Sunday, December 26, 2010

My special Christmas treat

I've been waiting years for this. I've wondered out loud many times, "What do I need to do to draw this bird in to my feeders?" I thought last week's appearance was a fluke not to be repeated. But early on Christmas morning, when the light was still weak, I heard an unmistakable sound. It barged right into the dream I was having and woke me up, encouraging me to peek out the window. Lo and behold, the Pileated had returned. I ran stealthily downstairs to grab the camera. It was a cloudy, gray morning, and I had to turn up settings on the camera to let in as much light as possible, which made for low-quality images, but identifiable images nonetheless, of a female Pileated Woodpecker... at MY feeders!

She's creeping around on the deck railing while I'm creeping around with my camera.

That's a lot of mass to hold up just by your feet!

One of the last images captured on Christmas Day. My Christmas Pileated!

What a treat! I finally got really good looks at her. And she skirted the property throughout the day. Is she here to stay?

Here's the diva as she appeared this morning, the day after Christmas.

I think I'm about to call her a regular. And I think I've figured out what has kept her kind away in the past: the dog. I haven't yet seen her on or around the feeders when the dog is out on the deck. Isn't it funny how such a huge bird, so much larger than most of the other birds who visit the feeders, could be afraid of a dog? She needs to take a lesson in bravery from the Carolina Wren who hops around right under the dog's box that's just outside the patio door - while the dog is in the box!

What's this?! Is there some homemade bird dough in here? Why yes, yes there is.

Is it me, or is she smiling? I was smiling too.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cold weather + snow = good birding!

This weekend was a great birding weekend right in my own back yard, and it made me jump for joy, as this Blue Jay looks like it's doing here.

The cold weather coupled with several inches of snow on the ground brought lots of feathered friends into the feeders. This weekend I counted 128 individual birds, and 18 different species. I was sure 128 must be a record, but it turns out I counted 129 individuals during a freak snow storm in March 2008 (luckily, all my FeederWatch data is stored from year to year). At any rate, I've never had numbers this high in December. Normally, I don't expect to see counts like this until January or February, when we're really into the heart of winter. At this rate, some records could be broken this FeederWatch season. I'm waiting to tip past the 18 species mark, and I think it could happen pretty easily.

The Blue Jays finally made their way back to the feeders for the first time this season. I was so glad to see them. I find them to be beautiful and intriguing. They can be aggressive at the feeders, both toward each other and toward other species, but this weekend they were mild mannered. I think everyone was too busy trying to consume as many calories as they could to worry about wasting them on scuffles.

It took them a little while to get used to the peanut feeder again, but soon the Jays made fast friends with the peanuts.

Oh, and they were big fans of the homemade suet dough I put out. I'll tell you all about that in my next post (the dough, that is)!

An uncommon guest in our yard this weekend was a large flock of Common Grackles. I heard them flying over while I was out this morning, and wondered how they could not be attracted to all the bird activity that was going on here. As it turns out, they were very interested in what was going on.

Two female Grackles, part of a flock of 30+.

I'm used to the typical song birds at my feeders, so having bigger birds like the Blue Jays and Grackles, in addition to a small flock of Eastern Towhees, a Pileated Woodpecker, and a Northern Flicker led me to call this the "Big Bird" weekend.

Other items of note about the weekend:
-A record number of 34 Mourning Doves were counted
-Lots of woodpeckers, with a record of 5 species total for the weekend, and 10 individuals
-Until this weekend, the last time we had a Pileated Woodpecker at the feeders was February 2006 (no photographs, though - sorry!)
-Song Sparrows showed up for the first time this season, and they have arrived at about the same time for the last few years

Like I said, lots of woodpeckers this weekend. Here, we have a female Downy on the left and a female Hairy on the right

Who knows what next weekend will bring? Just like this Blue Jay, I'll be keeping an eye out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This evening, after topping off the bird feeders and walking around with the dog, I looked skyward and saw perhaps the whitest moon I've ever seen.  It made me smile. Something that beautiful is meant to be shared.

Beech leaves back-lit by moon