FEATHERS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Feathers

Since last November, the bird feeders on the deck have been supplying me with more than ample amounts of feathers. Usually, birds go with the features, though I do have some feathery things that are not birds.


I think the small Goldfinch in the gallery is a recent fledgling. I guess he’s learning “the ropes.” Don’t you love the patterns on their wings? So elegant!


One of our many cowbirds. I have seen as many as a dozen of them in the feeders, waiting on the rail, and in nearby trees. This is one of the boys. Although they are considered one of many blackbirds found all over the world, in the right light, they are almost deep blue or green and they have a matching beak.
Lady Brown-headed Cowbird showing off her dark tail.
Mrs. Brown-headed Cowbird

The weather has been awful since last February. Cold, constant rain. I’m sure the birds are getting depressed, too.

Chipping Sparrow
Another Chipping Sparrow. These are surprisingly friendly little garden birds.

I found a Chipping Sparrow sound asleep on one of the feeders this morning. I finally got worried that maybe he was not sleeping, but dead. However, when I opened the window, he woke up and flew away.

What a relief!

Our feeder has attracted much more attention than I imagined possible. I have learned a lot about the birds and so has Garry who previously showed little interest in birds. But having them so close — and finally being able to hear them sing — changed his mind.

Black-capped Chickadee – our Massachusetts official state bird

We seem to have become the home base for a crew of Brown-headed Cowbirds while the Goldfinches arrive in flocks. That’s normal for finches of all kinds.


Yo, bro, how’s it hanging?
Every Dove needs a bit of conversation and Frog looks so friendly.
The conversation — Dove and Frog — continues.
Thanks for the chat!

Birds are normally so well groomed, but this Dove had obviously just washed her hair. This was a very cute picture that I saw coming. I was just waiting for the dove to actually walk right up to the frog and have a little chat. I did not (for once!) wait in vain.


They have nearly taken over both feeders — except for the squirrels that, if allowed, will eat every seed we put out there. I don’t mind them eating, but there are a lot of them and they seem to be the smallest, cutest, fuzziest and most hungry critters in our woods. They eat nonstop and as soon as one departs, another one or more show up.

Two Tufted Titmouses – with one departing.

Squirrels and bird feeders are one of those things. I just would prefer they leave a little something for the birds!

Mrs. Cowbird and Mr. Chickadee, sharing a light snack

And so it goes. These are our most recent visitors, minus the Pileated Woodpecker who disappeared before I could press the shutter — and the Red-Bellied Woodpecker who like to eat on the opposite side of the feeder where I can’t see him, though I know he is there. What a flirt!

WEDNESDAY’S BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

We’ve got funeral in Boston today and Garry needs to speak. This was not only one of his colleagues but a friend to both of us. I will miss Tom Ellis. We will both miss him very much.

This also means that we have to be there early and probably won’t be back until late. And considering Boston traffic, it might be even later than I think. It’s one of the reasons we so rarely go into Boston … but this is one we cannot miss.

So enjoy the birds. They are beautiful and they remind us of peace.

A pair of doves
Two Tufted Titmouses
Two Tufted Titmouses
A pair of Chipping Sparrows
Looking down Dove
Two finches and a chickadee
One little Goldfinch
Titmouse in the air and Chickadee on the feeder
One more Goldfinch
Diving Chickadee
A couple of Cowbirds

ALL CREATURES – Marilyn Armstrong

Many creatures crossed our deck today. When I first peeked out my bathroom window at around 5 in the morning, there were three squirrels hanging onto the feeders. I went back to bed.

When I got up later, there were at least half a dozen Brown-Headed Cowbirds chowing down. I turned on the coffee and looked again. A big Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a small flock of House Finches and Goldfinches were chowing down. I went to take a picture and before I turned it on, they were gone. Vanished. Poof!

House Finches and I think the bird with the blue bill is a Bluebird
House Finches

I went back to the kitchen, cut open a couple of English muffins and popped them into the toaster. More Cowbirds, miscellaneous finches and a couple of Chickadees. I went and picked up my camera. Both feeders were empty.

Cowbirds

Back to the kitchen. Garry was setting up the coffee, so I cream cheesed the English muffins. When I turned around there were half a dozen House Finches and a big Red-Bellied Woodpecker. I went and picked up the camera. They did not all fly away.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The woodpecker played peek-a-boo with me, then abandoned ship and a squirrel took over his spot. It was the middle of the day when squirrels are not usually out and about, but this squirrel seriously needs to have a chat with an older, more mature squirrel and get a grip on the dangers of squirreldom.

And although the House Finches hung around a bit, mostly, they were out of focus, but then the Cowbirds came back … and they were in focus. Not that they are particularly interesting, but they are big and easy to shoot (with a camera).

SPRING HAS SPRUNG, THE GRASS HAS RIZ. I WONDER WHERE THE FLOWERS IS? – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: SPRING

The birdies are blooming in breeding colors and there are buds (but no leaves or flowers) on bushes and trees. What is up really?

Bugs are up. Ants are up. Birds are nesting and beginning to breed. The temperature is finally swinging around and while we will get some more cold days and night, we aren’t going to get a long month of deep freeze weather … or at least so we hope.

Back from the south, Carolina Wren

I’m waiting for a flower to appear outside. We have giant amounts of forsythia, but they don’t bloom much because they are at the edge of the woods and there’s very little sunlight there. A lot of our bushes bloom very late and some no longer bloom.

Nuthatch who never gets dizzy upside-down!
Our fearless deck squirrel
My personal favorite odd couple …

The winds of winter took down a lot of trees and I’m pretty sure our giant lilac tree has finally been squashed flat. It had taken several hits before, but I think this year, it’s a goner. I would like to be wrong. I guess I’ll know soon enough. At least by the middle of May, if not sooner.

Another odd couple — Carolina Wren and Goldfinch
Down the trees stalks the Nuthatch

Our Carolina Wrens are back and the Goldfinch have turned bright yellow and gold. Young squirrels have come up and hanging around for hours, picking up pieces of seeds that have fallen from the feeders.

Bright little birds!
Red and yellow, oh my! Better than flowers!

It is not quite springtime in the Valley as it is in other areas, but for this part of the world?

Maybe not flowers, but definitely colorful!

This is spring. Or kind of springlike. More or less springish. We are working on it.

I wonder where the flowers is?

HUNTERS AND HUNTED – Marilyn Armstrong

We live in the Blackstone Valley. During our 18 years here, more and more predatory animals have moved into the region.

A relaunch to the feeder from the rail

We used to have rabbits and chipmunks and other small mammals. I remember when the chipmunks used to line up and chatter at us.

Meanwhile, we have gotten bobcats and many more coyotes. Many hawks and eagles (American eagles, mostly, but also Cooper’s and Red-tailed hawks and many others … and Fishers … and bear tracks have been found all over the area and I don’t think they have been hibernating this winter, either.

Tufted Titmouse

I have not seen a rabbit or a chipmunk in years. We saw bobcat tracks after the recent snow, so we know they are in the area again … and the coyote never leave. The fisherS are part now a regular part of our wildlife. A few days ago, a Cooper’s Hawk glided past the deck and the feeders and the birds fled.

The squirrels hid under the metal table on the deck.

I think they feel safer on my deck than they do in the woods. Many of them show a lot of scarring from encounters with hawks.

Two Red House Finches

For several days, the feeders were empty. Today, they’ve started to come back, a few at a time. The Cardinal was back, some nuthatches and finches. They are easily frightened by the hunters.

Oh yeah? What are you gonna do about it?

We seem to have a massive number of hunters and a serious lack of prey.

I’m sure the increasing urbanization in other areas of New England is forcing wildlife towards this region which remains relatively rural and wooded … but there isn’t nearly enough food for all of them.

How did we get heavy with predators and light in prey? Usually, the small mammals outbreed the predators which maintains the balance, but that has not been happening.

Squabbling Juncos

And is there anything we can do to balance things?

I can’t think of any answers. This has happened mostly during the past 10 years, but with the upsurge of the coyote population and the roaming bobcats, it has gotten worse. With the weather warming up, the bears will become more lively, too.

It’s going to become very interesting around these parts!

THE NEWEST SQUIRREL – Marilyn Armstrong

Most of the squirrels who come to hang out on the flat feeder are bigger and fatter. They have scars, some of them relatively new and raw. This was quite a small squirrel. Not scars that I could see, not even a mismatched grown-in area of fur. Maybe still a young one.

Not yet a survivor. I wondered how he would do with all the dangers surrounding him. It was like watching your little one and hoping they will survive kindergarten … or freshman year … or … parenthood!

Young squirrel
We see each other!
Young and hungry

THE SAFETY OF HOME – Marilyn Armstrong

While I was starting dinner, I was watching out the window. Suddenly, a hawk with a white front swooped by the deck then winged off into the woods.

I followed him with my eyes. The camera was in the dining room and I didn’t hurry to get it. I knew I’d lose the hawk before I got the camera focused. Mostly, I wanted to get a good look at him before he disappeared.

I was curious why he swept so close to the house.

Hawks are hunters and don’t usually get so close to houses. It turned out, after minimal research, to be a Cooper’s Hawk. It wasn’t hard to find because among the white-breasted hawks, there are only two living here: American Eagles and Cooper’s Hawks. I’ve seen plenty of American Eagles. They are much bigger than this hawk, so Cooper’s Hawk it had to be.

And he was hunting for exactly what was on my deck: birds and squirrels. Those are a Cooper’s Hawks two favorite foods. The deck is his perfect hunting ground, his dinner buffet.

This is one of the things I feared when I set up the feeders. We have so many predators in the area and so little prey. How did we get so out of balance? Doesn’t it usually go the other way? Don’t deer usually overtake the area?

I remember when we had so many chipmunks they used to line up and chatter at us in groups. Now, we never see chipmunks. We use to see rabbits sitting on the lawn in the sun in summertime. I haven’t seen a rabbit in years and until we put up the feeders, I hadn’t seen any squirrels, either.

Mice I know about because they invade our house every autumn. We have an annual battle to keep them outside. It’s not personal. It’s just that they make an awful mess in the house.

We also used to see more deer, but I’m sure the coyotes have taken them down.

I wonder now if the reason the squirrels have taken refuge on the deck is that they think the house is some kind of protection for them from the hawks and the other predators. Is this house protection for the birds and squirrels?

By sending them back into the woods am I sending them to their deaths? That’s a terrible thought.

I feel like I should invite them all in for a warm dinner and a comfortable nap, but I’m pretty sure the dogs wouldn’t get along with them especially well. It could get pretty raucous.