OUT MY BACK DOOR – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Out My Backdoor


I look out my backdoor a lot. It’s a small deck leading to a rather small lawned area that when we were younger and more socially active, was the scene of many summertime barbecues, the building of a tepee, and just handing out. The tepee is gone. The idea of feeding a hoard of people — assuming we knew enough people to create a hoard — is exhausting. Nonetheless, our deck is a big piece of the territory to which we pay most attention.

The birds and squirrels believe it belongs to them and resent our presence, so we tread gently when we are out there.

A winter Goldfinch at the finch feeder

Junco keeping company with our stone Toad

The three birdfeeders which have replaced the hanging fuchsia that used to grace the hooks have greatly changed the deck from a human place to a wildlife feeding station. I believe it’s far more socially useful feeding squirrels, the occasional chipmunk, and wild birds than it was as a place for morning coffee.

Cardinal on board

Times change. Since the arrival of mosquitoes carrying diseases previously unknown in this region, it’s hard to get really thrilled about being that close to where they breed.

One of our most frequent visitors, a Tufted Titmouse

Two feeders on a very cold morning

Even though the woods have been sprayed, the spraying reduces the mosquito population. It doesn’t remove it. I’m pretty sure it also killed a few hundred birds and other small critters too. Whenever humans decide to fix something, some creature pays the price.

Mist in a January woods

ANGRY BIRDS, WINTRY LIGHT – Marilyn Armstrong

Angry birds, wintry light

Hairy Woodpeckers are the larger of two similar-looking woodpeckers. They aren’t actually related, but somehow, the Downy has copied the feathering and coloration of the Hairy Woodpecker, probably because the Hairy has a notoriously bad temper. The Downy has an equally bad temper, but he’s much smaller. By copying the bigger bird, on a quick look, they look the same.

It’s hard to see the difference unless they are near enough to one another to see the size difference which, despite them often sharing the same piece of forest, they rarely do.

Angry bird 1

Angry bird 2

Angry bird 3

Angry bird 4

Angry bird 5

Angry bird 6

Today I got lucky and for a few seconds (I didn’t get a picture, but I almost got a picture)  they shared the opposite sides of the big feeder. Suddenly, it was easy to tell the difference. The Hairy is obviously bigger. Bigger body, longer beak. They only shared space for a few seconds, then the Downy decided it was time to move on. The Hairy hung around long enough for me to get some pictures and for once, I was sure I knew which bird I was photographing.

Is it me or does this look like one of the original angry birds? Hairy Woodpeckers have a notoriously bad temper. They are permanently in a bad mood. I think it’s because they spend their entire lives banging their head against hardwood trees.

BIRD OF THE WEEK – Marilyn Armstrong

With some time available, I took these pictures and spent hours messing with the software. I still don’t think I’ve quite got them exactly how I want them, but I think they are okay. These are two pictures of the same chip. I have more, but they are all similar, I haven’t done anything with the rest of them. Yet.

Taking off

Yet one more Tufted Titmouse.

COUNT THE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

The windows through which I shoot bird pictures had gotten dusty. Owen went out to clean them for me. All the birds around the deck and on the feeders flew up and into the trees. Owen said it sounded like something from “The Birds.” I wasn’t outside, but I was watching from the window in the kitchen. I watched this flock take off — maybe 100 birds  — many of them doves, took off.

Chipping Sparrow

When they settled down, I realized there were birds on pretty much every branch in the woods. I couldn’t tell you which birds were which — my eyes aren’t that good — but you could see their outlines against the fading sky.

A little downy woodpecker. He’s still a baby!

We have a lot of birds of every kind you might expect in this part of the world. We may be facing serious climactic change, but so far, at least we still have birds. So far, so good.

Birds in our bushes … er, feeders

The weather has been very up and down. Two days of extremely cold weather, followed by a few days in the mid-60s. That’s 17 or 18 C for those who aren’t good converters. I finally gave in and put the tick and flea collars back on all three of them. The bugs aren’t dying like they used to. The moment it warms up, the ticks and fleas appear like magic. It’s going to be a very buggy year.

Sharing

I didn’t take any picture or at least, any new ones. I still have a lot of pictures I’ve taken over the past week or two. And there was a lot of cooking getting done. And baking. There’s at least one more big meal coming out of that lamb — my joyful lamb curry.

Downy Woodpecker

I’m taking the rest of the season, such as it is, off. I’ve been looking for a good time to take a few days off and this seems a better time than most. So I’ll be back after the year turns. Let’s hope this one is better than the last few.

LITTLE BIRDS AND WELL-FED SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

The squirrels were glued to both feeders. The birds were flying around trying to figure out a way of getting a seed for themselves.

Three little birds sat on the rail below the feeders, periodically looking up to see if, by any chance, one of both squirrels had decided they’d had enough and left. If you look you can see the snow falling. It was the middle of an ice storm.

Meanwhile, overhead, there are some very well-fed squirrels.

No one starves in our yard!

And finally, the birds get a turn!

Note the incoming Goldfinch! Finally, food!

Hungry birds!

Cardinal feeding

FEATHERED FRIENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

UPS is very slow delivering this year, so all the birdseed I have left is black-oil Sunflower seeds. It’s healthier to mix them, but the other two bags of seed haven’t arrived. They are weeks late. Just one seed isn’t the best I can do, but at least it is food and they like it.

I think it’s two birds having a little tiff. Hard to tell but that’s my best guess.

Owen shortened up the feeders today. The wind has been pretty strong and the feeders were blowing around like mad. He was afraid they would just blow right off the hooks — which they have done before.

Goldfinch

Nuthatch

He’ll have to feed the birds until he puts the long hooks back because neither Garry nor I can reach the feeders at that height.

Goldfinch and a bird in flight Probably a Titmouse (going by feather color).

Cardinal in the snowy branches

These are interesting pictures with birds in flight and in one of them, at least two birds mixing it up in the air. I think they are Titmice, but it’s hard to tell just a swoosh of feathers.

Goldfinch and Chickadee

 

MORE SNOWY MORNING BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Staring me down

It didn’t snow last night, or at least I don’t think it did. I slept late this morning. The bed was warm and I was so comfortable. By the time I got up, it was really lunchtime. If any new snow had fallen, I couldn’t see it.

Pretty sure it’s a Carolina Wren, but it might be a chipping sparrow. I get the two of them confused. They probably get me confused with all OTHER humans.

My Lady Cardinal

Watching our Cardinal get fat makes me happy. They used to get so thin in the winter.

In the tree, watching me watching him

Pretty sure this one is a Hairy Woodpecker because he is much bigger than the Downy

I thought about taking more pictures, but I’ve got so many that still need processing, I thought I’d give myself a break.

Another Downy Woodpecker

We are growing some really huge Tufted Titmice!

A well-rounded Cardinal

Gray Junco

What’s over there?

THE JUNCOS ARE BACK – Marilyn Armstrong

You know it’s winter when the Juncos appear. This year, they showed up in force. Maybe a dozen of them, though it could be more since they do all look alike. I’ve seen a dozen of them on the deck at one time. They will eat from the feeder, but they will also walk around the deck and eat from the ground, too. They are also very amusing flyers. Like the Chickadees, they will just drop off the feeder and not open their wings until they are just an inch from the ground. I think they enjoy flying just because they have wings.

If I were a bird, I’d seriously consider being either a Chickadee or a Junco. They are the fun flyers of the group.

We’ve also seen a lot of the Cardinals — boys and girls — and various configurations of woodpeckers. The Cardinals will hang out on the feeders, but the moment I show up with the camera, they vanish. The blink of an eye and they are gone.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Junco

The woodpeckers are such a tease. They go to the opposite side of the feeder where I can’t get a picture. Sometimes I’ll see a piece of wing or the top of their heads, but usually not the whole bird. I got one really nice shot of one today with a Junco enjoying seed on a different part of the feeder.

Junco on feeder with seed

Another Junco

And this one, framed

FAT SQUIRRELS! – Marilyn Armstrong

We don’t have the fastest, leaping squirrels. They don’t do tricks. What they do is hang around and eat. A lot. I took some pictures. You tell me if this squirrel doesn’t have the fattest butt you’ve seen on a wild squirrel!

Impressionist squirrels. So they don’t all look exactly the same.

Looking around. Are there any more feeders? I could use another snack.

A well-rounded bottom

All he needs is a golf club and he’ll look like you-know-who but with MUCH better hair.

SQUIRREL ON A COLD, SNOWY DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Just as I feel the birds need feeding — because when the weather is like this, they starve and freeze pretty fast — I know squirrels need to feed too. I’m doing a pretty good job at letting the squirrels eat all morning and the birds eat in the afternoon.

Maybe they’ll get used to the routine and start to cope without human intervention?

Up to the rail having jumped from the tree

A quick taste?

A few more seeds

Yummy!

Dinner is better eaten upside down!

BIRDS AND THE FIRST SNOW WITH ONE SQUIRREL — Marilyn Armstrong

This is not the first major storm on the second day of December. There was a blizzard in Boston in December in the mid-1990s. The thing is, when we got significant early snow, it generally means that it’s going to be a rough winter. A snowy winter. Last year was, as we say around here, a piece of cake.

Not this year.

Oh how much I want to be wrong about this. And, you never know. We might have a month of fine weather after this. Even two months. It has happened. In terms of weather? If you live around here, EVERYTHING has happened and not just once.

The birds were really hungry today. There were flocks of them surrounding the feeders. I know the squirrels line up in the morning and I let them have the morning to feed, but by lunchtime, it’s time to let the rest of the wildlife have some food. If it were possible to actually reason with the feathery and furry crew, I’d explain that they could share. Squirrels on one feeder, birds on the other.

Sharing!

In fact, I have a picture — something you never see: a Chickadee and a squirrel together on one feeder. If a squirrel and a Chickadee can do it, why can’t our senators and congresspeople be equally reasonable?

GROWLING AT THE SQUIRRELS – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m sorry no one took pictures this morning before I decided that they’d already knocked off most of the seeds in two 4-1/2-pound feeders. No matter what they think, they are going to have to get at least some of their food somewhere else.

But it was funny. There were two squirrels clinging to each wired feeder and literally, a line of squirrels on the rail of the fence. There must have been at least ten squirrels on the deck and the feeders. There was also a tiny chipmunk on the deck and all the birds waiting in the nearby trees, waiting for me to do whatever I do so they could have a little bit of lunch.

I opened the top of the Dutch door and explained, in my best dulcet tones, that we had already discussed this business of endless eating. They dead-eyed me. I swear they did. They wouldn’t budge. I could hear their little squirrelly brains thinking: “She won’t do anything anyway. All she does is yell at us.” They kept eating while ignoring me.

I opened the screen door and starting growling. I’ve been practicing. Obviously talking to them hasn’t done the job. Growling works for the Duke. It worked pretty well for me except for that one big fat guy who would NOT leave feeder. Then, after dropping the few inches to the railing stared right back at me. For all I know he was growling too.

I finally went out onto the deck and chased him around until he finally gave up and leapt for the nearest tree. I went to get a cup of coffee while he and two of his best buds came back to the feeders. I wasn’t gone longer than a minute or two. Those guys are FAST.

I did some more running around the deck while growling — with a little background help from the Duke himself.

Oh, how much he’d like to join in the festivities. We never do anything really fun and he wanted to come outside and play too. My problem is I’m afraid he’ll try to jump the fence and that’s a long first step. The birds like to dive off the feeders, waiting until they are nearly on the ground before opening their wings, but I don’t think this would work out well for the Duke. It’s that whole “lack of wings” thing.


Actually, I wish someone had videoed me and the squirrels chasing around our 12-foot by 12-foot deck. It’s not a very big deck. It was like one of those 1920s cartoons with the mice and the farmer chasing each other around the kitchen table.

I was trying to figure out if there was a way I could put in a special squirrel feeding station and maybe they’d do their eating over there and let the birds eat … but then I realized they would eat everything in their feeder and when they were finished, they’d be back.

They aren’t going to leave. Ever. If there is food, they will be lining up, wearing their bibs. I hope they bring their own utensils. I wouldn’t want them to be stopped by not having the proper nutcracker!

BLUE BIRDS OF HAPPINESS – Marilyn Armstong

I kept wondering why I never saw a bluebird. Ever. Not here or in New York. And I know they live here. But this morning I got up and looked out my back windows and the deck was full of bluebirds!

A good sign for Thanksgiving, isn’t it? Here are some of them.

Two bluebirds

Bluebird and Chickadee

And the Chickadee is about to take off!

Bluebird on the fence rail

CHATTING AT THE FEEDER – Marilyn Armstrong

The one bird we are never short of around here are woodpeckers. We have at least five kinds. Only three of them come to the feeders: the little Downy Woodpecker, his big brother, the Hairy Woodpecker, and the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. The Red-Belly is the biggest of the bunch, but by physical size, the Blue Jay is a bigger bird.

I never realized what large birds Blue Jays are until I saw how big they are compared to the rest of our birds. Not, of course, counting the really big woodpecker who I see in the distance once in a while and the hawks and eagles.

Anyway, when the Blue Jay drops by for a meal, the other birds say “Yes sir, Mr. Jay,” and flutter off. Today, while big Mr. Jay was enjoying a little dinner, the Red-Belly decided to come by for a snack too. The Blue Jay is bigger, but other birds just don’t mess with the woodpeckers. Those birds have long beaks and hard heads and they are always in a grumpy mood. I think that’s from pounding their heads into oak trees all day long.

This is a series of pictures I got from the rather amusing event.

Blue is already there when the Red-Bellied Woodpecker arrives.

“Can we talk about this?” asks Mr. Jay.

“I don’t think so. How about you leave?” says Woody.

“This is MY feeder,” says Woody. “Take a flyer.”

“Okay, then. I’ll be flying a bit. See you around the woods,” says Jay.

The Red-Belly hung around for a while, it being dinner time. And when he was done, the Blue Jay came back and had his dinner too.  All was well but for some flurrying of feathers. As go the birds, so goes the world.