Though whimsical, old shoes and tiny campers aren't really what most birds need when they are looking for a place to raise their young.
With spring (hopefully) just around the corner, it is time to get our birdhouses set up.
My spring ToDo list includes figuring out the best location and height for my three, currently-in-limbo, birdhouses. I found that Cornell Lab's Project NestWatch has species-specific birdhouse placement guides and design plans, as well as lovely infographics. I am hoping to attract Bewick's Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees, and maybe Tree or Violet-green Swallows, but all cavity nesters are welcome!
This juvenile Cooper's Hawk swept into our bird feeder to pluck an unlucky finch (?) out of the air; we were sitting at our kitchen table with coffee and were in awe at how quickly it happened. I was able to get these shots from a perch in my upstairs studio.
In the twenty years that I have been feeding birds, this is the first songbird snatching I have witnessed. I must admit that I would much rather know that wild raptors are catching an urban songbird on occasion, as it is part of the natural order of things--unlike the pervasive devastation wrecked upon backyard birds by feral cats in the US.
Thanks for keeping it wild on the hill Cooper's Hawk!
It was crazy! We had blue sky and sunshine for an hour today at lunch, and I had probably over 100 birds and at least a dozen different species visiting my bird feeders, eating grass seeds, pecking bugs in the garden, sipping the borage and pineapple sage flowers, and bathing in the birdbaths.
In the backyard flock we had a noisy and voracious round of robins, a flutter of bushtits, a banditry of black-cap chickadees, a crew of dark-eyed juncos, a lone Stellar's Jay, one Yellow-rumped Warbler, the first goldfinches of the season, plus a melody of song sparrows, a shimmer of Anna's hummingbirds, a host of purple finches, a drumming of Northern Flickers, and an (unwelcome) chattering of starlings. (No-show regulars: crows, Bewick's wren, and Spotted Towhee sweethearts.)
Hot Tip: one of our newest additions to entice birds is chili-pepper suet. Yes, that is "Sizzle n' Heat Suet" in our feeder, and guess what? The squirrels won't go near it = YAY! Since birds evolved to eat and spread capsium annuum seeds, they get to enjoy a squirrel-free dining experience.
We also have a couple squirrel-proof seed feeders with weight-activated seed ports, and I highly recommend them. It is so satisfying to feed birds without having to outsmart those pesky squirrels, and they still have PLENTY to eat in the yard with all the berries and seeds to keep them happy.
Bonus Bird: a Cooper's Hawk near the corner of Thomas and 11th Ave...
Check it out if you are out and about on Capitol Hill. I saw him twice: first as predator, attacking a worried flurry of chickadees at a feeder, and the second time as prey, hassled by crows.
I love seeing hawks in the city!
Check out my latest feature article (and two web exclusives) published in the
Autumn 2017 Pacific Horticulture magazine!
Main Article Bellwethers of a Healthy Environment
Web Exclusives Avian Dinosaurs
and Resources for the Back Yard Birder
Warning: Birds are a gateway species and may be habit-forming. While birds themselves are not addictive, learning about them may result in a total redesign of your back yard :^)
An enormous Shout-Out to Peter Pearsall for his incredible eye and all his gorgeous bird images!
Tree Swallow ©Peter Pearsall
Pacific Wren ©Peter Pearsall
After being super-inspired by Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Summer Educator Retreat, I decided to sign up for one of their online courses Ornithology: Comprehensive Bird Biology. I must admit that I have not been a very diligent student, but! I have learned some interesting things. For example, did you know...
Not all birds fly, build nests, or sing, but there is one feature that all modern birds share: they are the only animals in the world with feathers. Paleontologists now agree that there were many feathered dinosaurs and non-avian coelurosaurian theropods. These early birds and beasts sported a diversity of feather types, colors, and plumage, much like birds today. An especially cool fact: the T. Rex is more closely related to a chicken than it is to a Stegosaurus.
Also, feathers, by themselves, are remarkable, as a single feather is composed of more than a million interlocking Velcro-like parts. Feathers did not evolve from the frayed remains of reptilian scales as long believed, but are instead produced by feather follicles, which are miniature tubular developmental organs distributed over the skin of the bird and, based on need, can produce six different types of feathers. All the details of feather growth are novel and have no direct parallels in other animals. Feathers are highly engineered, lightweight, flexible, and strong; they allow birds to fly, swim, and inhabit every continent and habitat in the world.
Bird sex is odd: 97% of bird species have evolved to lose the penis. Instead of external sex organs, both sexes of birds have a cloaca, which is a handy shared vent opening for their digestive, reproductive, and urinary tracts. Sex for most birds occurs with a “cloacal kiss” which only lasts a second or two, just long enough for the sperm to make the transfer. The lack of external sex organs has resulted in an immense effort by male birds to woo females, build nests, and out-sing their competition, culminating in the incredible rituals, elaborate dances, and astonishing plumage of the passerines, also known as songbirds or perching birds, which form one of the most diverse terrestrial orders and include many of our backyard birds.
That's it for now.
Don't forget to clean and fill your avian dinosaur feeders
It's October, and that means it is time to get your backyard ready for winter here in the NW.
I am attaching a pdf of my Urban Birds mandala for you to print and enjoy.
Shine on Harvest Moon!
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