Bird Lady Blog

June 16, 2013

Falcons, Ospreys, and “Oops”!


Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

Osprey courtesy of Gordon Karre

I will start with the “oops”!  One of my golfing friends said to me after the last article was published, “We’ve been seeing these beautiful yellow and red birds you mentioned – you know, the Summer Tanagers.”  I replied, “Oh, you mean Western Tanagers”.  No, she countered:  “The birds you mentioned in the last Pinewood News – the Summer Tanagers.”  “Really?” I said.  So I went back and read and article and lo’ and behold, I realized I had goofed.  I meant Western Tanager but wrote Summer Tanager.

Maybe it’s because I wrote that article at 30,000 feet up flying back from the Horicon Marsh birding festival in Wisconsin.  Or maybe it was because I was thinking about spending the SUMMER in Munds Park.  Regardless, I goofed and apologize.  The Western Tanager likes coniferous forests.  The Summer Tanager can be found in Arizona, but usually not at an elevation as high as in Munds Park.  So if you see a slender, medium-sized bird with a brilliant red head and bright yellow body, black back, black wings with white wing bars, and a black tail – that would be the Western Tanager.  One did show up around our back deck and I hope it will again.  By the way, the first written record of it dated back to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

While golfing I spotted a Peregrine Falcon.  It was in the air, flying more than soaring, and then after a while took a dive down behind the condos off the 10th fairway.  The wing structure was right, the view from the bottom was just like that in my field guide, and the head had a black hood and sideburns.  So that is a first for me for Munds Park.  I’m glad I carry a pair of binoculars in my golf bag.

Peregrine Falcons were on the endangered species list for many years, almost decimated from exposure to DDT in insecticides.  They have had a successful recovery since DDT was banned and were taken off the endangered species list in 1999.  I have seen one of these birds during migration over the Grand Canyon (that was my first spotting) and also saw two way above the Chicago skyline when we were touring at the top of the old Sears Tower – about 100 stories up.  Peregrine Falcons do live in cities, preying on Rock Pigeons.  So just like the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, there are City Peregrine Falcons and Country Peregrine Falcons.

I was very happy to see the Osprey back.  You can find it at Lake Odell, flying and fishing, perched on the dead tree on the south side of the Lake, or perhaps in a nest.  The nest in past years has been on the east side of the Lake.  Since I don’t spend winters here, I have no idea how long the Osprey family stays in Munds Park.  If any of you year-round residents have seen it over the winter months, I would like to know.

The Osprey feeds entirely on fish.  When it takes a large fish to the nest or perch, it moves it around so that the head faces in the direction it is flying – presumably to increase the aerodynamics.  It’s all about survival of the fittest, and this species has its own techniques to increase its chances of success in the wild.

Spring Has Sprung


Steller’s Jay courtesy of Gordon Karre

May has been a month of transition for all of us:  spring cleaning, raking fallen pine needles, putting away our winter clothes and bringing out the summer wardrobe, and moving up to Munds Park if we were away for the fall and winter.  Our Munds Park birds are making similar transitions:  changing their drab winter feathers to bright colors so they can attract a satisfactory mate, building nests, and finding the best sources for food.  Two Munds Park birds that come to mind with striking colors are the Black-Headed Grosbeaks and the Lesser Goldfinches.  The males of these species are especially beautiful with their contrasting colors of orange or yellow against black and white.

So what should you be doing in preparation for migration and nesting?  First, if you have a nest box, open it up and clean it out.  Discard the old nesting material, shoo out the spiders that may have taken temporary residence, and wash or scrape out any residue.  Make sure your next box is still firmly secured to its post or tree.

Second, if you attracting birds by putting out feeders, make sure they also are cleaned.  You can wash them in a solution of water and a small amount of bleach – don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly.  The same goes for your bird baths.  Keep the water fresh.  If you hang a hummingbird feeder, remember the following:  the nectar should be made out of white granular sugar and water  – one part sugar to four parts water.  Do not use red food coloring.  The color of your feeder will be enough to attract the birds, and they will be back as long as you keep a fresh mixture.  If the mixture starts turning cloudy, discard it immediately and replace.

Lastly, start thinking about how you can protect your birds from window-kills – that is, preventing birds from flying into those wonderful windows we appreciate because of the forest and mountain views, but which can be deadly to our flying friends.  I will have more information about what you can do to prevent window crashes in a future article but would also like to hear what practical solutions are working for you.

For those of you who are relatively new to our Munds Park birds, here is a short list of the common birds you will see in our area:  Lesser Goldfinch, Mountain Chickadee, Acorn Woodpecker, Steller’s Jay, American Robin, Western Bluebird, Black-Headed Grosbeak, Band-Tailed Pigeon, American Crow, Turkey Vulture, and Common Raven.  And some of the harder-to-find ones will be Summer Western Tanager, Painted Redstart, Red Crossbill, and House Wren.

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