Yard Birds and News

I have good news, bad news, and sad news.

The good news. On two occasions I’ve seen a pair of Downy Woodpeckers in the lilac trees in front of the house. New yard birds! The bad news, I haven’t yet been able to get a picture. No proof, and I’m not sure if they’re just passing through or new residents, but I’ll keep an eye out for them.

On a different day, I came home and noticed the song birds were quiet. Then I saw a medium-sized bird fly to a nearby Douglas-fir. The flight pattern caught my eye, it was unlike other “medium” birds’ flight patterns I typically see around the yard like crows, pigeons, etc. Luckily, I got a picture of this one.

Cooper's Hawk Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter on alert! No wonder the song birds were silent. I’m leaning toward Cooper’s Hawk on this one (based on the head size and eye position- feel free to correct).

Another common urban bird, but new to my yard was a pair of Eurasian Collared-doves. I got a picture of one before they flew away. As long as the coast is clear, I’m sure they’ll be back.

Eurasian-collared Dove

And we also have a Brown Creeper. I’ve heard it, but hadn’t gotten a visual until now. Pretty cool.

Brown Creeper

I commonly see gobs of Chestnut-backed and Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Bushtits, Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, Western Scrub-Jays, and of course, lovely Anna’s Hummingbirds.

Anna's Hummingbird

The yard continues to keep me happily entertained. I’ve added a second suet feeder and bird feeder to keep peace and hopefully attract a migrating bird or two.

In sadder news, I lost a sweet furry companion in my life, my 16-yr old cat, Benjamin. He lived a long, fulfilled life and his kidneys decided it was his time for him to go. Birds and cats do not mix. I bring up his death because dealing with grief highlights the things in my life that bring me joy. I’m focusing on the things that make me happy. A big part of that is birds and birding. It’s comforting to know they’re still there.

Benjamin

Birds will go on, that’s the good news.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey

If you build it, they will bathe

I’m pretty proud of this one.

I’ve been meaning to purchase a bird bath for the yard, but winced at the average $100 price tag. How am I supposed to save for new mega camera lenses if I spend so much on yard accessories? So I went the DIY route instead. Inspired by this idea, I picked up a few items from the local hardware store and got to work.

Ingredients: chain, carabiner, 5 key rings, and a glazed planter saucer.

Nuts and bolts

I had to purchase cutting pliers, so the total cost was around $25, but those with the items on-hand could get away with an even cheaper lot. I cut the chain, re-connected in the appropriate places with key rings, and attached the four chain ends to a carabiner and chain-ring around the tree limb. Simple.

Ta-dah!

Birdbath!

I couldn’t beilive it. Within the first hour a female Lesser Golfinch took the bait.

Female Lesser Goldfinch

Female Lesser Goldfinch

Success!

And then…shortly after, a female Red Crossbill!!! A new bird! Unbelievable.

Female Red Crossbill

Pretty stoked. At the same time, birds at the feeders:

Lesser Goldfinch

Anna's Hummingbird

I love sharing my world with these cool creatures. I worried though…about the new set-up leaving the birds vulnerable to neighborhood cats. A neighbor brought to my attention they’d witnessed cats stalking the trees and the last thing I want to do is to put the birds at risk. So, today I stopped by the Backyard Bird Shop with the intention of getting squirrel baffles to somehow deter the cats. But, the sales associate had a better idea…wrap the tree limbs with blackberry vines! Ultra genius.

Cat repellent

The Game of Thorns

Cat repellent

Cat repellent

It looks a little funky now, but the green will die off, and the brown will blend in with the bark. But the thorns will remain. I hope it’s effective. What do you think, Miss Humbird?

Anna's Hummingbird

Mega ultra tweets and chirps,

Audrey

Warblers and Flycatchers

Oh happy May migration!

In honor of the new birds in town, I took Audubon’s Warblers and Flycatchers class, taught by John Rakestraw, accomplished birder and blogger, instructor, and author of Birding Oregon. I learned that Oregon has 41 species of wood-warblers and 23 species of tyrant flycatchers, and Portland regularly has 11 of each visit during migration.

What makes a warbler a wood-warbler? Wood-warblers, or New World Warblers, are any species in the songbird family, Parulidae. They are usually cute, often colorful, and can cause “warbler’s neck,” a pain in the neck from trying to see them high in the tree-tops. I’m refining my birding stance by keeping my shoulders down. John Rakestraw’s post on warbler’s neck describes the proper way to gaze above at these beauties without injury.

Why are flycatchers “tyrants”? Tyrant is a family name that “reflects the aggressive nature of some species, which drive away much larger birds that venture too near their nests.” Business birds mean business.

We met on a Saturday morning for a field trip to Mt Tabor. We saw a variety of warblers, including: Townsend’s Warbler, Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, and even a Nashville Warbler.

A few pictures.

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

Black-throated Gray Warbler

My new favorite, the female Black-throated Gray Warbler which lacks the black throat, so, technically she is a white-throated Black-throated Gray Warbler

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler (gray hood, yellow throat, full white eye-ring)

We witnessed a couple of flycatchers perched high atop the Douglas-fir, but were unable to positively identify them. There are subtle differences between flycatchers and the best way to distinguish them is by their song. But these birds didn’t make it that easy.

Birding at Mt Tabor

Birding at Tabor

Here’s a sub-par picture of a flycatcher from a more recent trip to Mt. Tabor that was ID’ed as an Olive-sided Flycatcher, based on the bulky build and dark “vest.”

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

A couple of non-warbler-flycatchers we saw at Mt Tabor:

Band-tailed Pigeon

Band-tailed Pigeon

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

Hermit Thrush (cutie!)

A funny thing happened when I returned home from the birding trip. I heard the sound of a warbler I hadn’t seen during the day! The song consisted of a series of fast chatter-like notes, that drop downward in pitch toward the end. It was the song of a Wilson’s Warbler, I was sure of it! I stalked the shrubs in our yard for a good hour, intermittently hearing the song, but only catching a glimpse of movement.

I almost gave up, until I went to show my boyfriend the Raccoon I found curled up sleeping in the tall Douglas-fir along the property.

Sleeping ball of trouble

Sleeping ball of trouble

Immediately after, there it was! Blurry-rocket-smudge-bird!

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

Bird? Plane? Raccoon minion?

I stalked the trees another good half hour, then followed (okay ran) after it towards the back yard. Got it! Yellow warbler with a “bad toupée” – Wilson’s Warbler!

Wilson's Warbler

Wilson’s Warbler

Oh happy day.

Tweets and chirps,

Audrey