Saturday, February 27, 2010

Counting Our Feathered Friends

We've been socked with a huge winter storm these past 2 days and consequently the birds have been very busy at the feeders. Snow always brings on a feeding frenzy.

In the middle of February, during Valentine's and Presidents Day weekend, I counted our feeder birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count, but I also count 2 days each week between November and April for Project Feederwatch. This is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (a nonprofit organization supported by friends and members) and Bird Studies Canada. Their mission is to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.
Watching the birds feeding on our porch and in the front yard is a never-ending source of interest and entertainment during our long, cold winters here in upstate New York, and they add touches of color to our black, gray and white world...something we northeastern gardeners crave while our gardens are buried under snow.  
They also give me something to photograph other than houseplants, cats and snowy scenery.

Woodpeckers are one of my favorites for their quirky antics. I swear they have a sense of humor.....or so it seems. Sometimes they like to creep up on the birds feeding on the trays. This Hairy male woody is sneaking up on the Mourning Doves.

Here's a Downy female woody (no red spot on the back of her head) creeping up to say hi to the Chickadees, Goldfinches and Tree Sparrows feeding on the tray. 


This Hairy male Woody is eyeing the suet hanging from the porch.

A little Downy male is taking his turn.
Sometimes they share.
Here you can really see the difference in size and beaks, but otherwise they look very much the same. Posted by Picasa

Here's a male and a female Downy sharing, but usually they're chasing each other.

That's a Hairy male up top with 2 Downys below. They often chase each other up the poles.

Here's a Downy in between 2 Hairys.
I've seen as many as 8 Woodpeckers vying for the suet at one time. Posted by Picasa

Other birds like the suet as well. Here's a chickadee sharing with a Downy female.

And now 2 chickadees! She's a good sharer.

There's plenty for everyone!

The cute little White-breasted Nuthatch likes suet as well.

He doesn't mind sharing either.

Bluejays also like suet. Posted by Picasa

And so do Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Mr. Starling waits his turn at the suet too. Actually, he's a bit of a pig and usually chases the others away. And then I chase him away.

Mourning Doves like the seed trays and also feed on the seeds that fall to the ground. The Bluejays and Doves love the corn that I put out. My hubby shoveled up several buckets of corn that ended up on the ground when the field corn was being harvested. The birds are grateful!

Here a Mourning Dove shares the tray with Tree Sparrows and a Goldfinch.

This Dove has the porch tray all to herself.

Mr. Downy says "May I please join you Mrs. Sparrow?" Posted by Picasa

Mr. Downy helps himself to the suet scraps I put on the tray when I refill the suet cages.
The Downy Woodys are especially calm and will often let me walk out onto the porch and approach them quite closely. We have some fine conversations :) Posted by Picasa

The Tree Sparrows are not easily startled so they're fairly easy to photograph.

That is, when they're still, which isn't often.
This little one is puffed up against the cold. Notice the spot on his chest and his rusty cap.

Juncos behave a lot like Tree Sparrows, I suppose because they're related. They both have a cute way of scratching at the seeds and snow.

There's always a few of the ever-present House Sparrows. Here's a male and a female...she's the one in front.

The Tree Sparrow is a rustier brown than the House Sparrows. Posted by Picasa

Mourning Doves love to roost in the big Maple tree above the feeders.

The little Tufted Titmouse is related to the Chickadees. He's hard to catch sitting still.

Mr. Hairy Woody spends a good deal of his time searching for insects in the Maple tree.

Bluejay is contemplating something and soaking up some sunshine. Posted by Picasa

Mr. Cardinal hasn't been staying long this winter. I wish he'd hang around a little longer because his beautiful bright color really pops out against the snow and is a real treat to see on these drab winter days.

Mrs. Cardinal is quite a beautiful sight as well. She and Mr. C eat and run most of the time and they startle easily so it's a real challenge to get many decent photos of them.

I got lucky and caught Mr. C on the porch this one morning.

The Goldfinches are everyday visitors and sometimes come in a big flock,

But other days there might be just a few. They like this cage feeder.

And the porch tray.

And the porch floor. They're not fussy where they eat!

The chickadees are the friendliest of all and will sometimes eat out of my hand, which is a real thrill.

Not the Titmouse though. He's too shy. Posted by Picasa

Everyone wants to avoid this fellow!
I caught this Sharp shinned (I think) Hawk sitting on the pole feeder tray about a month ago. He only stayed long enough for me to simultaneously snap this one photo and call my hubby to come quick to see him.
We know they're about when all the birds suddenly disappear or stop moving. The Woodys sit very still or draw themselves up tight against whatever they're clinging to. We sometimes see hawks sitting in the tall trees around the yard, and every so often I'll see one flying across the yard or making a swoop by the feeders. I've yet to see one catch a bird, which is fine by me. I know they do it out of my sight, and I'd like to keep it that way. Posted by Picasa

Last year we saw lots of Pine Siskins and a few Redpolls but we haven't seen them this winter at all. There must be plenty of food in their usual feeding grounds. We had what's known as an irruption of the Pine Siskins last winter, which is caused when lack of feed in their usual territory forces them to a different area, in this case, further south.
We're also not seeing the Purple Finches which we had in abundance last winter and all through the summer. Not even a House Finch! I miss their lovely rosy color.

It's still not too late to count birds for the rest of this season if you feel so inclined, or if you'd like to give FeederWatch as a gift to a friend or family member before March 3, the recipient will be registered for next year for FREE!
Because it's so late in the season, anyone signing up for Project FeederWatch (or receiving it as a gift) for the first time before March 3 will be registered for the rest of the current season, and will automatically be signed up for a free season of FeederWatch starting next fall! U.S. residents only; registrations received after March 3 will be signed-up for the 2010-2011 season only.

They like us to spread the word. The more counters, the more information they'll have about our feathered friends. And that's always good!

Take time to watch our feathered friends. It's one of winter's delights that can involve the whole family. And you know we have to feed our souls while we wait to get back to our gardens :)