Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bird feeder observations

Nothing profound today, just some musings on what I see at my bird feeder while I work on the porch.nice

Working at home and setting my own schedule definitely has some advantages, although it has some drawbacks as well. I draw energy and ideas from talking to people face-to-face, and get some of my best inspiration from random encounters while I'm out in the world.  Being able to wake up and open my laptop doesn't force me to get out and interact with people. But watching birds, butterflies, kids on bikes, and neighbors walk from the front porch is as well.

I have two bird feeders hanging from the gutters of my porch. This allows me to watch the birds while I'm working, and also keeps the squirrels at bay. (Although the squirrels have tried jumping from the railing of the porch and crawling across the screens to reach the feeders, they can't make the transition.)

One of the feeders is filled with sunflower seeds, which is usually touted as the standard "everyone loves it" option. The other is filled with a "woodpecker mix," which has lots of peanuts, corn, dried fruit, as well as shelled sunflower seeds and a few other bits and pieces. The woodpecker feeder is a course mesh so that the larger pieces can be extracted.

So which feeder and mix do the birds prefer? The woodpecker mix/peanuts. They are eating that stuff like nobody's business and more of less ignoring the sunflower seed feeder right next to it.

Here's what has visited my feeder this year:

  • Lots and lots of sparrows. 
  • House finches
  • Chickadees. I love these cute, friendly, social birds.
  • Nuthatches. I think I've had a pair nesting in the tree out front for a couple years now. What is great about nuthatches is the way they hang upside down while feeding. That's a nuthatch in the photo at top.
  • Cardinals.
  • Goldfinches, although I feel bad that I don't have their favorite thistle feeder up and full. 
  • Red wing blackbirds. This seems strange, as they usually are next to water. This is the first year I've had this bird visit my feeder, and he's come a few times. Maybe he's confused.
  • And yes, I also have had a couple of woodpeckers. I think they are downy woodpeckers, although I'm never sure, because hairy woodpeckers look very much like them.

Also visiting in the past were many grackles and starlings. They are bullies and eat too much. I'd rather they didn't visit the feeder, but I can't stop them.

I have lots of other birds in my yard that don't visit the feeders:

  • House wrens. This tiny bird nests in a horizontal pole in my backyard, and you wouldn't believe how loud and persistent he is in singing to find a mate. Unfortunately, he's singing at dawn and right outside my bedroom window. And I'm not a morning person, so his search for a mate feels like the middle of the night to me.
  • Robins. Of course.
  • Cat birds. They really do sound like a little kitten mewing.
  • Baltimore orioles. I think.
  • Cedar waxwings. They come through in big bunches and all hang out in the same tree, then move to another. They usually show up when a tree or bush is in fruit.
  • Crows. Another early morning noisemaker, but far less sweet and friendly as the wren. I have actually closed my window a few times when they get worked up over something. I think they are hanging out in the pine trees a few doors down.
  • And some sort of hawk lives across the street. It's not a red-tail, but either a Cooper's or sharp-shinned hawk, which are found in forests, instead of fields, like a red-tail. These hawks can make sharp 90 degree turns and fly in dense woods. They've picked off a few birds from my neighbors' feeders across the street.

I'm sure I've forgotten a few birds, and don't know what else is calling in the trees and brush in my back yard. I didn't even try to figure out what comes through during migration. I have lots of different habitat in my tiny urban yard. Open grass, vegetable garden, fruiting trees and shrubs (mulberries, wild grapes, rasberries, and currants), perennial beds that seed, and a whole lot of trees and shrubs that I don't trim in the back. Lots of places to hide, nest, feed, and hang out.

If you would like to look up any birds, or figure out what call you are hearing in the morning, I suggest a great web page by the Cornell Lab or Ornithology.  It's got as much information as you could possibly want, plus sound files of the various calls, songs, an other noises birds make.