Crow, Cooper's hawk, and Stellar Jay feathers, left for me near our bird baths :^)
Party animals-my favorite coffee cup by Vicki Sawyer
Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,
dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
becomes for a moment fragmented,
then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine
how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,
this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;
I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want
to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.
“Starlings in Winter” by Mary Oliver, Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays
Is it a goldfinch? no...too tiny, and smaller than a chickadee -- with a bright white eye-ring and was that a flash of red on the head?; oh, there's two of them: it's a pair of ruby-crowned kinglets!
YAY!!! first backyard sighting of this sweet songbird. Welcome to our backyard wildlife sanctuary.
Find out more HERE and here
When I heard of the Salmonella outbreak in Pine Siskins along the west coast, I wanted to know more before I took any action to remove my suet and seed feeders. Especially since we were heading into a cold snap with snow, it seemed important to continue feeding my neighborhood birds. I was not seeing any evidence of sick finches so after thoroughly cleaning and refilling my feeders, I wrote to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for guidance and I received this helpful response:
Thanks for getting in touch and for your concern for sick birds. Yes, this is a terrible year of Salmonella especially on the west coast. Although such outbreaks are known to occur and are something that bird populations can recover from as a whole, in the interest of caution, taking down your feeders for awhile and cleaning them is a great thing to do.
Whenever a sick bird of any kind comes to your feeder, we recommend that you remove the feeders the sick bird is using for awhile to assure that disease is not being spread at your feeders. While the feeders are down, clean them thoroughly with a diluted bleach solution or very hot water, rinse them, and let them dry completely. Once you put the feeders back up, be sure to clean them every week or two. If sick birds return, avoid using feeders with ports that birds put their heads into and clean your feeders at least weekly.
The good news is that it's fine to take a break from your FeederWatch counts at any time, so no worries about that. It is also ok to FeederWatch without feeders! We are trying to spread the word about this, but the name of the project makes it a bit counter intuitive. You can modify your site description so it reflects that you don't feed during some months of the year (it is question #9 on the site description form), and then continue counting, if you would like.
Find more information about bird diseases on our website: https://feederwatch.org/learn/sick-birds-and-bird-diseases/
We wish you many healthy birds. Happy FeederWatching!
Emma Greig, Ph.D.
We have windows in our house, lots of windows, and we also have three birdbaths and two bird feeding stations that make our backyard a popular hangout for our avian neighbors. I wanted to make a few of our windows screen-free for better bird viewing so I did a bit of research into how to prevent bird strikes.
A Bird's Eye View window strike films are easy to install and inexpensive, as well as lovely. (I had used bird silhouettes in the past and was not impressed.) I purchased clear designs in both 6 " and 4" and see what happened.
I am delighted to report that we have not witnessed a bird strike since I put these on our windows four months ago-and we have been home the WHOLE time.
If you are looking for a lovely alternative to screens-that works-I highly recommend the ArtScape Bird's Eye View squares.
above: 6" squares in my studio
below: close up of one of the 4" designs
We were ecstatic to see this bird in our backyard yesterday, and doubly thrilled when he showed up again today to scratch and forage underneath our manzanita. This robin-sized thrush sports a blazing orange head stripe and neck plumage, the black "scarf" around it's chest really sets off the colors. We have not yet seen Mrs. Varied Thrush this year, but hope that this lovely guy brings her to visit!
Varied Thrushes breed in dark understories of humid evergreen and mixed forests along the Pacific Coast. In the winter, many move into dense parks, gardens, and backyards. Varied Thrushes are rare but regular winter visitors to the Upper Midwest and Northeast. All About Birds
According to Ancient Greek mythology winged and clawed bird-women lured sailors to destruction through the power of their song...How and why did these monster bird women get transformed into sexy mermaids?
"Avian symbolism in the Greek imagination was relatively common. In ancient mythology, birds were used to represent everything from oracles, enchantresses, messengers of deities, and mediators between the human world and the supernatural realm." C. Hastings 2/11/19
Intrigued? Check out Audubon's Sirens of Greek Mythology were Birds not Mermaids and
this from Vice: Sirens Are Actually Bird-Bodied Messengers of Death, Not Sexy Mermaids
Keep Asking Questions!
In addition to our backyard birding, we go for walks as often as possible in the Washington Park Arboretum-three times in the past two weeks we've had barred owl sightings.
In an aging maple tree across the street from our house, we enjoyed watching a male pileated woodpecker at work. This bird kept three 2-year-olds enraptured for over an hour!
And yesterday, we had a downy woodpecker for the first time visit our suet offerings. I really love this time of year.
Photo credit: WhatBird.com
Western Scrub Jay ©NPR
It never fails to impress me how quickly the birds in our neighborhood discover that we've put out our squirrel-proof feeder filled with black sunflower seeds and our blocks of chili-spiced suet. Yesterday morning we were treated to nine species while we were enjoying our coffee: a pair of Spotted Towhees, two Stellar Jays, two flickers, a banditry of chickadees, a bustle of bushtits, some Oregon juncos, a song sparrow, one Bewick's Wren, and a couple house finches. We also had our first visit from a Western Scrub Jay last week. Hooray for birds!
Spotted Towhee ©Mick Thompson
Song Sparrow ©All About Birds
We do not have Satin Bowerbirds in our neighborhood, but they are distant cousins of our crows and ravens. I am entranced by their bower building and use of color to attract a mate.
Satin Bowerbird by Bert Kitchen :: from And So They Build
The bowerbird especially loves the color blue and will make use of discarded bottle caps and plastic straws, as well as toothbrushes, clothespins, and other garbage. An amazing bird that is able to turn trash into art .
Australian printmaker Rachel Newling has lovely linocuts and engravings; while looking for artistic rendering of bowerbirds, I came across her flying foxes...she has cards available too.