A Migratory Visitor

April 24, 2010

There was a lot of excitement in our house this afternoon. My husband was looking out the window at the feeder and suddenly jumped up, pointing at the feeder excitedly.  We have a visitor we haven’t seen before.  He scrambled to get the camera, as I began intensely looking at the bird to remember every detail  I could in case it left before we could ge a picture of it.  Then I grabbed the field guide.

Black Headed Grosbeak awaits his turn at the feeder.

Jim said he thought it was an oriole so I hurriedly went to the index in the back of the book. Though there are some similarities to the oriole, I wanted to look a little further.  I have learned over the past year of backyard birdwatching, which details help in identifying and distinguishing one bird from another. First and foremost is the overall color, then look at the finer details like wing and head markings, the shape and color of the beak and the length of the tail.

In looking further, then comparing the picture in the book with the pictures Jim took, and finally going to the internet to find a more detailed picture with which to compare, we concluded it must be a Black Headed Grosbeak. A migratory visitor stopping by for lunch on it’s way to Mexico and Central America.

We extend an excited welcome to all our winged friends passing through.

The April Cardinals

April 4, 2010

Cardinal at the backyard feeder

We now have a family of cardinals frequenting the feeder.  We have a new camera and thought we’d try it out. The male cardinal seen here is one of the most beautiful birds I’ve ever seen. The picture is a little blurry because we had to take it through the window. Cardinals, we’ve found out through experience, are very shy and easily scared off, unlike the doves who are quite used to us now and don’t go far when we refill the feeders.

New Kid On The Block

February 1, 2010

I noticed a new bird this morning. At first I thought it was a White Crowned Sparrow but the black on its chest threw me off. I looked it up and it is a black-throated sparrow.  The book says it is a year round-er here so I am hoping I can see more of it in the future. The book doesn’t say anything about it coming to feeders but I hope this bird will make an exception. I just love the little birds like the sparrows and the finches.  Actually, I love them all. They give me such solace as I watch them through the window.  They seem so unassuming and remind me of the poem by Wendell Barry called “The Peace of Wild Things”. They just take what comes, living in the moment and don’t seem to worry about the fact that their lives could be snatched away in a moment. For them, all there is is now. Would that I could live that way.

Addition And Subtraction

January 13, 2010

About three days ago, we saw four baby house finches joining the family at the feeders. They were so cute. They already have the red on their bodies like the parents do. We also had two fledgling cardinals here with their parents last week.  We haven’t seen them since so I am assuming they’ve moved on but the loxies are increasing in numbers. We normally only have one or two but yesterday I counted five.

I am puzzled about to the dwindling numbers of dove we are seeing. I don’t know if it’s their nesting season and they can’t get away to feed as often or if they migrate. I will have to look it up in my trusty bird book and online to find out. It also could be due to predators. This morning I was watching out my window and suddenly everyone scattered and all I could see was the underside of a hawk passing by the window. I hope he didn’t get the cute little white-crowned sparrow I had been watching. They are such small birds and with the road runner getting one already, I believe the one I was watching was the last of  four that originally came here.

Walk in beauty, write life with passion!

Meet The Family

December 27, 2009

We have over a hundred Mourning Doves, and anywhere from 20 to 30  Gambel Quail visiting our feeders every morning. I have never been able to count the house finches. When we first put our feeders up this past summer, the Doves, being one of the largest of the birds, would hog it all and the poor little Finches, Curve Billed Thrashers (I just call them Thrashers), Sparrows, and Quail werent’ getting any.  I started tossing seed on the  ground for the Dove and Quail which freed the feeder up for the rest. We ended up adding another two feeders in the backyard and left the other one in the front, because the Flickers and Gila Woodpeckers gobbled everything up so quickly.   We finally got smart and only fill the feeders about three times a week.  It’s easier on the pocket-book and healthier for the birds I think.  I don’t want them to forget completely how to forage for themselves.  I do throw a little bit of  seed out on the ground every morning and love to watch them come.  It’s always a feeding frenzy and amazing to watch them mill about and chase after each other, establishing pecking order. We have little chipmunks that step in for a visit every once in a while and a gray squirrel that forced us to move one of the feeders to a branch further away from the fence as he would get on top of the fence and reach out, tip over the feeder then help himself to a feast. Smart critters those squirrels.

We also have two or three Cardinals that stop by occasionally and a Cardinal look-alike called a Pyrrhuloxia ( I refer to them as loxies). When in doubt about whether the bird is a loxie or cardinal, the best way I make the distinction is by the mask. The Cardinals have a black mask over their eyes and the loxies have red in theirs. The adult Cardinals are unmistakably bright red but the juveniles are not.

Our winter guests are three little White Crowned Sparrows.  There are only three because one day as my sister was looking out the window, she saw a Road Runner under the feeder and it  had the fourth one in his mouth. We also have seen a chubby little Mountain Chickadee recently.  I read that they come down from higher elevations in the colder weather.  Oh, and I musn’t forget the Cactus Wrens. I have seen three or four around here but they are not daily visitors, or at least not that I know of. I am not at the window the entire day.

I am not a biologist or anything like that. I just love birds.  Everything I know so far, about the local birds in my backyard, comes from a book called: Birds of Arizona- Field Guide by Stan Tekiela.  I believe he writes guides for other states as well and I highly recommend his work. I can look up a bird by its primary color.  Tekiela provides great information about the bird, including a comment or two about birds that may look similar and what the differences are between them and the one you’re looking at.

We’ve had a visit from a Cooper Hawk twice, (once when he nabbed a dove and the other time he sat in the tree for about ten minutes) and, as I mentioned a Road Runner or two. The rabbits love to stop by and sometimes it looks like a counsel of animals convening out there as they all co-exist under and in the tree where the feeders are.  For a blog about that observation visit my other blog www.desertpoet.blogspot.com. (I may just cut and paste it into this blog sometime.)

Well, that’s the intro to most of the bird family in my backyard.  I am sure I will think of a few more later but can write about them in another posting.

Thank you for stopping by.

Until next time,

Walk in beauty, write life with passion!

Hello world!

December 23, 2009

Welcome to my new blog. I send greetings from the Southwestern U.S. We live at the edge of a national park and I love to watch the birds coming and going at the feeders we’ve hung in the tree outside. I found myself continually posting to my Facebook page about the antics and wonders of the bird world, so I finally decided to start a blog about what I observe outside. For example, one day, my husband and I were sitting at the table and watching outside when suddenly a gray object, fast as lightning darted in front of the window and the next thing we knew, one of doves that had been sitting on the fence was gone, nothing more now, than a meal for a very hungry Cooper Hawk. Though I am sad to see any of the birds die, I also know that it is the survival of the hawk, an important part of the desert food chain around here.

I grew up out in the country with lots of wild birds around. I think I got my love for them from my mother, who, even now, at the age of ninety-one, still goes outside everyday to feed “her” quail.  I feel so blessed to carry on her tradition, even though I am in another part of the country.  I look forward to delighting and astounding you with the world of nature in my own back yard, as I attempt to relay to you the beauty,grace, and drama of  the bird life I am priviledge to observe here.