BIRDS. A LOT OF BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I actually displayed a good deal of self-control. I avoided the camera and the birds almost all day, but I was up really early so by two in the afternoon, I needed to point a lens at the birds. I was sure I’d seen a robin. Of course I know it’s a month too early for robins, but there was a flash of red on what looked like a bird’s tummy … so …

It wasn’t a robin. It was a red finch. He came with his own lady finch today.

I thought there was a squirrel waiting in the woods but it turned out to be a big Mourning Dove. My eyes are not good on long distances, so I saw big, brown, squishy creature sitting on a tree limb. It had to be a squirrel.

The same mourning dove, again
Mourning Dove

It wasn’t. Mourning Dove. Big, soft, brown. On a tree limb. Far enough away that I couldn’t clearly see him, but I aimed the camera. It saw him. Or her. Is there a difference between the girls and the boys?

Chickadee in flight, Nuthatch on the feeder

I ordered some of the upgraded birdseed today. See if I can get some new faces around the feeder. Always the same few dozen chickadees, warblers, finches, and nuthatches.

It’s the same Red-bellied Woodpecker. Still eating

And three or four woodpeckers. And Juncos. We need some more action around here!

There really was something different on the feeder, but my battery went dead. It had been sending me little flashing orange reminders for a while, but I didn’t take the hint, so by the time I changed the battery, whatever had been there was gone.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Red-Bellied Nuthatch. It’s those splotchy brownish-red patches that are the “red belly” part of the bird.

I took some pictures. I couldn’t help myself.

BIRDS GETTING CUTER – Marilyn Armstrong

I looked out the back door and finally — a Cardinal! I’ve been waiting for him to show up. He used to be a regular in my hedge every winter and finally, there he was sitting on the railing.

Chickadees

He wasn’t fully convinced about the whole feeder arrangement and was eying it up. I was eying him up while quietly opening my camera.

It wouldn’t focus. No matter what I did.

Nuthatch on the rail

I finally realized I’d turned off the little clicker on the lens for AutoFocus. I wish they wouldn’t put little tiny buttons on the lens where you can accidentally move them and not even know you did it. After I got it set to focus, I also realized it was set to the wrong setting. I probably moved the ring when I put the camera away.

I put it back where it belonged … which is when I realized the flashing red symbol in my viewfinder was my camera letting me know the battery was about to die.

Cute little Titmouse

By the time I got the new battery inserted, the Cardinal had long since done whatever he was planning to do and flown away. I could have taken a picture of where he had previously been, but I didn’t.

Tufted Titmouse in cute mode

I did take a few pictures. Nothing unusual. In fact, you could say this was a lineup of “the usual suspects.”

Hungry little birdies

One of the better parts of taking so many bird pictures is that these days, I can wait until they do something cute. I know the birds will be back and if I don’t take pictures today, I will find something to shoot tomorrow.

Same Nuthatch, ready for a meal

And, as the weather gets colder, I figure we’ll have a few more suspects lining up. You think?

ARE WE THE ONLY BIRD FEEDERS IN TOWN? – Marilyn Armstrong

When Owen came by earlier to replace the flap on the doggy door, he said it was like Hitchcock’s “The Birds” all over again.”

Two warblers in a row

“You’ve got flocks of birds everywhere, did you know that? On your roof, in the trees, in the driveway. Dozens of them.”

Now three warblers …

“Look out back,” I said. There was a big Hairy Woodpecker surrounded by Warblers, Chickadees, a few Tufted Titmouses and the odd Junco. In the trees and along the railing, there were at least a dozen more birds, all waiting for their turn at the feeder. Up in the branches, more birds. A lot of them dive in, grab a seed, and fly off.

“I didn’t know,” said Owen, “That woodpeckers eat seeds. I thought they only ate insects.”

“In this weather,” I pointed out, “They will eat pretty much anything. Besides, there isn’t much insect life in the winter, so I expect they eat what they can when the bugs are dead. ”

Warblers and Woodpecker

It occurred to me for the first time that maybe no one else in the area has a feeder and we are the only free buffet in town. We certainly have a hoard of birds and a huge variety. At least three or four kinds of warblers and no, I still can’t tell one from the other. At least three kinds of woodpeckers, but the big guy doesn’t come to the feeder. The Pileated Woodpecker is, despite his size, quite a shy guy.

Chickadee and Woodpecker (a warbler half hidden by the feeder)

If we really are the only food bank in town, no wonder we have so many birds! The warblers come by the flock. The Juncos come in pairs. The woodpeckers are always solitary, but you can tell the boys from the girls by the red patch on the back of the head. In the course of the day, various kinds of birds take over the feeder. It’s a big feeder and you can fit quite a few birds on it at a time.

From top to bottom

I wonder who is going to fly out of the woods as the weather gets colder and snowier. So far, it has been cold, but whenever they promise snow, it warms up just enough. Instead, we have rain.

I’m good with that. Sometimes, we don’t any snow until the end of January or February. Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t get snow, only that we get a lot of snow very quickly!

SATURDAY BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I cannot help myself. There are birds, there is a camera, there are windows.

Incoming warbler and Hairy Woodpecker

And, I filled the feeder yesterday and I was curious to see if the birds sense that I had downgraded the mix from ultra super fancy to “value feeder.”

Painting of a Hairy Woodpecker
Hello, fans! I’m a warbler. Want to guess which warbler?

Answer? Not so you’d notice. I was actually at the window taking pictures of pocket watches and realized I was going to have to hold the watch and shoot with the other hand because the only spare surface near the window was now outside, my having dragged it there yesterday in my short but womanly attempt to get the bird feeder down to a level at which I could fill it.

Big bird, little birds
Delicious seeds!

I was so exhausted by the time I finished filling the feeder, I didn’t have the strength of character to drag the small table back inside. Also, it was raining, so it isn’t coming in until it dries off — whenever that might be.

The good side of a Hairy Woodpecker
A warbler and a woodpecker. Note the size difference!

And as I was putting away The Good Camera, I realized “Ooh, look, there’s a Hairy Woodpecker.” I’m pretty sure it is a Hairy Woodpecker because he seems to have a longer beak.

Looking up?
One Chickadee and two Warblers

If you weren’t clear on the size difference between the usual feeders at the unending trough, seeing the woodpeckers and warblers together on the feeder makes it really clear.

I got one with a warbler flying in for a quick nibble. Special!

Drawing – One Woodpecker

Until the woodpeckers stand next to each other, the best I can do it guess which is which. The only difference between a Hairy and a Downy is their overall size and beak length. A big Downy and a small Hairy look exactly the same. I’m not sure the difference isn’t some kind of internal birding joke.

I have decided the birds think our feeders are a trap. Because they up and fly off even just seeing me through the doors.

Three (the third is in the back) little birds

If they really think it’s a trap, they should eat less. They are definitely plump and perfect for stuffing. With a sprig of parsley.

I took pictures. It’s what I do.

BIRDS OF MY WEEK – Marilyn Armstrong

Nope, not part of a challenge. It’s merely that I have so many pictures of birds taken this week, I figure I ought to share them.

I have a new bird book. I broke my vow and ordered the long lens for my Olympus OMD — which cost more than the camera cost — but it’s the only game in town and I really need to use the camera that I can focus.

I don’t see a lot of squirrels in the feeder, but by the volume of disappearing food, I’m betting they get there, eat a lot, and disappear. Probably to take a long nap in a tall tree.

Can’t forget the squirrels!
Goldfinch waiting for his pals

In the course of this week, the various flocks of Goldfinch (Magnolia, American, et al) have totally taken over the feeder. They fly around it in flocks. Somehow, a few Tufted Titmouses, Chickadees, Nuthatches, and various woodpeckers drop by, but mostly … lots and lots of Goldfinch.

One mourning dove
A couple of birds. Face forward, please. I can’t tell what you are from your tail feathers!

Oh, and about the Juncos. I have a few that are so fat, I’m surprised they can still fly.

My favorite Chickadee
Cutest house finch

Today, the feeder was pretty close to empty. My son has other stuff going on and I didn’t want to bother him, so I figured “How long can it take to fill a bird feeder?” Owen does it in two minutes.

Four Goldfinches (one is mostly behind the feeder)
Still flying, they grab a seed and go for the trees!

But you see, he’s well over six feet tall and I am just barely hitting five feet. I couldn’t reach the feeder. I dragged out something to stand on, but it was too tall and I was afraid I’d ruin my future by falling off the deck head first, so finally, I turned it sideways and stood crookedly on its legs. Not very comfortable — or steady.

A Red-Bellied Woodpecker
A lonely Nuthatch

And it turns out that this bird feeder holds five pounds of food. Maybe more. It’s a lot of food. A lot more food than you think. Like … tubs of it. Maybe that’s why the Juncos are so fat? Also, some of the Goldfinch look pretty well-rounded too.

The gallant Tufted Titmouse

Eventually, they will all just sit on my deck waiting for the goodies. Unable to fly. Just sitting like little, feathered cupcakes.

I think even the squirrels are bloated.

Is it possible that I am over-feeding my wild creatures?

And finally, just so you don’t think I’m delusional, this is a picture of my Pileated Woodpecker. It’s blurry, but I think it’s definitely that big woodpecker. I’m hoping one day, he’ll drop by and hang around long enough for me to take a picture that has … you know … edges.

No matter what they say on television, you cannot take a tiny piece of a picture, blow it up, and get a nice clear image. It doesn’t work.

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.

ALL THOSE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

So while the guy was here trying to figure out what was wrong with our boiler, he said “You know, I saw a lot of birds flying around when I came. I hope you don’t have a bird’s nest in the duct.”

Two Chickadees sharing a feeder

“No,” I assured him. “It’s just that we have a bird feeder on the deck.” Actually, when we lived in Boston, we did have a birds’ nest in a duct and we had to have it removed. I didn’t like it, but if the duct is blocked and air can’t move through it, it can get pretty funky.

Fat little Chickadee

Our woods offers plenty of places for birds to nest. Depending on mood, there are trees, tall and not so tall and a fair number of hollow trees.

Especially right now because so many trees fell during recent storms. We clean the branches off the driveway and roof, but whatever falls in the woods is a welcome home for birds and critters.

Tufted Titmouse

This morning, right before I realized it was pretty cold and determined we had no heat, I saw a full red-headed woodpecker hanging on the feeder. I went to get the camera and of course, he left and didn’t come back. But I did get some nice pictures of Tufted-Titmouse and Chickadees.

One Titmouse and a Chickadee. They will share the feeder … but from opposite sides and they never touch.

NOTE: Is the plural of Tufted Titmouse, Tufted-Titmouses? I know it’s not mice because they are birds. Anyone know? Or is the singular also the plural? Volunteers?

One more Chickadee. We have many.

Garry washed the window inside today. Maybe tomorrow’s pictures will be less blurry. I can hope.