Category Archives: Birds

Finch Hatchlings

While all of this lunar eclipse hullabaloo has been going on, Lucy‘s been sitting on the nest on the back porch and Ricky’s been feeding her.

In my research re: house finch husbandry I had seen that this was a sign that the egg hatching was imminent.

Then I started occasionally seeing Lucy gone, but Ricky at the nest. He was dipping his head down into the nest and something in there was moving.

A-HA!!

I haven’t gotten a decent picture of the chicks yet, mainly because getting this close will get me dive bombed by a couple of house finches that are trying to peck my eyes out. Since I like my eyes just as they are, i.e., unpecked, I’ll try to respect the privacy of the finches. Or at least not try again until I have some decent safety goggles.

It looks like all four eggs hatched. It’s tough to see heads popping up at feeding time, so I don’t know if all four still are viable.

Part of the problem is that Ricky and Lucy are extremely gun shy about letting me even look at them from inside the kitchen. Their nest location is directly across from the sliding glass door out onto the patio. If I get within five feet of the door, they’re outta there. So at feeding time, I’m actually standing on the far side of the kitchen, as much out of sight as possible, watching with binoculars and the big telephoto lens. But that angle (and shooting pictures through the glass) sort of sucks. I have seen at least two little heads popping up with maybe a third, but the four of them never have lined up for a proper family portrait.

How antisocial, especially considering that I’m not even charging them rent!

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Fine Feathered Friends – May 12th

Well, “feathered-ish” at least. Perhaps “potentailly feathered.”

We’re at about the time when I would be expecting Lucy & Ricky’s eggs to be hatching – but there are a lot of variables. We don’t know exactly when they were laid, the gestation period is 12 to 16 days, etc. But soon. Very soon.

One thing I would note is that I’ve seen Ricky hanging around the nest more than usual and twice it looked like he was feeding Lucy. The article I read on finch gestation said that for a few days just before hatching and the first week or so after hatching the female will sit on the next constantly wit the male feeding her. So, maybe it’s a sign?

Also this evening we got a huge racket going on out in the trees out back. (See yesterday for a picture of the trees.) The crows were sounding the alarm, and the red-shouldered hawk pair that live down in the canyon below us were up shrieking in our trees.

Seeing and hearing the two of them up close (maybe 20-25 feet away) didn’t suck.

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Fine Feathered Friends – May 10th

I was out looking at other things today when suddenly there was this flash above me in the tree. A visitor I’ve only seen twice before.

The yellow crow is back!

I could only see it for a few seconds, through the branches, so this was the best photo, but it’s a thrill to see it again!

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Lucy & Ricky Have Four Eggs

Last night I commented on how Lucy was sitting in her nest most of the time for the last few days and speculated that she might now have eggs in the nest.

She is. Four of them.

Gestation is 12 to 14 days, and she’s been on the nest for three or four days, so I’m guessing ten days until they hatch, give or take a day or two. Updates to follow.

What I don’t get is how those four eggs came out of that one tiny bird. There’s some space-time continuity issues that we’re dealing with here!

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Lucy Gives Me The StinkEye

It appears that Lucy and Ricky are happy with their nest building and have settled down to domestic life. Where last week they were flying in and out all day long, while Ricky would constantly be making quite the racket as proud papa house wrens will do, now Ricky comes by every now and then while Lucy is sitting on the nest almost 24/7.

I’m no certified bird dude, but I suspect that means there are eggs in the nest and she’s sitting on them.

From where this nest is, any activity out of or near the sliding glass door there will have her bailing and bitching about it. These pictures were taken after very slowly and carefully approaching the door at a time when I was hoping there would be enough glare off of it so she couldn’t easily see inside. She spooks easily.

Most of the time, even if she doesn’t fly off, she’s giving me the stink eye the whole time I’m there. I’ve tried to talk to her and promise that I’m (mostly) harmless, only interested in helping her and watching her nest, but she’s not buying it.

Two years ago we ended up with three fledglings out of five eggs. Last year and this year in the other three (at least) nests, the finches are building them where we can’t easily see into the nests. I’m sure that I can hear little chirps begging for food, but I don’t know how many. Maybe if Lucy goes off for a quick brunch with the girls I can take a quick peek for eggs while refilling the humming bird feeder.

We shall see!

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Fine Feathered Friends – April 21st

And another rare friend is back! Which makes me wonder if it’s coincidence or I’m just being more observant.

From the back especially, the size, coloration, and patterns on the wings make it look a LOT like a common house wren. We’re hip deep in those! (And they’re nesting and laying eggs and singing like crazy, so soon there will be even more of them!)

But from the neck up? Not a chance that’s a wren. Those zebra stripes really stand out, as does that yellow beak.

Again, I think I’ve seen one here only a handful of times and only gotten photos once, maybe twice. They must not have been great photos, since this is the first reference I can find on this site to them.

Yes! I’m looking at you! Have some more seed and come back to visit more often! Stick around! Stay a while!

Sounds like a plan!

Now, if we want evidence of divine intervention with these rare sightings, let’s keep an eye out tomorrow for the yellow-headed blackbird!

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Fine Feathered Friends – April 20th

Today saw the return of a rare visitor!

It’s the spotted towhee!

It’s rather distinctive, with the white breast, black head, sides that look like a robin, and the black and white spots on the back and wings.

I’ve seen it maybe four or five times in the last four years, and this is only the second time that I’ve ever seen it out on the lawn where I could get a lood look at it, and some decent pictures.

Normally it hides off in the bushes, or at most comes out along the base of the fence and rumages in the dirt beneath the bushes.

It was out sharing the bird seed with the mourning doves.

I hope it sticks around, it’s a beautiful bird!

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“Clicking” Hummingbird Calls

I’ve a couple of times tried to post audio tracks here of the “clicking” sounds that hummingbirds make. I’m going to try that again today because I think I’ve succeeded in getting some better tools and producing a better product to share.

For whatever reason, tonight the hummingbird “clicking” songs outside in the back were particularly loud and energetic. From inside the house, in the living room at the front of the house, it sounded like that ticking noise you get when the oven or furnace is heating up sometimes, but much faster. When I went back into the kitchen, I could then clearly hear from the open back door that it was the hummingbirds.

I tried recording the audio and video on my iPhone and was pleased with the result. I can clearly hear this high-pitched clicking, and can also hear the loud, lower-pitched “zoom” or “buzz” as they’re flitting around. Another good thing was that it wasn’t just Little Bastard, the very territorial male Anna’s Hummingbird that’s been driving all of the others off. There were four of them out there at once at the two feeders. I don’t know if something happened to Little Bastard and the others were moving back in (it was dark, I couldn’t see their coloration) or if maybe Little Bastard gave in to hormones and now has a harem with whom he’s sharing “his” feeders. Either way, there were a bunch of hummers and that could explain all of the “clicking.”

When I came in and listened to the audio, I could hear everything quite clearly. There’s a dog bark in there at one point early on and one of the house wrens sounding off because I’m standing near their nest (they’re up in the porch rafters over the spare refrigerator) but for the most part you can hear the clicking and the zooming quite clearly. I was very pleased.

Then I transferred the file to my desktop computer. And I was not pleased at all.

I’ve bitched about this at least a couple times in the past. When the iPhone compresses the video to transfer it off to another system, the algorithm used is VERY heavily weighted toward the bass end of the audio spectrum. So the result on the desktop was like I was standing next to a running car or A/C unit, with just a tiny little bit of the high-frequency clicks audibel far, far in the background. This sort of sucked!

***deep, calming breath time***

After a bit of reflection a little voice said to me:

  • I recorded this on what is essentially a handheld super computer, with a gazillion apps available
  • I have desktop systems that are top of the line, also with a gazillion programs available, including some pretty decent audio and video editing utilities. I may not have a lot of experience with them and I may not know exactly what I’m doing, but…
  • I’m a bright guy with a fair amount of at least decent, “advanced amateur” experience in editing and creating audio, video, images, and almost 50 years of computer and IT experience
  • So, in theory, shouldn’t I be able to rip the audio track off of the video on my iPhone, upload that audio file to my desktop, use one of my audio editing programs to re-adjust the equilization to lower the background hum of the bass that the iPhone wants to put in there and bring back out the high-frequency sounds from the hummingbirds?
  • The answer to that would be, “YES!” At least, I think it is.

Try this and tell me if you can hear what I’ve described:

It’s a 25 second clip, with the dog barking at 1.6 seconds and the house finch sounding off at 7.2 seconds. All throughout there’s constant “clicking,” with the “zoomy buzzing” at about 5 to 10 seconds, 12 seconds, and 24 seconds.

Can you hear it? I really hope so. Please et me know.

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Another Way To Piss Off Hummingbirds

First of all, with our extremely territorial male Anna’s Hummingbird, that bar isn’t set real high. He’ll chase off any other hummingbird that comes near the two feeders he can see, and he’ll almost always buzz my head if I go out and stand near one of them.

Today I was out in the back for over six hours, working on what I had hoped would be a half-hour job (don’t ask, I feel like I’ve been beaten with a stick) and during the course of that ordeal I ended up noticing that these flowers on the vines there (morning glories of some sort? I think I looked it up once, but I’m too damn tired to go find it right now) were in bloom, so I took pictures.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!

Right by my ear, then off to one of the feeders. “I wan’t threatening you, no, honest! I was just going to the feeder and didn’t notice you there!”

Yeah, right. Mark my words, one of these days I’m going to end up in the ER with a live, trapped, pissed off hummingbird in my ear and I’m going to have to explain it to some poor, beleaguered nurse who won’t believe a word I say.

(Okay, I went and looked it up. They’re Lavendar Trumpet Vine flowers.)

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What Does A Hummingbird Sound Like?

I don’t know about all of them, but the local male Anna’s Hummingbird sounds like this:

I tried to catch it once before, with minimal success, but tonight the little bastard (that’s actually what I call him, he’s VERY territorial and has chased off most of the other hummingbirds) was right outside the back door and going like crazy. I never did quite see him in the video – turns out he’s in those vines along the post on the left hand side.

I sort of hate what YouTube does to the audio, overly emphasizing the base and wiping out the higher frequencies where the hummingbird’s clicking away. But to me he sounds a bit like the mouse click on my old Logitech trackball, a really rapid staccato, like you were scrolling one page at a time, really fast, through a really long document.

But I might have just been sitting at the computer for way, way too many hours.

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