Bombus mixtus enjoying the sage blossoms and snowberry in our front yard
Honeybee collecting nectar=Sage Honey this fall
©Tracey Byrne 2017
Did you know that almost 90% of all flowering plants rely on animals, rather than the wind, for pollination? Over 200,000 species of animals act as pollinators. The vast majority of animal pollinators are insects such as beetles, bees, ants, wasps, butterflies and moths; of these, bees pollinate the largest number of plant species. About 1,000 species of pollinators are hummingbirds, bats and other small mammals (Pollinator Partnership, 2017).
Visit Pollinator Partnership and bee inspired with ways to support all our pollinators
Birding in the Rio de Plata: Great Kiskadee, Dusky-legged Guan, and the (not-so) Giant Wood Rail.
(images of Kiskadee and Guan from "All About Birds" and "Animalia Life"
Evening hike to the river and birding from the sunny B&B on stilts
Find out more at Cornell Lab of Ornithology Neotropical Birds
This year we expanded our GBBC (from only our backyard) to include a walk around the frog ponds at Magnusen Park. We have recently picked up Siblings Guide to Ducks and "Duck-like" birds; this enabled us to ID some cool-looking duck dudes: Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeons, and Ring-necked ducks. Our total species count over the four days was 33 species.
I have to admit, my favorite bird of the 4-day count was the tiny male Downy Woodpecker, who we first heard, then spotted, in the woods near the frog ponds. I do not have a photo of this little red-capped beauty, but instead have posted two action shots of the Northern Flicker, who came to dine with three of his buddies on the last day of the count. I love those elegant dappled feathers.
Just about everyone I know has been suffering through this winter's cold and flu season.
My remedy includes hot toddies, as well as sending lovely local bird note cards to friends and family.
Birds of Note Postcards
Don't forget to top them off with USPS postcard and Forever bird stamps!
This female Yellow-rumped Warbler has been gracing us with her presence this winter. She is hard to capture on camera, as she rarely alights. Today I managed to catch her in action using my "sports" setting, telephoto lens, and a tripod.
All photographs posted on BeePeeking ©Tracey Byrne unless otherwise noted
Do you like birds?
Do you have curiosity and patience?
Can you tell a duck from a songbird? An owl from a raptor?
Congratulations! You have the basic skills to be a birder!
Backyard Birding 101
You do not have to travel far, nor do you have to invest a lot of time or money to improve your birding skills. Expedite your learning by observing the birds in your backyard and neighborhood and develop a friendly relationship with them.
To enhance your budding bird awareness:
1. put up a bird feeder or two: suet and seeds will attract a greater variety of species
2. invest in a decent pair of binoculars (or borrow from a friend)
3. familiarize yourself with a few different birds guides
4. keep a journal for notes, tallies, and nature drawing
I suggest that you find a window, hang your feeder(s) outside of it, pull up a comfortable chair, and give the birds a week or two to discover your treats. Then, all you have to do is set yourself down regularly to watch your "bird TV". After a few weeks, you will be amazed at what you have learned.
It is helpful to have a list of the birds that are likely to be visiting your backyard, as this will save you time as you begin to record the numbers and habits of the birds you see. You will notice that you get regulars, and these will be your gateway birds-the ones that you can identify by the way they move, sing, and their flight patterns-in addition to knowing them by their color and size. Once you get three or four solid regulars, you will find that you'll use these birds as your basis to compare and differentiate.
I have several favorite tools for ID, from my Project FeederWatch poster to Sibley's Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. A good book for novice birders is Birds of Seattle and Puget Sound, which has lovely illustrations of 125 birds and includes ID tips, notes on habitat and food, songs and calls, and similar bird species.
For those of you who partake in urban adventuring, I would like to suggest Sibley's folding guides; I have Backyard Birds of the Pacific Northwest and Backyard Birds of the Pacific Northwest Coast tucked in my birding bag (along with binoculars and camera), which you can purchase at either Seward Park Audubon Center or the Washington Park Arboretum gift shop.
That should do it:
Ready... Set... Bird!
To find out more visit BirdWeb, Seattle Audubon's Guide to birds of Washington State
Wondering what to feed the birds in your neighborhood? We provide black sunflower seeds and two suet holders, which attracts 25 different species of urban dinosaur!
Project FeederWatch has a plethora of resources to peruse, with common feeder birds and their preferences, Tricky Bird IDs, and FeederWatch cams. Some of our regulars below: Stellar Jay, Northern Flicker, Black-capped Chickadee, and Spotted Towhee.
Want to know more? Check out these fantastic fact-filled sites:
Audubon Guide to North American Birds
Cornell Lab All About Birds
Yardmap's Habitat Network
100 common birds food & feeder reference=Project Feederwatch
It is autumn and time to fill your bird feeders and bird baths; get your camera, binoculars, and field guides ready and then tune into the "Bird Chanel":
This morning we were treated to quite a show, as for over an hour as we watched a small flock of immature robins forage and bath, had a family of five flickers poking about (you can barely see the red eyebrow and mustache on this juvenile male), and enjoyed half a dozen chick-a-dees swooping in for sunflower seeds. We also had a handful of song sparrows, a lone spotted towhee, an Anna's hummingbird, one Bewick's wren, two purple finches, a couple starlings, and a bossy Stellar's Jay to top off the list!
My citizen science Project FeederWatch backyard bird counts do not start until Nov. 12 (and run through April 7), but we usually begin supplemental feeding in the fall when the temperatures dip into the low 50s and 40s. It takes about two weeks to get on the birds' regular stop-over route.
This is certainly one of my favorite ways to start the day.
Wall of Birds :: check it out at the Bird Academy
What does a Project FeederWatch citizen scientist do during off-season?
Why, head to bird Mecca, of course: Sapsucker Woods and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca NY, for the BirdSleuth Educator Retreat. I flew in and flocked with educators, guides, and naturalists from around the US, Canada, Peru, and Belize. I especially enjoyed the early morning birding with experts, practicing to bird by ear, and basically being inspired by people who love birds, nature, and kids, and who are working hard to share their wonder of it all.
BirdSleuth offers kits that teach inquiry and are geared to enhance your science curriculum or after-school program and build science skills while inspiring young people to connect to local habitats, explore biodiversity, and engage in citizen-science projects. We also became familiar with the powerful citizen science birding tool eBird. eBird is a free app, which one can use to submit bird checklists, and connects you to a network that links birders together and keeps track of your sightings and lists. You can also use eBird to print a checklist for your next bird walk. For example: click on "Explore Data" and then "Explore a Region", then enter your county (or state) to view an overview of bird sightings, or even better, Hotspots. If you choose King County, and then Discovery Park, you'll see that 233 species have been sighted there. Click printable checklist, and you are good to go.
Besides looking for, watching, listening to, and identifying birds, we also had the chance to go behind the scenes and see the famous Macaulay Library (of bird sounds), meet with researchers banding birds, studying crows, researching biacoustics, and who were crazy about moths. We built nests, faced migration obstacles, learned a bit of bird anatomy, and took a drawing lesson from an artist-in-residence. I loved all the bird art (including this Yellow-bellied sapsucker carving) and enjoyed viewing-in person-the Cornell Lab's Feeder cam.
Wonderful resources, lovely people, and an exhilarating sojourn in Sapsucker Woods.
We had Bewick's Wrens nest in the same birdhouse for three years in a row, then- in 2011- the eggs were laid and then the parents disappeared. (Free-roaming cats & Fukushima fallout?)
When cleaning out the birdhouse, I discovered these six tiny eggs nestled in a bed of grass, fluff, and plastic. A bit of research showed that Bewick's Wrens nests are lined built with a combination of feathers, wool, hair, or plant down, with a final inner liner of snakeskin; looks like our urban birds used a bit of innovation :^)
NestWatch is one of Cornell Lab of Ornithology's citizen science sites. Check it out for tips on attracting birds to your backyard, birdhouse plans for different species, and for ideal birdhouse placement. Spring is in the air...
From NestWatch on Bewick's Wrens:
Sketching inspiration by Neornithes 2011