Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Winter Day

Sooooo...snow for the past couple of says. Yesterday not so much...and it was lovely. Today I woke up to over a foot of snow; it's almost noon and it's still snowing. I love it...except I'm missing even more work! [sigh] At least I can make up some of the time here at home. Ever try 'LogMeIn'? I like it.

I've been keeping a close watch on the birdies...but am sad to report I've not seen the Rosies yet. Year before last I had all three; but perhaps it's too early, yet. I'll let ya know...
So far, on my upside-down suet-feeder I've had Black-capped and Mountain Chickadees, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches and
............. Magpies! Yup, the Black-billed Magpies have figured out how to jump up from below (unlike the little birds who start on top and walk below) and hang on, wings flapping, tails spread...while they mostly hack away at the cake and then pick up the pieces that fall below. It's funny to watch, I'll try for a photo.

I'm dismayed at how many Eurasian Collared-Doves (not Eurasian-colored Doves, as I've heard them called!) and how many House Sparrows have invaded my place. I've had troubles with the Doves and Red-winged Blackbirds in the past...but I've never seen so many of the House Sparrows. They are vermin...and they ruin other birds' eggs and kill their nestlings; not to mention compete for food. I'll tell you, by shear numbers they're getting the bulk of the food I put out.

It seems one was nearly lunch to another creature;
it lost it's tail! Doesn't seem to bother it much, though.

I like to toss seed out the back door where I can watch the birds come onto the little cement walk-way there. I've seen several Dark-eyed Juncos (mostly Oregon, Gray Headed, Pink-sided and Slate colored, but I've also seen the Cassiars (like the Oregon but with very dark wings) and occasionally the 'White-winged' sweeties that display two white wing-bars (though not seen this year yet). Some look like they could be 'Red-backed'...but I've never seen that bi-colored are obviously the Gray-headed versions, with the standard pink bill.

One thing that has surprised me
...finding a crow just outside the door! I feed the Magpies dog-kibble, fat and meat scraps, and sometimes leftover cake I get from work. Cake and doughnuts are much better for birds than is plain the fat and sugar content is higher and at least provided instant energy; I still don't feed it often. One of these times, I'll get a shot of the fat-worms I've made for them!

What else is here on this very snow day? Both American and Lesser Goldfinch (a beautiful black-backed male that was still in breeding yellow), several White-crowned Sparrows (lots of youngsters still in brown crowns), at least one White-throated Sparrow today, and three (3!) Hermit Thrushes on the berry-covered front fence.

Oh, and now there are two White-winged doves! These are tropical birds, yanno.

I meant to say something about the evergreen tree; it's a Blue Spruce that I made sure wasn't too damaged when I had the fence built. It's really grown since I moved in here, some four or five years ago. The thing is though, I need more evergreens. You can't believe how many birds use this tree for cover and shelter from rain and snow. Besides, they make the bones of a garden...and I need more bones! LOL

It's now close to five o'clock, and it's still snowing. I'm guessing we've had at least 18 inches. But it's been lovely, light and calm; a beautiful day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wait, there's more!

I managed to get a couple of pretty nice shot of the Hermit Thrush...finally; do click to enlarge and see the Thrush loveliness.

I also got to hear them;
there were three or four working the berries! And they do sound like wind-chimes...or a burbling brook. Sweet! Is that unusual, to see so many at once?

I've been hanging around the house in my jammies for two days...with some sort of crud. No, not H1N1, but I am sick. So, in between sleeping, snuffing-up warm saline-water and sneezing 100 times a day...I'm trying to watch the birds...when I can; I can hardly look out at the bright snow. It makes my eyes tear and sends me into a sneezing fit. Ugh

We just had the first real snow of the season, which brought all manner of birds to the feeders...including hoards of both House Sparrows and European Starlings. This time of year I find the Starlings awfully pretty...but still pretty awful. Those, along with the Grackles, Blackbirds (Red-winged and maybe otherwise) and the Eurasian Collared Doves are eating me out of house and home. I cannot figure out how to discourage them...and they come in droves!

But also here today is the Hairy Woodpecker; I got another bad shot of him, but you can see, at least, that my home-made squirrel baffle is still in operation. I need to move that pole though, I don't have a clear shot of the feeder from my window. Arrgggg...

And guess who else stopped in;
the White-winged Dove! Lordy, I do hope this one finds a warmer place to stay real soon...the last one that came around this late, froze it's feet off. Seriously; it was really sad.

Here's an interesting shot;
which birds do not belong? Can you name all four (in spite of the lousy shot?)

FYI (the birds are listed in the labels for this post. As always, click to enlarge the photos...

Hermit Thrush!

La Veta got 14" of snow yesterday and I have a very large willow-limb down (but still connected high-up), in the driveway just behind my vehicle. I should be thankful for small favors.

I'm also thankful that when I went out into the enclosed patio this morning, to have a look around, I noticed some little brown birds in the Virginia Creeper. For some reason, I wasn't even thinking about the Hermit Thrush I saw last year...but when one bird settled long enough to get binoculars on it, I saw the spotty throat and white-circled eye.

Last year I got some (bad) shots of one, and I got this shot of it's back (below) just now; I'll try for better photos. I'll post it here, if I manage to get one. I'm still suffering from some sort of viral-thang that has me sneezing almost non-stop and my eyes weeping so much I can hardly look at the bright snow out there.

At least while very, very shy does keep coming back to the berries.

I'll get a decent shot at it yet!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Winter Weather Brings Winter Birds

Heyyyyy, the Juncos are back and several White-crowned
Sparrows, too; mostly first-year birds (they're still brown-crowned.)

We're in the midst of our first really good storm of the season (I keep loosing power here), and so far have had nearly a foot of snow. This kind of weather usually brings the birds down; I half expect
to find the Rosy Finches, too.
I wish! A couple years ago, I got all three color variations was very exciting. I'm thinking it might be too early for those, though.

As I look at some of these photos I managed to get, I'm wondering if these are all White-crowned
Sparrows. I think so...but some of them look so different. Part of the problem of identifying youngsters, I'd imagine.

And, I think I've IDed my first Brewer's Blackbird. He was pretty ratty looking, actually, with very frayed feathers, but that he was next to a Common Grackle really helped me figure him out. Smaller, of course, and his bill was significantly less robust; his tail was squared off and only about half the length of his body. At one point he was next to one of the blasted Eurasian Collared Doves that frequent my place...and was quite a bit smaller than that bird, too. I'm thinking I just got a life bird in my yard, and there were two. It could happen...

Oh, and what the heck is the Goldfinch doing here today? That bright yellow butt was a complete give-away, and rather a shock, too. Course, in that I just saw my last hummingbird 3-4 days ago (October 17th), perhaps I shouldn't be surprised.

Today is also the first time I've put up seed-feeders in awhile. I was trying, without much luck, to discourage Grackles and those ever present doves. Because of the weather though, I brought out most of my feeders; including sock feeders that I filled with black thistle and canary seed (cheaper than pure thistle). These brought back the Pine Siskins, which I've not seen for weeks.

With them are dozens of House Finches, so far in Red and Orange variations. Sometimes I see yellow variants. Also in the yard are Common Flickers (Red); racing the blasted Starlings for the last berries on the Virginia Creeper lining the fence. I've watched at least two or three Black-capped Chickadees flit in and out with a single sunflower seed as well as at least one white eye-browed Mountain Chickadee.

I have not seen any of the Hairy Woodpeckers in awhile, but the Downey’s are hitting the suet like there is no tomorrow. I thought I was so clever attaching a suet cage to the bottom of a wooden feeder, but other birds do try for a bite or two; flapping and struggling to hang on.

Most often it is the Magpies, which is why I came up with the fat-worms; they look so funny trying to hang on that tiny cage. They must like the fat a lot, which is why my dog hates them. If he doesn’t keep track of the bones I give him, they will practically crawl inside after the marrow; big dog, big bones! They are the only bird he chases.

I suppose I don’t help their relationship much, when I feed them lightly moistened kibble on a high-up, pole feeder. I think they tease him. I’ve watched the Magpies hide the kibble in the barn, wedging it between boards, and even under-ground; they bury it like squirrels! I wonder if that’s why the skunks are digging up my yard…

Monday, October 12, 2009

Summer's Close

Isn’t this a stunning shot? Call it a teaser…and no, it is not my photograph. I have borrowed it and used a smaller version to entice you to visit another person’s website.

Since several of us are busy tracking hummingbirds here, I thought I’d include a link to an incredible series of photos, the link to which a friend forwarded to me. The five or six pages of beautiful photos are by someone named Verle, I think, who uses a Panasonic DMC FZ20 digital camera with a 12x zoom lens, which can reach into the jungle and retrieve these images without creating too much stress on the birds. That’s very important to me; over-stressing a breeding bird can cause serious consequences. Often times birds will abandon eggs and even hatchlings, if disturbed.

Click here to go to Verle's hummingbird pages and follow the life of a hummingbird, from egg to fledgling. They are beautifully captured on just a few pages. If you like the images, you will find a link at the bottom of page six that takes you to another year’s nest and similar shots.

Nina, blogger-friend of mine at Nature Remains, also grabbed a sequence much like these. She’s a gifted writer/photographer…you will enjoy her site. Click here to see Nina’s hummingbird nest series, but be sure to read it from the bottom UP; unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to easily direct you to the sequential story…so the story starts at the bottom of the page with "Meet the Parents". My all-time favorite quote of Nina’s (and there are many), is regarding growing hummingbird chicks: “Changing position has become like a sword fight in a phone booth.” She’s incredibly gifted.

UPDATE: As of October 17, I still have at least one hummingbird feeding...sometimes in the freezing sleet! I will keep the feeders up (and thawed) for several many more days...just in case. These mighty migrators need all the help they can get!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Black Footed Ferret Born into the Wild

So, I just spent a joyous several days with Scott; I love it when he comes down for a longer visit! In addition to cooking together, watching a couple movies sharing interests in music (I guess I have a pretty good collection), and a cool hike up at the Bear & Blue Lakes...he got a chance to see a world-class view when we hiked up to the top of Cordova Pass. I am nearly paralyzed by heights and such grand open spaces that are up that high (yeah, irrational, I know...), but the easy hike gave him lots of prospective future hikes without me. Yippieeeeee!

So, in honor of the wilderness we felt grateful to witness, I thought I'd put up a recent discovery that should surely give everybody warm fuzzies:

September 2009

After 75 years without a sighting, a wild-born black footed ferret has been found in New Mexico! The ferret was discovered in north-central New Mexico on the Vermejo Park Ranch. The ferret is the offspring of ferrets from a captive bred reintroduction program that had been made possible through Recovery Program funds provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our many partners, including substantial help from the Turner Endangered Species Fund. The sighting of the young male black footed ferret was confirmed on September 16, during a spotlight survey at the ranch.
You can see the whole article here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Jays are back!

Sunday, October 4th, I saw the first Blue Jay in my yard in months! Today, I've seen four...making me wonder if this is the family I watched fledge last season.

Seems to me I've read they often stick together for awhile; it's how the youngsters learn to hide food for the winter...and they can shop in their parent's larder for awhile, too. Or perhaps that's another jay... I'll have to look that one up.

Also, I still see hummers every morning and most evenings, too. It's gotten quite cold here...this morning was another hard frost, and the bird baths had a layer of ice on top. I implore all of you to continue keeping fresh nectar available for the next couple of weeks. Soon they'll all be gone, but you could save the life of a straggler! Don't bother filling your feeder full...just make a cup's worth (1 cup water, 1/3 cup sugar (they like it richer this time of year)) and only add a couple ounces to each feeder.

Another thing I just discovered; birds like raw fat trimmed from steaks and roasts cut into thin strips (think worms). Sort of an 'ah ha!' moment...suet being fat, for heaven's sake! LOL Anyway, I trimmed up nearly a cup from a roast, left the meat that clung to the fat, too. Wow...the Magpies act like it's a food fest; gobbling up as much as they can swallow before another shows up and then grabbing several more to carry off and eat elsewhere. That, with slightly moistened kibble and the big birds are eating rich!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Falls

Here it is October now...and I still have hummers coming regularly. This morning I got up to find three sitting at the feeders. Great fun...but I hope they don't stay too long! They've already been through some snow here. This is the first time I've kept track of how long they stay; who knew they'd stay this long.

As an asside, this is my 200th post! Who knew I'd stay this long, huh? LOL

September yard birds: