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 :)


Tabor said...[Reply]

Great photos and we have all of these in our backyard. We have been invaded by hundreds of blackbirds this week that are chasing away most of the birds from the feeders. They are also joined by red-wings. Chasing them away is pretty useless.

Lisa at Greenbow said...[Reply]

You have quite the plethora of feathered creatures at your feeders Kerri. It is fun to see them. We usually have a few pine siskins and Redbreasted nuthatches at our feeders during winter but not this year. Most people in the lower 48 have not had as many of their northern visitors this year. It is strange because you would think as rough as this winter has been they would have come south. You never know about Mother Nature.

Cameron said...[Reply]

Wonderful photos and information about each bird. I recognize all except for your hawk. We have red-tailed hawks (and they do catch the Mourning Doves on the ground).

We have a regular Cardinal pair (Cardinal Gibbons and Leeza Gibbons) who are very territorial, even after their own offspring have matured enough to try to join them at the feeders. They'll show their young the feeders, but once they are big, it's chase time.

Great post!

Sunita said...[Reply]

What a lot of birds you have, Kerri! I would've never thought that so many would stick around with all that cold weather and snow. You're right, the Cardinal does look amazing against the snowy background.

fourwindsphotojournal said...[Reply]

What wonderful photos, Kerri. I laughed at your woodpecker captures. You got them just right! I see your birds make up in color for the colors of the garden in the winter time.

Can't believe I just wrote in a fellow haiku blogger's comment box that I had been trying to capture the iridescent colors on a starling. The next blog I look at (yours) you had done perfectly.

Val said...[Reply]

Thoroughly entertaining and enlightening. Our birds in England have had a tough time this winter, and I started putting more food out. Lovely to share your birds, thanks!

kate smudges said...[Reply]

What an amazing collection of birds. I loved seeing the Blue Jays. They look so exotic to me. Your photographs are wonderful ~ the birds must appreciate all the wonderful seeds/corn/suet that you put out for them.

Needled Mom said...[Reply]

Kerri, your photos are absolutely amazing. I, too love the contrast of the bright red with the white snow, but those woodpeckers are too cute too. They do seem to have personalities.

It is a great hobby to sit and watch the different ones coming and going at the feeders. Thanks for sharing them with all of us.

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...[Reply]

What great pictures! I wouldn't mind all the snow if I had such a colorful variety of birds visiting. We've only been seeing the Pine Siskins in winter the last couple of years, they seem to come for the count, stay for a few weeks and then are gone. I used to see them all year.

miss m said...[Reply]

Hello Kerri, I visit often but lurk in silence. Your photos are always exquisite and this is no exception. Magnificent ! Thx for the fabulous post.

sweet bay said...[Reply]

Beautiful bird shots Kerri. My favorites are the one with the Downy and the Hairy together and the group Chickadee shots.

kylieps said...[Reply]

Beautiful photos Mum and a great plug for a great project. My land use class is quizzing me on the bird calls of most of the birds in this post on Tuesday! I'll bet you would do wonderfully on the quiz.

Beth said...[Reply]

Ohhhhhhhh, Kerri! My goodness! What stunning photographs of your birds. I especially was pleased to see the woodpeckers as I don't see them so often at my own feeders...I took the suet feeder down when the raccoon kept knocking it to the ground and stealing the whole suet cakes!!!

Kathleen said...[Reply]

What a wonderful post Kerri. You have such an assortment of birds and feeding equipment. All your different feeders and your suet hangers are just as interesting to me almost as the birds. Tells me I need to vary mine up a bit and maybe that will help with the varieties of bird visitors. I think you do a tremendous job of photographing the birds. I especially love the photos showing the Downey & Hairy woodpeckers in the same picture. I have a hard time telling them apart in my yard but seeing them together like that was very helpful. I usually only see one at a time tho ~ we don't have nearly as many as you do. I participated in the GBBC for the first time this year and really enjoyed it. (although you can't tell from my blog because I haven't posted about it yet!) I better get on that!
btw, thanks so much for your helpful hints on why my clivia didn't form a stalk. I did see your post with all the beautiful photos earlier this year. I hope next year, that happens for me too. The flowers are so pretty (even down in the foliage) I think they would be spectacular on a stalk! Have a great day!
Oh, forgot to say, Mr. Sharp-shinned Hawk has been stalking my feeders all winter and has been very successful here. ugh. I am with you on not wanting to see it.

Seeing Anew said...[Reply]

What beautiful lighting in your photos! What a relaxing way to spend a day -- watching birds come and go from your feeders. You've reminded me to go fill mine again and put another suet block out. The ground has been snow-covered since January I think.

Jan (Thanks For Today) said...[Reply]

Kerri, your post is very similar to one I posted, numerous birds and all. I just love them and watching them is so enjoyable. I'm also doing the project feederwatch. We are on the same wave-length with our very similar posts...and what fun it is, especially when we aren't seeing any colorful blooms outside, right? It will soon be spring and we'll get our share of color...but the birds always help fill the gap. Jan

em said...[Reply]

hi kerri, what beautiful shots! i love the way the birds look so round when they puff up in the winter. i think my favorite (cuteness factor) is the titmice. we still have many cardinals this year. so, how did the storm treat you? did you get much snow?

jo©o said...[Reply]

Hiya Kerri,
What an amazing worldwide project.
And how worthwhile to pool all that information.
Impressive to get that many clear pictures of those lively creatures. Don't know how you do it. I have yet to produce one image of a songbird. Suppose one does need some sort of zoom system.

It is the cardinal of course that attracts us Europeans most, as we don't have anything half as brilliant as that.
Although.. the Kingfisher goes halfway there.
Our goldfinches look different: same size as the Goldcrest.
Do you have those over there?
I like the conversations your birdies are having :-)

Isabelle said...[Reply]

I did enjoy that post. I'm hardly ever at home in the daylight, but the days are now getting shorter. Spring must be on the way, though it's taking its time...

Msrobin said...[Reply]

My goodness, there are so many different birds visiting your house! Has there been any sign of spring in your area yet? We still have too much snow to see anything. But it's March today, so I know it's coming!

Terri said...[Reply]

Aren't they beautiful? Lovely post this morning, Kerri

Naturegirl said...[Reply]

Kerri this was a delightful post to view! I felt as though I was sitting at your window observing the energy brought to your garden by these lovely feathered friends. I've never seen so many woodpeckers all in one place!!
LoVeD this post!
love and light aNNa

Annie in Austin said...[Reply]

Your photos are so wonderful they make me wonder when you plan to open Bird, Bed & Breakfast, Kerri?

Wouldn't it be fun to wake up to such a variety of birds outside the window! (and over the years we've read evidence that the breakfast part would be pretty cool, too)

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
March 2, 2010

Mountain Mama said...[Reply]

You got some wonderful pictures Kerri. Looking at them is almost like being there. Thanks for sharing.
I had to move my bird feeders to the back yard where they are protected by a six foot fence from the deer, A few weeks ago I watched a pretty doe stick her long tongue into the feeder and totally empty it of seed. Then she went for the second feeder and that's when I went out and chased her away.
The deer also empty the hummingbird feeders. I guess they have developed a sweet tooth.
I hope to get a new feeder built this spring. It's jst hard to find time when there is so much else to do.

Teresa said...[Reply]

This snow has really been pretty but I wish it would go away now. Your photos are so good. That one of the cardinal is gorgeous. The way he stands out with the great depth of field. Just a wonderful photograph! Hope spring finds us soon. ps. garden shoes online is doing a signs of spring give away of $200 so go to my blog or visit to enter. It's easy and fun. Hope to see your entry.

Roses and Lilacs said...[Reply]

Hi Kerri, feeding the birds is one of my favorite hobbies too. I haven't seen many of the Canadian birds overwintering here either. No red polls or siskins and not many tree sparrows either. I think Canada had less snow this winter than we did. Maybe we will see some migrating north this spring.

Babara said...[Reply]

Dear Kerri
you seem to be the perfect bird counter. For sure you are a very good photographer. Such a great traffic at your feeders. I know how thrilling it can be to watch birds. It's like watching a movie but the main protagonist are the various birds ;-) ! I like your new header. Here it looks quite similar. Our garden is covered with snow again and I could still continue to hibernate :-). But the first Spring harbingers are visible and this makes me believe that soon it's time for gardening.
Stay warm inside!

Alice said...[Reply]

This post is like a beautifully illustrated nature story for children.

Seriously, Kerri, you ought to think about writing it for the children at school. If it encourages just a few of them to take more notice and interest in birds, and nature in general, it would be well worth it.