We recently had our first winter snow storm. I spent the day photographing birds at my feeders.
We recently had our first winter snow storm. I spent the day photographing birds at my feeders.
In between our fall trips I managed to get a few bird photos on the farm.
May started off with a bang. I started snowing on the evening of May 1st, continued all day on May 2nd and finally ended mid day on the 3rd of May. Well over a foot of heavy wet snow. It was difficult photographing birds because of the heavy snowfall and the wet snow hitting the windows but I managed to capture a few of the spring birds at the feeding stations.
I had a lot of White-throated Sparrows around during the storm. I’ve had a few of them around in the past but never this many.
The Northern Cardinals are still around although only a couple of pairs of them. Nothing like the dozen or so I had this winter. They really looked miserable during the storm.
The Dark-eyed Juncos were all gone after a week of 70 and 80 degree weather but a few of them returned after the storm.
The Song Sparrows have been around for several weeks and I suspect they will again be nesting in the bushes near the house. I think any thoughts of nesting have been delayed a bit because of the storm.
House Sparrows are rarely seen around the farm. I’m not sure why. I see them around town a lot but not on the farm. This one turned up during the storm.
There were a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches at the feeder during the storm but I was not able to get a photo of them together.
I’ve had good number of House Finches around the feeder in the past couple of weeks and they turned up during the storm.
The last time I saw the American Goldfinches they were molting. They were not around much during the warm weather but turned up, in small numbers, during the storm. It looks like molting has been completed.
I’m not sure what this bird is. It turned up at the feeder during the height of the storm but I haven’t figured out what it is.
There were a variety of other birds around but I wasn’t able to get any Photos.
A number of House Finches turned up at my feeders this past week. I was able to get a number of photos. One bird seemed to have House Finch eye disease. One of its eyes was swollen shut. It seemed to be getting along ok but I suspect its life expectancy is not going to be long. I’ve been watching to see if there are any other infected birds it there are I’ll need to take down my feeders and clean them.
When the Baltimore Orioles arrive in the spring I typically put out grape jelly for them. They love it! Last year I went through a gallon of it in just a couple of weeks. What I have discovered is that Baltimore Orioles aren’t the only ones that like grape jelly. This year I have photographed orioles, House Finches and Red-breasted Grosbeaks all eating grape jelly from my feeder. I even captured a photo of a female grosbeak feeding jelly to a fledgling.
During the last week of spring and the first few weeks of summer quite a few fledglings have shown up around the farm.
In terms of numbers and frequency of visits the Baltimore Orioles have been the most common. It’s hard to tell if it is just one family or several families. When the Orioles first arrived in the spring there were only a few and they only stayed around the feeder for just a couple of days. Now that the young have fledged they are at the feeder constantly. When they first started coming it was a stitch to watch them. The area around the feeder was loaded with humming birds and the fledglings were constantly ducking when a humming bird flew by.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks fledglings have also been common around the feeder. They are easily identifiable by the orange on their breast. I’ve see a couple of cases of the adults feeding the fledglings but haven’t been able to get a photo.
One day I looked out the window and saw this young Grey Catbird sitting in a bush right outside the window. It sat there for about a half an hour looking in the window. I took the screen off of the window so I could get a shot and it didn’t move. The adults were hovering in the background and were a little concerned that I was getting too close.
Every year we have some House Finches show up with their fledglings. For about a week the fledglings like to be fed by the parents. There is usually one that continues to try to be fed rather than going to the feeder.
This year, for the first time, I had a fledgling Song Sparrow at the feeder. This is a shot of the adult feeding the fledgling.
There has been a Fledgling Red-bellied woodpecker at the feeder. In this shot the adult and the fledgling were both at the feeder. I did get a shot of the adult feeding the fledgling but it was so dark that the photo didn’t turn out.
Several Downy Woodpeckers brought their fledglings to the suet feeder this summer.
Tree swallows are a rare sight at the feeder. Earlier in the week I had been out photographing the soon to be fledglings in the nest. A couple of days later this one landed near my bird feeders. It was wild eyed with all of the activity around the feeder. It seem terrified of the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flying around. I can relate because the hummingbirds do make quite the loud noise when flying.
I’ve had some Eastern Bluebirds feeding their fledgling on my deck railing but I haven’t been able to get a photo of them. I did get this shot of the fledgling sitting out in the flowers.
I don’t think I’ve given it much thought but the hot humid weather we’ve had this past week must take a terrible toll on wildlife. I’ve been photographing birds now for quite a few years and have never noticed birds panting before. I really feel sorry for the birds that are nesting in bird houses. Every time I walked by this Tree Swallow she had her head hanging out of the house and was panting. I started noticing that many of the other birds that I was photographing were also panting. With the hot humid weather we have been having the past week I’ve been getting lots of photos of birds panting to try and regulate their temperature.
It’s the time of year when I review the birds that I’ve photographed around my farm during the spring. I was a fairly boring spring following a rather boring winter with not many new observations. None the less there were some interesting happenings.
Probably the most interesting event was the return of the Easter Bluebirds. I was able to get my first shot of them on the first day of spring. What made this such a great year for bluebirds was the fact that I set up my turkey blind in the back yard and started photographing them when they started nest hunting and followed through while they built the nest and then defended it against Tree Swallows. Apparently Easter Bluebirds build several nests at the same time and then end up using only one of them. That appears to be what happened this year. After building the nest they didn’t seem to be using it so I opened the nesting box up and sure enough there was a great nest but it wasn’t being used. This is the third year in a row that this has happened.
The second most interesting event was my problem with a female Northern Cardinal. As spring arrived the female cardinal started attacking my basement window. I kept hearing a sound in the basement but couldn’t figure out what it was. After several trips to the basement I noticed the female cardinal banging against the window. Our cat occasionally sleeps in the basement and it must have been driving him nuts. It turned out that the basement window was just the start of things. It then started attacking a large picture window. I tried to put something in the window to discourage it but it then moved to another picture window above it so I took the window blocker down. A couple of weeks later I was awakened by a sound outside my bedroom window. When I looked she was banging against my bedroom window just after sunrise. After about a week of this I pulled the blinds and that put a stop to it. Attacking the windows went on for about six weeks. At one point I thought it had stopped and started to clean the windows but it started again after a few days. The male cardinal would just sit on a tree branch, with a confused look and watch her. When she finally did quit it was a big chore to clean the windows. Typical window cleaning didn’t work and I ended up using a scratch free scouring pad to get the gunk off.
Early in the spring when the American Robins return they sometimes don’t have worms to eat so they love eating Sumac Berries. I usually put them out for the Eastern Bluebird but the Robins also feed on them.
For a few weeks I had a Red Tailed Hawk that was perching in a tree in the back yard. He had a great view of my backyard prairie. I would see him perched on the same tree almost every day. I could usually tell when he was there because the Crows would soon be gathering to drive him away.
American Goldfinches are my most frequent visitor in terms of numbers. They congregate in large numbers throughout the year. They eat me out of house and home. They particularly love Black Sunflower seeds.
As I noted above I have Tree Swallows nesting around the farm. They usually battle the Eastern Bluebirds for nesting rights. This year the bluebirds won although as I indicated they ended up not using the nesting box. The Tree Swallows wanted the one about ten feet from the bluebirds but ended up taking another nest. The irony of it was that at the end of spring the Tree Swallows ended up setting up their second nest in this house.
Generally I have a few House Finches around my feeders. I mainly see them when they bring their fledglings to the feeder late in the spring. I can usually get a few shots of the adult feeding the young.
For quite a few years I’ve had Eastern Phoebes nesting above a light over the back door of the garage. Last year they abandon the nest. This year they started nesting in the corner of my house under the deck. The first batch fledged just after the first of June. We weren’t around and didn’t seem them fledge although I did see the whole family out in the woods about a week later. This shot is a little is a little unusual. I was photographing a phoebe while it was attempting to eat a worm. After thrashing around with it for a while it suddenly went down the hatch. I just happened to catch it.
I usually have Song Sparrows nesting in some bushes in front of the house. They are near my feeders so I occasionally get a shot of them. This year, for the first time, I managed to get a shot of an adult feeding one of the fledglings.
Early in the spring I had a number of Chipping Sparrows around. I thought they were also going to nest around the house but they seem to disappear later in the spring.
This year, for the first time that I can remember, I had a Pigeon appear on the farm. The neighbor has all kinds of them on his barn but they never show up at my house. I noticed him while I was mowing the lawn and after watching him for about fifteen minutes I decided to go in the house and get the camera since it was such an unusual sight.
I normally have Red-bellied Woodpeckers around the feeders all year around. They love suet but only the commercial stuff not the suet you purchase from the meat market. I have an old log that I drilled holes in and fill with suet that I use for a feeder. It makes a good prop for photography. This year for the first time a fledgling showed up with an adult. I tried to get a photo of the adult feeding the fledgling but it was too dark. After a while the fledgling started showing up on its own. I suspect the adults were busy with another batch of young.
I normally have a pair of Gray Catbirds nesting in front of the house. They are a beautiful bird. I could see that they had a nest but couldn’t find it but would see them bringing food to the young.
What a difference a year makes. Last year I had large numbers of Baltimore Orioles arrive in the spring. There were so many orioles around the area that the stores ran out of grape jelly. I would frequently have six or eight birds around the feeders at any one time. This year I saw a couple of them at the feeders and they were gone off to nest. I think this is my only photo of one.
More birds of spring photos can be found on my website.
This is going to be a shorter list than normal because we really didn’t have much of a winter this year. Things started off great in December when we had a nice 6 inch snowfall. All of the outdoor enthusiasts were excited hand started getting their skis and snowmobiles ready for action. The birds started showing up at the feeder and I was optimistic that it was going to be a good year. Unfortunately the weather turned warm and we were without snow for most of the winter. I like to photograph birds during snowstorms but what little snow we received came at mostly at night when it was impossible to photograph. The end of the winter was just as strange. With a little over three weeks to go the weather took a dramatic change. Temperatures hovered around 70 degrees and even reached into the 80’s. All of the Goldfinches disappeared and most of the other birds became scarce.
The most common bird this winter was the American Goldfinch. In fact, it has been a constant visitor for the last couple of years. I don’t know if they are just lazy or what but they were at the feeder regardless of the weather.
The Black-capped Chickadee showed up later than normal and there were fewer of them. It wasn’t until the middle of winter that they appeared at the feeder with any regularity. Often when the weather was nice they were nowhere to be found.
The Junco’s pattern was similar to the Chickadees. They showed up late and were mostly around when we would get some snow. I have a log that I’ve drilled some holes in so I could put suet it the holes. When I first fill it up the Junco’s seem to like to visit it and try and land on the vertical log.
Downy woodpeckers have been at the feeder most of the winter. They primarily like to feed on suet. If I have some peanut butter suet available they will usually head for that first. They are the only birds that have continued to be at the feeder throughout the entire winter.
Northern Cardinals frequent the feeder late in the day or on days when there is a snowstorm. In the past I’ve had a Coopers Hawk visit the feeder so the Northern Cardinals like to visit when the hawk is not likely to be around. It’s only been during snow storms that they visited in any numbers.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers visited the feeder occasionally during the winter months. They usually were feeding at my suet filled log.
House Finches visited the feeder on rare occasions. I was able to capture this male during a snowstorm but the female eluded my photo opportunities.
Late in the winter I had a number of Mourning Doves visit the feeder. Normally they are ground feeders and it’s difficult to get a photo of them. This one landed on a pine tree and sat there for quite a while.
RIP – As I mentioned I normally have a Coopers Hawk showing up at my feeder. He turned up early in the winter and then I didn’t see him again. One day I was shoveling off the back step and I found his body. Apparently in his eagerness to capture a bird he hit the sliding glass door.