MORE BRIGHT BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Let me start off by saying that this morning, Owen and I were treated to seeing a relatively rare Pileated Woodpecker. They are the largest of our living woodpeckers and while I knew we had one or more of them in our woods, I never saw them from close up. They would just fly by and stop far away, well beyond my camera’s ability to take a picture.

And this is exactly what he looked like. This is NOT my picture. My camera was in the other room and if I’d gone to get it, he’d have been gone by the time I got back. But at least two of us saw him!

This time, he landed on a tree right on the front of the house! I called Owen and said “Look, look! It’s that big woodpecker!” Big he was. The size of a medium-sized hawk with that unmistakable hammer-shaped scarlet head. The bird after whom Woody Woodpecker was designed.

Pileated-Woodpecker – Head shot (I didn’t take this picture, either).

It was inspiring, so I went and developed some more “artistic” pictures of birds. I don’t know why seeing that big red-headed bird was inspiring, but it was. They are becoming increasingly rare. There was an even bigger one — the Ivory Woodpecker, but they are believed to be extinct now.

These guys are disappearing too. They need deep woods in which to live and there’s precious little remaining. New England still has a lot of trees, but every day, they chop up another woods to built cheesy houses for which they are asking way too much money … and this is not a hot property area. Many of them take a long time to become occupied, but the woods is gone forever.

Pileated Woodpeckers don’t like people and cars and dogs. They like forest and I fear they will go extinct too.

Wings and a prayer? Goldfinch feeding up.

More wings and prayers – one Goldfinch in the air and a Nuthatch on the feeder.

I hope next time the big woodpecker comes by, I hope he stops to pose for me!

EVEN MORE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Do NOT complain about my birds. I am so thrilled to have my feeders up. When I ramble into my kitchen for morning coffee, there the rails and feeders are all aflutter.

Carolina Wren and a Rose-Breasted Titmouse.

What’s really a bit strange — I’m sure this has something to do with climate change — is we are getting different birds than last year. We have last year’s birds too, but many fewer Goldfinch who were the stars of last winter’s bird population.

Carolina Wren and the white bird I don’t recognize.

We have the same woodpeckers — Downy, Hairy, and Red-Bellied. But we have wrens this year. A flock of Carolina Wrens who normally only arrive in early spring has settled into the feeders.

Carolina Wren and Titmouse

You know you have Carolina Wrens because they have the loudest voice in the woods. Very small birds, but what a voicebox!

There are also Titmice, Chickadees, and Nuthatches (two types): White-Breasted and Red-Breasted.

Carolina Wren

As for the Carolina Wrens, they’ve been bouncing around the woods for several years, but they never came to the feeders. This year we have them and a couple of others I’m not sure I’ve properly identified. All of the small brown wrens look very much alike. Is that offensive to wrens? If so, I apologize. Same rusty brown color. With speckled and barred wings and striped faces.

Incoming but unknown

We also have a big gray bird that looks like the bird you get in a coloring book. He is Standard Bird A and I can’t for the life of me find it in either of my books. I’ve got two books now. The pocket-size (for people with really BIG pockets) Peterson guide and what I got used from Amazon (free overnight shipping) that cost me $3.50, weighs about 20-pounds and describes in intimate detail every known bird in North America. The final one is coming tomorrow or Monday — the Audubon pocket guide –another book for people with super big pockets.

Rose-Breasted Nuthatch

I’ve been trying to get the most recent books because not only have we many fewer birds than we had just a few years ago (down by almost %30!), but they have moved. Migratory birds aren’t migrating.

Rose-Breasted Nuthatch

A few of them are no considered “homeless.” They don’t have an area of North America that is their breeding ground. This does not bode well for a bird species. But at least they are still alive and maybe if we can slow this changing climate down, our feathered friends will settle down too.

Flying wren

I’ve seen a few Cardinals and for the first time, a bunch of Blue Jays. Still no Robins. I hope they come back. Also, no doves this year. There’s a big white and slightly orange bird of unknown vintage.

For someone who loves taking bird pictures, I’m really not very good at identifying them, so anyone who’d like to help, please, HELP.

MORE BIRDS – MR. AND MRS. CARDINAL WITH COWBIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I thought everyone was going to get tired of birds. Honestly, I thought I would get tired of the birds, but it turns out, I  find them beautiful and love having them around.

I yell at the squirrels, but I don’t mind them having a piece of the buffet. I would just prefer they not eat all of it every single day. I have switched to cheaper feed. I really couldn’t keep up the high-class buffet with such massive eating going on!

The trouble is, our squirrels are becoming less and less afraid of me. Now I have to make loud noises or they just sit there and stare back at me and I swear they are saying, “Oh yeah? And what’re you gonna do about it?”

Truthfully, not much. Make more noise? Wave the broom at them? Or, we could train them to be better trained members of our burgeoning household.

The brightest Cardinal in our garden

Mrs. Cardinal is flirting with me

Peek-a-boo!

Cowbird and Cardinal — sharing the feeder

One more Cardinal and Cowbird. The Cowbirds are not easily frightened. Only the big woodpecker -with that long beak who pecked him in the head — that got his attention

That is a beak and a half and that is also a rather large woodpecker

THE SPIKIEST MARCH WOODPECKERS YET – Marilyn Armstrong

More Spiky Birds in March – 03/15/19

They are redoing our bathroom today and we finally put the two Scotties in the crate and the flying Duke is on a lead. No dog is going anywhere we don’t want them to go.

I’m sure it will do them a world of good. Duke doesn’t mind all that much. He likes being glued to us anyhow. The crate is every dog’s favorite hangout, so that’s fine. Shortly, we’ll put them outside for a couple of hours. I just needed to let the workmen get their materials into the house before putting the pooches out.

So far, so good. Of course, the water is off so I sure hope no one has to do anything bathroom-related anytime soon!

I woke up and there was the Cardinal. I came into the dining room and he was gone — even before I got my hands on the camera. I just sighed. It’s a daily ritual.

I did take a lot of pictures the other day, mainly of our persistent woodpeckers. I keep changing my mind about which one this one is — Downy or Hairy. I think I see both and I was pretty sure this one was a Hairy, but I could be wrong.

Your guess is as good (maybe better!) than mine!

Hairy or Downy? I think he is big enough for a Hairy and that beak looks big enough, too. You think?

And remember it is not just spiky squares we are looking for, you can also be jagged, barbed, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and pointy.

MORE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

So even though I didn’t shoot any more pictures today, I shot so many yesterday I’m not running out anytime soon.

Chickadee

We are actually expecting our first serious snowstorm next weekend. Pretty much the right time of year, too.

A pair of yellow Warblers

Although we have had years when we had serious snow on the ground from before Thanksgiving, many years our first heavy snow is the end of January and beginning of February.

Junco enjoying table feeding. Juncos like feeding on flat surfaces. Mourning Doves, too.

A stone toad, a hungry Junco, and deck rail that badly needs a paint job

March is also a heavy snow month and we don’t really get much of a whiff of spring until May and even then, spring usually lasts an afternoon. The next day, it’s summer.

Flapping Warbler, contemplative Warbler, and a Junco

Hard to miss those markings

That wasn’t true last year, though. It stayed winter until it was absolutely summer. The spring flowers all bloomed in July.

When the big bird eats, the other birds wait. Not far away, mind you … but they wait.

Woodpecker

Despite the absence of snow so far, winter isn’t too far off the rails. Yet. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

SECOND SUNDAY’S BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

We filled the feeder yesterday and the birds scattered. I was pretty sure they’d be back today.

One flies off as the other gives it a push

Nuthatch and Warbler

Boyoboy, were they back. It was like a bird festival out there. Every bird in our woods was trying to knock every other bird off the feeder. They do play a feathery version of “king of the feeder.” However, when the woodpecker showed up, they gave a collective sigh and waited until he’d eaten his fill.

Junco with toad

The Woodpecker and the Nuthatch. You can see how much bigger the woodpecker is because the nuthatch isn’t small

I haven’t even processed half the pictures I shot so they will show up later in the week. We still haven’t had any snow, but I think before the month is out, we’re going to get hit by something. So far, all the storms have been south of here and gone out to sea, or in the north while we got rain.

Woodpecker takes the feeder

He likes to circle the feeder to make sure he gets a little of everything

So we shall see. I gave in and I ordered a bigger cover for the car. We need a garage, but lacking one, we need something more than just a windshield cover.

Yellow Warbler

A couple of Mourning Doves

It’ll take two of us to get this one on the car. It looked really easy in the online instructions, but I have a feeling it’s not as easy as it looks in their video. Meanwhile, our birds will be fed. That makes me feel better. I always felt bad for them when the weather got really bad.

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.