Category Archives: Birds

Fine Feathered Friends – January 26th

Comets and other celestial objects aside, we had another visitor this week.

It was breakfast time, the birds had been fed, and the entire yard was covered with mourning doves, black-eyed juncos, and house wrens. The hummingbirds were at their feeder. And over by the tree was…something new.

It was bigger by about 50% than the mourning doves, a bit smaller than the ravens and crows that are constantly up in the trees.

It started out pecking at the roots of the tree, and when it picked up its head and I saw that short, sharp beak, my first thought was that it was some sort of woodpecker.

The markings on the body were quite distinctive, the black crescent on its chest with the black & white spots across its body.

Not caught in any of the pictures, but when it fluttered its wings there were red markings on the underside of its wings.

It took the Cornell Merlin bird app about half a second to ID this one. It’s a Northern Flicker, the “red-shafted” variety which is found in the western United States. And yes, it is a member of the woodpecker family.

I’ve never seen one before, most certainly not here, but I hope that it liked the bugs it was finding in the tree roots and will hand around! A gorgeous bird!

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Perched Junco

I’ve seen a Junco sitting out on the Christmas decorations once or twice, but it’s skittish. I finally got a picture from the living room through a break in the drapes.

It was cold and wet, but I’m sure that sitting on the fake, illuminated candy cane filled it’s little heart with joy.

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Junco Jubilee

I had mentioned a month ago┬áthat the Juncos had returned, a flock of a dozen at least, maybe 16 to 18. It’s hard to tell, when seed gets thrown out they’re flitting and jumping and fluttering all over the place. And they’re tough to get a photo of, since at first sight of me, even from inside the dining room, they’re bugging out.

But today I saw a bunch of them out there, maybe 10 or 12, and I got up to the sliding glass door very slowly and quietly so as not to spook them.

They’re well camoflouged in the dead grass but I can spot at least seven of them here.

Welcome to December. May the cute, hoppy, jumping, flitting, fluttering birds be a source of happiness and joy to you today!

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Fine Feathered Friends – November 27th

If you’ve hung out here any length of time you’ve seen the house finches and black-eyed juncos and mockingbirds and mourning doves and all of the other birds that get fed in the back yard on a regular basis.

Friday morning when I went out into the front yard to start working on the Christmas light installation, I saw a whole flock of mourning doves waiting for breakfast to be served. It had a bit of an Alfred Hitchcock vibe to it.

Am I anthropomorphizing? No. As soon as the door to the back yard slid open, they all took off over the house to land and start eating, confirming my theory.

We’re just the local avian version of Waffle House!

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Return Of The Juncos

It was actually Saturday the 22nd, but I haven’t had a chance to get a picture of them yet. They’re small and zippy!

Even these pictures sort of suck since they’re just cell phone zoom photos shot from 15-20 feet away through a double sliding glass door. It’s the best I could do today – these little clowns spook easily.

As I’ve reported in the past, we have two who seem to live here year around. (“Uno Junco” and “Dos Junco” because creativity isn’t my strong suit?) The others all vanish overnight in the spring, then come back in late October.

I think there were between 15 and 18 out there tonight, but again, “small and zippy.” They’re in those bushes along the fence on either side, up in the trees, on the gutter, in the bushes beside the patio, munching on bird seed, flitting, flying, fighting…

I was never able to get more than six in a picture at one time (like this one) but there was a crowd of them. They’re cute little clown birds and it will be fun to watch them every day for the next few months!

 

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Fine Feathered Friends – October 22nd

My first clue was the song. I hadn’t heard it before and I couldn’t see any new birds around, but I could hear them (probably two, at least) flitting around in the trees off the back yard. The Cornell Lab Merlin Bird ID app (which is wonderful, highly recommended if this is your thing) now has a “Sound ID” feature which is fantastic. Whipping it out, it immediately ID the song as a Cassin’s Kingbird. A photo showed it to be bigger than the juncos and house finches, smaller (maybe) than a mockingbird, with a yellow breast.

An hour or so later, out in the front yard, I heard the song again and saw these guys.

Mockingbird-sized, yellow breasts, same odd song.

Bingo, a Cassin’s Kingbird. Actually, a pair. The yellow breast can be seen easily, despite the lousy, cloudy lighting.

Different body shape than the mockingbirds, smaller tail.

The beak is short and pointed, almost like a woodpecker’s.

And their song is quite distinct and interesting.

So, another new bird friend for the neighborhood. Hooray!!

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The Owl Returns

I mentioned a few days ago that I realized that I hadn’t heard the owls in a while.

Last night, at least one of them was back, loud and proud, right across the street.

I’ve taken out the 18 to 20 seconds of traffic noises, sirens, and low flying aircraft in between each hoot, turning about 120 seconds real time into 26 seconds of hooting.

I’m glad they’re back – I hope more follow. I love it when three or four of them get hooting across the canyons.

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Fine Feathered Friends – August 07th

Last Monday I heard the resident front yard mockingbirds making quite a racket. They make very good guards. A racket generally means something’s up, predator wise.

I recognized this guy immediately. I’ve seen him from a distance and knew he was in the neighborhood.

Usually it’s down in the canyon below the house, sitting on top of a power pole. I’m pretty sure its nest is in the top of a pine tree right next to the pole.

Its call is very distinctive (the first one here), and the Cornell Lap Merlin Bird ID app confirmed the pictures – it’s a Cooper’s Hawk.

The two mockingbirds were on the wire above it, sounding the alarm constantly, and occasionally swooping down to take a pass at the hawk, trying to frighten it off. I was amazed that it stuck around for over five minutes, giving me a chance to walk around and take some pictures.

When it finally did take off, the second it was in the air there was a flood of mockingbirds that scrambled out of nowhere to mob it. While there were two on the wire, when the hawk got in the air there were suddenly 20+, dive bombing it, taking shots at hitting it in the air. With very little effect that I could see.

What a beautiful bird! I hope I see it back up here at the top of the hill again soon, whether the mockingbirds like it or not!

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Scolded By My New Mockingbird Overlord

The birds come, the birds go.

Some of them are seasonal-ish. Take the juncos. Back in the spring I noted that all of them seemed to have vanished, except for one. “Solo Junco.” Then they were back last fall, a dozen or more. Now they’re gone again – except for Solo Junco. I like to think he’s the smart one who’s figured out that there’s food here 24/7/365 and he doesn’t need to fly to some other continent to spend the summer.

There were bluebirds in the spring, more this year than last, until the neighbors’ trees got pruned within an inch of their lives. I was out in the front yard this evening, being scolded by my new mockingbird overlord, when I realized that I hadn’t seen a single bluebird in June or July after that tree trimming.

This evening while out in the back after dark, listening to the mockingbirds (again), I realized that I hadn’t heard the owls in at least two or three months. There are times when I’ll hear them three or four nights a week, at least a pair, sometimes more, hooting through the canyons. I hope they’re back sometime soon. I love listening to them. And occasionally seeing them.

It’s all cyclic, I guess, although I’m not doing a good job of tracking the data to record the cycles. I do remember in the spring, about the time that the juncos left, also noting that I was seeing relatively few mockingbirds. We often had dozens of them, especially noticable when there was an owl or a hawk around. They do tend to sound the alarm and make a racket. But I had only seen one or two in months.

About a month ago they came back in force, and again we have dozens in the neighborhood. One pair in particular seems to be hanging about our house, with the male being noticeably aggressive in the last few days. They might be building a nest in the rain gutters over the front door, or he might be getting worms and bugs out of the leaf debris in those gutters. Either way, when he gets interrupted by me going in or out of the front door, his displeasure is vocal and energetic.

This is what led me to today’s scolding. He was on the gutter’s edge right over my head, then flew down by the garage, then to the top of the garage where he could assert his dominance. Well, in theory. I wasn’t backing down, instead choosing to open a dialogue with proposals about how we could share the space like two reasonable critters.

I’m not sure that we made much progress. There are some translation and communication issues, to be sure. Perhaps I’ll see if he’s interested in taking food offerings of some sort.

If that gutter is being claimed by him, we’re going to need to figure out something in the next three and a half months. Christmas light season is right around the corner. Sort of. Given my recent encounters with gravity, climbing ladders to put up lights will be extra “special.” The last thing I’ll need is getting dive bombed by a pissed off mockingbird, treating me like he treats a hawk or owl.

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I Found The Secret Base

Some comings and goings over Friday and Saturday evenings had me wondering. The good news is that I’m seeing an influx of hummingbirds.

In the past we’ve once seen a hummingbird nest out where I could see it. Normally they’re off in the hedges and since they’re very small, they’re very hard to find. But while looking at the bougainvellea over by that side of the house, I noticed a lot of hummingbird activity where there isn’t a feeder.

So this morning I went out to take a look, and there’s something in there in the vines behind this drain pipe. Could it be another hummingbird nest?

It’s really hard to see through the vine leaves, so I took another half step closer to get this picture…

…and in seconds I had at least two hummingbirds buzzing my head like a couple of F-18’s driving off a Russian destroyer that gets too close to their aircraft carrier.

Hmmm. I’m thinking that’s a confirmation that there’s a hummingbird next in their. Since I’m not willing to have an angry, energetic, viscious humminbird impaled in my ear like an errant lawn dart, we’re not going to do anything further to confirm that and just take it as a given.

Maybe I’ll put up another feeder over there as a peace offering.

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