Bird Lady Blog

September 11, 2013

My Favorite Birding Things – Part 1


Black-Headed Grosbeak courtesy of Gordon Karre

Black-Headed Grosbeak courtesy of Gordon Karre

My newest favorite birding thing is our new cement bird bath, bought this spring at the Munds Park Farmer’s Market.  It is very heavy – made of cement – and sits just about eight inches off the ground on a small pedestal that actually looks like an upside down Bundt pan.  I especially like the blue-colored bottom of the water bowl because it stands out, and I like that it is solid enough that I can hose it down hard to clean it and it doesn’t tip over.  So far I’ve seen Dark-Eyed Juncos and Lesser Goldfinch drinking from it.

My other bird bath is attached to the back deck and it is used a lot by all types of birds, including American Crows.  This one is a plastic tray and it hangs over the deck, so I keep a flat rock in it to hold down the tray if it gets dry and the wind is blowing hard.  Just today as I wrote this article a female Black-Headed Grosbeak took a bath in it.

I have three types of feeders out on the back deck.  One is an inexpensive, plastic stout feeder that has four very small perches.  I put sunflower seeds in it.  The best part about this feeder is that the Band-Tailed Pigeons cannot perch on it.  They dominated my other feeder that has a larger perch, and none of the other birds could have a turn.  So now this feeder is visited regularly by Pygmy Nuthatches, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Black-Headed Grosbeaks, Mountain Chickadees, and Pine Siskins.

The second feeder is an 18-inch tall tube just for nyger seed, and it attracts Lesser Goldfinch and Pine Siskins.  Pine Siskins are small finch-like birds, very plain brown, but with heavy striping on the breasts.    The wings have small patches of yellow, but mostly you can describe them as small, brown-streaked birds.  They usually travel in compact flocks, so where there is one Pine Siskin, there will be others.

My third feeder is a tray feeder I built from some leftover lumber and screen, about two feet square and two inches deep.  This feeder is my concession to the squirrels and the Band-Tailed Pigeons.  Mostly I put sunflower seeds in this one, but sometimes peanuts in the shell or cheaper, mixed bird seed.  The squirrel have learned to precariously climb the three-foot rod that holds the feeder, and the Band-Tailed Pigeons will sit on it six at a time and make it crooked with their weight.

Let me not forget to mention the Acorn Woodpeckers.  They also will come to the tray feeder and the other sunflower seed feeder.  And the peanuts in the tray will attract the Steller’s Jays.  They are stunning in the sunlight with their blue and black iridescent coloring.

June 16, 2013

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.

June 30, 2012

House Birds Part I

Filed under: Grosbeak,Nuthatches,Red-Faced Warbler — Munds Park Birding @ 2:19 pm
Tags: , ,

Photo courtesy of David Cree

What birds are showing up at your house?  If you have feeders, the answer to that question will depend on what kind of bird food you are offering.  If you have a bird bath, you may attract a wider variety of birds.  If you have a shallow fountain with trickling or moving water, you will have an even better chance of attracting a variety of species.

So let’s start with the type of bird seed you might use and narrow down the obvious choices.  Even if you are only a beginning birder and your bird watching is focused on your own property, you should be able to identify the common birds with a minimal amount of effort.

With a nyger seed feeder (plastic or sock tube) you will attract Lesser Goldfinches and Pine Siskins.  The male Lesser Goldfinch has a bright yellow breast, olive back, and a black head.  Females and immature are duller, lack the black cap, and have olive backs and breasts.  Often at the same time the Goldfinches are feeding you will see Pine Siskins.  These birds are just a little bigger than the Goldfinches, and they are mostly brown with definite brown striping on a light colored breast.  The wings have a small patch of yellow and two white wing bars.

If you have a feeder with sunflowers seeds, millet, and milo, you will attract a nice variety of birds.  Look for the Black-Headed Grosbeak, Mountain Chickadee, and two types of Nuthatches:  Pygmy and White-Breasted.  The Black-Headed Grosbeak is stunning with a mix of black, orange, and white.  The Mountain Chickadee is mostly black and white with a black cap; it is a small, busy bird, also easily identified by its call, which sounds just like its name: “chick a dee dee dee”.  Nuthatches are small birds with almost no necks.  They creep up and down trees, head first, jamming nuts into tree crevices and then “hatching” them apart with their large bills to get to the seeds.  With this type of seed, you will also get Band-Tailed Pigeons, and if seeds fall to the ground, you will be visited by Mourning Doves.

When you add a feeder with peanuts, you should see Acorn Woodpeckers and Steller’s Jays.  The Steller’s Jay has a black and crested head, iridescent dark blue body, and loud call.  You may also attract the American Crow.  While sitting on our deck and writing this article, an American Crow came to our bird bath and dunked unshelled peanuts in the water, and then either opened and ate them here or flew off to eat them in the woods.  I don’t know from where the Crow got the peanuts, but our bird bath was the next stop for the Crow’s meal preparation.

Fresh water is a thrifty way to attract birds, especially dripping or spraying water.  I am thrilled to report that while taking a break from writing this article and turning on our front yard sprinklers in the late afternoon, I spotted a Red-Faced Warbler flitting from tree to tree.  I have been trying to see this bird for six years. There it was: a small, mostly-gray bird with a brilliant red head and neck, showing up at the start of a phone call with my mother in Illinois as I was sitting on the front deck and monitoring the sprinklers.  It stayed around for over 15 minutes, giving me great looks with and without binoculars, while my patient mother heard about this “lifer” during the phone call.  This bird is very rare in the United States – only found in the high mountains of Arizona and New Mexico.  As I’ve stated in past articles, you never know when you may run across that special bird, so always keep your eyes and ears open.

Blog at WordPress.com.