Bird Lady Blog

September 19, 2014

Harder to Find Birds


western tanager 2There are many common birds here – including the two species of Nuthatches, Mountain Chickadees, American Robins, Steller’s Jay, Acorn Woodpeckers, Band-Tailed Pigeons, Lesser Goldfinch, and Pine Siskins. But some species are harder to spot, and four of those are the subject of this article.

The Brown Creeper was one of the first birds I saw when we were house hunting in Munds Park. That is rather surprising, because since then I’ve only seen a Brown Creeper once or twice each year.  It is like a Nuthatch in that it clings to and climbs on trees searching for insects, larvae, nuts, and seeds, but there are some major differences.  First, the Brown Creeper has drab, streaky brown upperparts and is rather slender.  It’s a very quiet bird and solitary – contrast that to the noisy little Pygmy Nuthatches that arrive in a group at our feeders.  The biggest difference in my opinion is that it creeps up a tree – almost always up.

A second hard-to-see bird is the Red Crossbill. The first time I saw this one was at Kathy and Cindi’s house on Turkey Trail a couple of summers ago.  This last month when I was driving on the cart path on hole 18 at Pinewood Country Club on a Friday, I saw a reddish bird in the path in front of me.  It flew up into a pine tree, and I got my binoculars on it and confirmed – a Red Crossbill.  Red Crossbills are a medium-sized finch with a red-orange body, bright red rump, and dark brown wings.  But what is really distinct are their bills, which are crossed at the tip, enabling them to pry seeds from the cones of junipers and spruces.

The third species was reported to me by Lu on Lake Odell, who sent in a photo, and Martha on Reindeer, who saw it at her birdbath. It is the Western Tanager, a bird with a brilliant red head, bright yellow body, and black back, wings and tail.  When this bird appears, you utter a “wow” because it is so striking.  It is found only in the Western parts of the continent and migrates all the way to Central America.  This species was first recorded on the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1803 to 1806.

The last species as part of this article is the White-Faced Ibis. It is a medium-sized wading bird that occasionally shows up at the ponds on the Pinewood Country Club golf course or in the marshy area near the Pinewood Sanitary District.  Carol A. told me she saw one while golfing in July, and I had the pleasure of seeing one in about the same spot a few years ago.  The white face is only a thin band of white feathers around its bare, red face.  The rest of its body is a dark brown with a sheen or gloss that shows up in the right light as bronze or green. It hunts for invertebrates like insects, worms, snails, and also frogs and small fish.  The White-Faced Ibis nests in colonies, so usually you will find more than one at a time.

One thing in common about all these species is that they are monogamous. How do we know that?  Well, for me, I just read the research papers and believe the ornithologists who figure that all out.  But I did learn that there are at least two types of “monogamous” when it comes to birds:  mating for life (e.g., Canada Geese who may not even migrate if their mate has died), and serial monogamy (when a bird mates with another for one season but finds a new mate the next season).  I hope you learned something new with this article, and as for me, I always find a tidbit or two that keeps me on my toes when it comes to the birds in Munds Park.

 

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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 13, 2011

Western Tanager, Abert’s Squirrel, and Quiz

Filed under: Quiz,Uncategorized,Western Tanager — Munds Park Birding @ 9:20 am
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In the last issue I wrote about the beautiful red, yellow, and black Western Tanager,  and I commented that although my friends have seen one in Munds Park, I have not.  On Friday, May 27th, I was having breakfast before golf and had the last issue of the Pinewood News open on the  counter. Surprise, surprise,  moving through branches of a Ponderosa Pine and seen through my kitchen window was a Western Tanager!  It is a gorgeous bird – almost tropical looking – and that sighting just drove home the point that you just never know when you will have a great and unexpected birding experience.  Since that sighting I’ve also heard it singing  – I pulled out my handy iBird Plus application on my iPhone to  onfirm using the recorded song.

We have an Abert’s Squirrel that visits our deck, and in the past it would take long sips of water from the bird bath clamped to the top rail.  Our son nick-named the squirrel Rex, so that’s what we call him.  Abert’s Squirrels are known as the tassel-eared squirrel because of the long tufts of fur on its ears.  These squirrels are found only out West in coniferous forests with Ponderosa Pines, so they are not your run-of-the-mill plain brown squirrels in the forest preserves, parks, and lawns of the Midwest.   Well it seems like this spring Rex has picked up a bad habit and can now climb along the three-foot extended metal pole from which our sunflower feeder hangs.  Rex has taken to gorging himself on the seeds, over 20 feet above the ground, as he happily sits on the bottom round tray of the feeder.

I will now have to do some research to figure out how to prevent Rex from his daily raids.  I have ruled out putting WD-40 or Vaseline on the pole because it would get on his fur or the birds’ feet and would cause problems.  I am probably going to have to get some type of baffle that hopefully
won’t obscure our view of the feeder.  I will keep you posted and let you know what happens – my feeling is that Rex is going to be very persistent now that he’s had a taste of the good life on the Dyekman Deck. Here’s a short quiz to get us started for the summer. I will try to feature each of the “answer birds” in coming articles:

  1. What is the little yellow and black bird that visits our niger/thistle see feeders?  A.  Arizona Canary;  B. Lesser Goldfinch;  C.  Mountain Chickadee;  D. Yellow-Rumped Warbler.
  2. What jay is common is Munds Park?  A. Blue Jay;  B. Pinyon Jay;  C. Gray Jay; D.  Steller’s Jay.
  3. What swallow is not found in Munds Park?  A. Tree Swallow;  B.  Cave Swallow; C.  Barn Swallow;  D. Northern Rough-Winged Swallow.
  4. What large bird nests on the east end of Lake Odell high in the tree tops and eats fish exclusively?  A. Bald Eagle;   B. American
    Crow;  C. Osprey;  D. Black-Crowned Night Heron
  5. Where do Mountain Bluebirds build their nests?  A.  Under the eaves of a deck;  B.  On the ground on a pine needle mound; C.  In a tree cavity or nest box;  D. On a V-shaped branch configuration of an Aspen tree.
  6. What food is not part of the American Robin’s diet?  A. Berries;  B. Earthworms;  C.  Grasshoppers; D.  Carrion.
  7. What warbler is only found in the U.S.  in our part of Arizona and some parts of New
    Mexico?  A;  Red-Faced Warbler;  B. Black-and-White Warbler;  C. Yellow-Rumped Warbler;  D. Pine Warbler.
  8. What woodpecker common to Munds Park is also known as the “clown-faced woodpecker”?  A.  Downy Woodpecker; B.  Lewis’ Woodpecker;  C. Acorn Woodpecker;  D.  Pileated Woodpecker.

I hope you have some fun with the quiz.  Answers will be in the next blog post.

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