THE WEEKLY SMILE: SO MANY BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

A WEEKLY SMILE – Enjoying the Birds

Every day there’s a new one I haven’t seen before, or finally, I manage to get a picture of a bird I’ve never photographed before. One of those that has always gotten away.

I’m getting a real kick out of my bird feeders. I used up the small bag of seeds I’d bought in the grocery store and started using the “better quality” seed I’d ordered on Amazon. I didn’t realize there was any significant difference, but there must be.

Red Finch – freed by pet store owners when they were no longer allowed to sell the wild finches, these have taken up residence all over the country … including New England.

Garry and I changed the seeds yesterday. We dumped the leftover seeds from the cage into the flat feeder. Meanwhile, a lot of seeds fell over the railing onto the ground below.

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker

It will be interesting to see what grows from all those seeds because the seeds in birdseed are “live,” which is to say … they can grow.


This is probably a female Downy Woodpecker. They are essentially identical to the Hairy Woodpecker, but smaller. Female, because she has no splash of red on her head. The white back pretty much guarantees it is one of those two woodpeckers and it’s medium size suggests Downy.

And one in flight …

When we climbed out of bed into the kitchen this morning, there was a swarm of birds out there. Not the usual collection of Chickadees, but … well. I had to take out the bird book because there were birds I’d never seen before. I still haven’t identified all of them. A bunch of them fall into the category described by my “Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds” as “Confusing Fall Warblers.”

Some of them could be Juvenal, though it’s late in the year for even nearly full-grown babies. Regardless, all of them look a lot alike. Brown, flecked with white. Bigger than the Chickadee and Titmouse crew, but smaller than the woodpeckers.

The brown one looks like a Wood Thrush, but it could be something else including one of the many brown warblers, all of which (especially amongst the females) look similar. I’m betting on Wood Thrush (but could be a winter feathered Bobolink). Rather long and leggy. The other one is probably a White-Breasted Nuthatch.
Could be a Starling or the winter feathers of a Bobolink. Or something else?
A lady Red Finch and a White-breasted Nuthatch

Then there are warblers. Warblers — there are at least 20 different types living in the woods — resemble each other. There are the yellow ones, the green ones, the white with gray or black ones. They are the same size, pretty much. A big section of the bird book is spent trying to help you figure out which one is which. In the end, you may never know exactly which warbler you’ve seen. And maybe it’s a wren.

Take your best guess. Pretty sure the one flapping is a Nuthatch and the other is one of those small brown birds. And there are an awful lot of small brown birds.

The only way I can tell them apart is by whether or not there are patches or bars of white on wings or tail (assuming I can see the wings or tail which depends on their position on the feeder). Mostly, the shape of the beak is my best indicator of what type of bird it is. The long pointy-beaked birds have a very different purpose from the rounded, not-pointed blunt beaked birds.


A Chickadee and a Tufted-Titmouse, and a downy woodpecker — our most frequent visitors


The good news is that when I can get a picture, I can take my time pawing through the book. Also, even if I don’t get a photograph, I can tell the difference in the size of the birds. There was a near-war going on as the day progressed with big birds knocking the small birds out of the way, then the small birds coming back in groups to get the big guys to move. I have two feeders. The flat one is designed for the bigger birds, but don’t tell the big birds. For one reason or another (maybe the rainy weather?), all the birds like the cage with the seeds and a roof that probably keeps them dry.

Still some birds like the flat feeder because they can really get into it.

I have only seen a single squirrel so far. I think there are so many acorns in the oak woods, they really don’t need the seeds. This was a super acorn year. About every three years, we get super huge acorns, big enough to dent the car when they hit and the squirrels get really fat. A couple of our dogs used to love eating acorns and they got fat, too. Apparently, dogs can eat and absorb acorns.

To be fair, some of the dogs I’ve owned can and will eat pretty much anything that doesn’t eat them first.

The easiest birds to identify are the woodpeckers. They have pointy beaks, are bigger than the other birds and they come in striking patterns. I’ve seen, but been unable to photograph a real redheaded woodpecker. He is always there until I get the camera point the right way, at which point he vanishes. I did see a new one today — and it was either a female Downy or Hairy OR a Red-Cockaded woodpecker.

I did get some pictures so you can take your best guess. They all very similar and all live in the same environment, namely — our woods.

With the appalling news on the environment and looking at all the things I need to do to fix my house, birds are the bright spot. Watching them flutter around and enjoy the seed makes me happy. I can’t do much to fix the world, but maybe I can make my little woods and its birds happy and healthy.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

31 thoughts on “THE WEEKLY SMILE: SO MANY BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. So much fun to feed birds, and you got some great shots of them! I used to love the sounds of our chickadees in Michigan, and in the winter the blue jays would call for me to come out and feed them! Now I live in Texas in an apartment with no personal outdoor space. I really miss having “my own” wildlife. As you know, it adds a lot of interest to the day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have not seen a blue jay or a Robin here in quite a while. We had robins, but one of our neighbors used some kind of poison and they all literally fell dead in their nests. It was horrible. I’m hoping they will come back soon.

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      1. That’s so sad about the robins! The blue jays like to eat from the ground, and I would shovel the snow off of a grassy area to spread out the sunflower seeds. If you can get one to come, its friends will follow:)

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        1. There’s now a lot of seed on the ground. I don’t know if we have blue jays around here. I’ve never seen one, not even in passing. But the Robins were my favorite and my stupid neighbor and his “weed killer” not only did them in, but killed their eggs, too.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I really love this post! 😀

    You seem to have a lot more birdlife (understandably) than we have around my place. They bring so much joy to me and i can see they are having the same effect on you too. Thanks for sharing them with all of us. 🙂

    As word ‘spreads’ about the spread at your place i’m sure you will see even more types as the seasons pass. 🙂

    (I’ve started to hear the cockatoos and corellas coming back now that the ‘warmer’ weather is supposed to be almost upon us. I hope to have pics to post as Christmas approaches.)

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  3. The birds around here all look pretty much the same… icky black starlings that love to swarm around in the Fall. There’s an occasional cardinal to break up the monotony. Of course, I’ve never made an effort to feed the birds… everyone else already does that. I get weird looks from the cashiers when I buy squirrel feed, but we sell a lot of it, so I know I’m not the only one. But it seems to be nowhere near as socially acceptable as birdfeeding, even though it can be just as rewarding and fun…

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  4. Rose keeps out feeding station stocked. Even in a blizzard I’ve seen her out there loading up the seed. We get mostly Sparrows of course, but a few others drop by. Some seasonally – like Grackles. Rarely a Woodpecker of some sort. Lately Pigeons have discovered us and they push everybody else out – until they are finished. It’s enjoyable watching them all.

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    1. My son refilled the feeder this morning and we had flocks of birds today. They know when the feeder is newly filled and they come from all over. Right now, they are surprisingly fat. But winter is coming and soon, we will be THE place for feeding. Going to be an expensive year for bird feeding!

      Liked by 1 person

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