ‘mew’ they make for hours at a time? I hear THAT noise in my yard alla time! To the point that I went looking for a cat (well, there were feral cats born here (dammit), so one time it actually WAS cats).

But, this sound is in the tree-tops and moves around; it’s no cat.
What on earth could it be? I saw a fledged Northern Flicker last night…and read their sound is a high-pitched ‘kew’; could that be it; but, I never hear the ‘wicka-wicka-wicka that should accompany the call. This goes on for 8-10 calls (just the single syllable over and over), the bird moves and starts over…but I never see the blasted bird!

Actually, there is more than one…as another returns the call from a back-yard or two away. [sigh] …you’re right; a mystery remains.

Thanks for the kind remarks regarding the photos. Yours are so very good…I’m surprised you don’t post more pics. Old hat, huh? Well…I post mine to teach other newbies. They say we teach that which we need to learn. 

What did you think of the Eagle? Pretty cool, huh? I wanna go see him…

OH...and let me be sure; you do NOT get notices when I EDIT regular blog posts, right? Only comments... yeah?

[crosses fingers]

Bosque Bill said...

I wonder if that mewing sound is a variation on the "feed me" of a fledgling. Especially, as it is ongoing. It's trying to trigger my memory, but without success.

[Right, no notices on edit of regular blog posts. Only edits of comments.]

Beverly said...

You know, I think I mentioned that; I’ve got young Grosbeaks (both Black-headed and Evening) coming to the feeders, in the berry bushes and at the suet which are every bit as big as the adults but which flutter and beg like no tomorrow. The few times I found a bird anywhere near where that call was; I saw a Grosbeak…I just have yet to SEE one make the sound.

Is it my imagination or are young families of birds way more cautious than birds are in the dead of winter? I’m telling ya, if I even walk slowly past the window, they’re GONE! Well, ‘cept the hummers and the woodpeckers; they seem pretty easy with me. Last year I used to leave the back door open and sit just inside and photograph birds; not these days!

On the way out the door to work today, I stopped to give my dog a biscuit when a young robin came gliding low across the lawn and sort of ‘crash-landed’ about six feet from us. Not knowing what my dog might do (generally he ignores birds, but he does hate magpies)…I slowly picked up the bird. Pretty thing…fat and spotted, still with the big yellow mouth which it gaped at me. It was quite calm…to the point that I had to try 2-3 times to get it to hook its feet around a branch in the cherry tree. I wonder if being so passive is a survival reflex. Anyway, as I got into my truck, I heard mama calling the alarm.


NW Nature Nut said...

Wow, you are getting a loveley variety of birds at your feeders. I am jealous of the Grosbeaks. I have never seen an Evening in my yard, but occasionally get a Black-headed. Lucky you!!

Beverly said...

Yeah, I’m pretty lucky with the place I found here; lots of birds!

I love the sound of the Black-headed Grosbeaks; they actually sound a lot like Robins; go figure. The Rose-breasted ones, which are sometimes here too and with whom they sometimes hybridize), sound a little similar.

But, it is the sound of the Evening Grosbeaks which always make me smile. They peep and sound like small chicks, to me. Cornell’s recording doesn’t do them justice, in my book. I can always tell when these guys are around…the way they call to one another. It’s sweet! I found a fairly good recording of what I mean on YouTube: