Posts Tagged ‘chickadees’

black-capped chickadee

black-capped chickadee

dark-eyed junco

dark-eyed junco

Steller's jay

Steller’s jay

varied thrush

varied thrush

It’s that time of year again: the Great Backyard Bird Count! I’ve been putting out extra goodies for the birds and faithfully counting–or trying to count–each feathered friend that drops by. It’s as much a challenge as ever to get an exact count of juncos that blend into the winter ground and chickadees that flit in and out, so that I can’t tell if the one at the feeder now is a new bird or the one I just counted. The big birds are easy–the jays, flickers, varied thrushes. But those little gray and brown guys–whew! And then there are the “missing in action”–the birds I know are around somewhere, but that won’t come by to be counted. The cute little bushtits haven’t dropped in yet. One downy woodpecker visited the suet feeder today, but the hairy woodpecker hasn’t been by. I only have robins because I took a walk and saw them down the street.

There’s still one more day left, so if you want to take part, throw out some birdseed and see who shows up. It really is great fun watching the birds interact as they gobble down the food–some of them are real characters. Give it a try! And here are some of the ones I saw today, filmed through the window, so please excuse the blurriness.

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snowy woodsThe first tiny flakes danced and twirled across the sky like dust blown by the East Wind. After awhile they began to settle into little drifts in sheltered areas where the wind couldn’t blow them about. By evening the wind died down, but the snow kept coming, covering the brown winter earth with a cool blanket.

snow on cedar













Morning light reflected off the whiteness, all fresh and new. I ventured out before work–glad that I work at home–to take pictures and enjoy the magic. It rarely lasts long around here. We threw out extra sunflower seeds for the birds (and nuts for the jays and squirrels), trying to find places where the seeds wouldn’t just sink into the soft snow. The flower boxes on our porch worked pretty well, once the little sparrow types noticed.junco in the flower box








ice-covered twigs

Then came the ice. Sleet, then freezing rain, coating everything within its reach. The fluffy snow gained a crunchy coating. Every twig and bud became encased in crystal. And again the birds gathered–the shrieking Steller’s jays, varied thrushes, flocks of juncos and sparrows of various types, energetic chickadees, and, of course, the squabbling starlings. Two Anna’s hummingbirds chased each other in and out of the porch area, battling for control of the hummingbird feeder. It was quite a show!ice-covered azalea buds


Life goes on in the snow and the ice. And I watch as the fire in the woodstove merrily crackles and pops, and water for tea heats up in the kitchen.  Beauty comes with the cold, but I’m still glad that I’m not a bird.

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Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge


Time is our most precious commodity. It slips away so quickly, whether we are busy working or playing. We want more of it, but few of us know how much we really have. And when we receive an unexpected abundance, we tend to waste it—at least I know I do.Dogwood







Yet there are days when time seems to stand still. I look at the blue sky and hear the robin singing in the dogwood tree, the chickadees chittering away near the bird feeder. I feel the gentle breeze on my face. I smell the sweet scent of the pinks that grew from starts given me by a former neighbor, now passed on to eternity.


PinksEternity seems only a thin veil away as I walk through the green woods or stand on a cliff, surveying the forest below, the mountains in the distance. I feel God’s breath on me as I drink in the beauty. And I wonder: if this is a fallen world, what must heaven be like? Heaven, when time will no longer matter.Trillium Lake

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Steller's jay  This past weekend was the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Whenever I could find the time, I stood by the window, looking out at the dogwood tree that holds a seed feeder, suet feeder, and bird bath. The GBBC asks participants to count the birds at their feeders–or in their backyards. Then you enter your count at their site, and it can be compared with thousands of others from around the world. The number to enter for each species is the greatest number you can see at one time. Sounds easy, right? Well, it is when it comes to the big birds–the jays, crows, woodpeckers, and those nasty starlings. The little birds are another story completely.Bushtit flock

First there are the chickadees. First, because they show up at the feeder before I can even get it hung up in the morning. However, chickadees are perpetual motion machines, never staying in one place for more than a few seconds. And we have two species of chickadees. Try to get an accurate count of those little guys as they whip in and out of the trees and feeders! The bushtits aren’t much easier, although they are awfully cute for plain, little gray birds.

BushtitThen there are the sparrows and related little birds. Juncos, finches, etc. All kind of brown, perhaps with some stripes. House sparrows, house finches, golden-crowned sparrows, white-crowned sparrows… A person could get dizzy trying to keep up. At least the towhees are easy to tell apart from the others. And the lone varied thrush that pecks quietly at the seeds on the ground.downy woodpecker and starling

And how about those birds that show up the day before the GBBC and then disappear, only to reappear the day after. The stinkers! And that single Eurasian collared dove that dropped in for the first time the day after. Why couldn’t it have come a day early? Is it really cheating if I add a couple of birds from the next day?? Then there’s that leucistic sparrow-type bird. If anyone can tell me what it is, please do. I am not quite certain.

leucistic sparrow-type birdTime to turn in my lists and add my tiny bit of data to the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is nice to be a part of such a great program–even if the birds don’t always cooperate.

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Action at the feeder

What an exciting day at the feeder! I didn’t have to work this morning, so I devoted extra time to the Great Backyard Bird Count—and it was definitely worth it. I saw 23 different species, including some I don’t see every day, such as the red-breasted sapsucker, white-crowned sparrow, and pine siskin. Most of the regulars showed up. No bushtits today, unfortunately—I was hoping to get a picture of them swarming the feeder. But lots of others, including a new bird for my life list: the Eurasian collared dove. A flock of about ten landed in a nearby tree and then began dropping, one by one, down to the ground under the feeder. I had to look them up in my bird book, but once I did, the identification was simple. I just wish I had my camera out then!

The birds seemed especially feisty today. (Was it something they ate??) Little birds flitted in and out of the feeders, regular as widgets on an assembly line: juncos, sparrows, finches, nuthatches, chickadees. As I tried to get an accurate count, they played musical chairs, and I could never be certain if the new individual I saw was really the same one I had just counted on the other side of the bush.

Starlings tried to dominate the suet feeder, but the flicker shouldered them out of the way. Two starlings got into a squabble, rolling around on the ground together, pecking at each other, until both took off to other places.

Scrub jay gathering nuts

Then came the jay wars. The jays had been getting along, but then I tossed a bunch of birdseed on the ground. The nuts in it seemed especially attractive to the jays. The scrub jay came in and jammed 2-3 nuts in its mouth, then flew off to eat them. It came back to find a Steller’s jay moving in on its lunch. The scrub jay chased the Steller’s jay, which tried to elude the attacker by flying into the middle of the dogwood tree. Every time it landed, the scrub jay went after it again. The two did loop-the-loops through the tree, until the Steller’s jay gave up and flew off. For a bit. As soon as the scrub jay crammed its mouth and took off to eat, the Steller’s jay returned, this time with reinforcements. The two Steller’s jays gobbled up nuts as fast as they could. No flying off to eat for them; much too inefficient. When the scrub jay returned for seconds, it was not pleased. It chased one Steller’s jay and then the other. The smart Steller’s just waited for the scrub jay to take off with its mouth full and returned yet again. Finally an uneasy peace settled in—perhaps the nuts were gone by then and there was nothing to fight over.

Fun times at the bird feeders! I can hardly wait for tomorrow.

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It’s that time of year again, time for the Great Backyard Bird Count. I love this bird count, because I can do it from the comfort of my home, just counting the birds that come to my feeders. Of course, if the weather is nice, I will also venture outside in search of birds that don’t usually visit my feeder–perhaps the pair of doves I sometimes hear cooing from nearby trees or the red-tailed hawk that circles overhead or the flock of robins that wanders the neighborhood this time of year.

I return to the window whenever I get a chance, keeping my checklist handy so I can record any new visitors. I replenish the feeders when they run low, so the birds keep coming. Then at the end of the day–or end of the weekend–I visit the Great Backyard Bird Count site and enter my data. Having fun and contributing to science: what a nice combination!

So, anyone else in?


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I love to watch the birds at the feeders outside my window. Each species has its own personality. The Steller’s jays sweep grandly in and dominate—until a flicker shows up and chases the jays from the feeder. The starlings come in noisy hordes, the bushtits in friendly little flocks.

The chickadees are especially friendly and easy-going. The chestnut-backed seem a bit friendlier than the black-capped, but neither is particularly shy. They can get a bit demanding when I don’t keep up with my feeding chores. But when the feeder is filled with good, black oil sunflowers, the chickadees flit about in the dogwood tree where the feeder hangs. One will zip in, grab a seed, and fly to a perch nearby to eat it. Then another swoops in. They patiently take turns, each picking up a single seed and eating it before coming back for more. Occasionally two or three will land on the feeder at the same time, but no one gets pushy.

The juncos aren’t quite so obliging. They don’t like to share the feeder, particularly with other species. They flap their wings at interlopers and seemed annoyed that others would want to move in while they are eating. Still they are models of courtesy compared to starlings. Starlings will share if they have to, but you can’t make them like it. They squawk and flap about on the suet feeder, greedily grabbing big mouthfuls of food.

However, for a true show of dominance, the squirrel is definitely tops. He’ll hang by his tail over the seed feeder, gobbling down as much as he can before he loses his grip on the branch above and has to drop off. Or curl his well-fed body around the suet feeder so no bird has a chance of sneaking in.

And meanwhile the polite little chickadees eat their seeds one at a time, cheerfully sharing and enjoying life, one moment at a time.

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Chickadees came to the feeder yesterday, only to find the suet all gone. One pecked at the metal bars of the feeder, trying to get what little specks might be left. The other sat on a nearby branch, cocking its head, with a sad look on its face. (Okay, the sad look was in my imagination. I don’t think chickadees are even capable of looking sad.) I took the hint and put another block of suet in the feeder. Soon the birds were happily pecking away.

Black-capped chickadee

Chickadees are energetic, friendly little birds. We get two kinds of chickadees around here: black-capped and chestnut backed. They pair up in the summer and travel in larger groups in the winter. They show little fear around me. Often one will perch in the dogwood tree where I hang the bird feeders, chirping at me as I dump in the sunflower seeds or replace the suet. As soon as I walk back toward the house, it will hop over onto the feeder, ready to eat.

Chestnut-backed chickadee

I love to watch the chickadees as they hang upside down or sideways on the feeder, or flit in to grab a sunflower seed before bouncing off to eat it—or perhaps hide it. I read that black-capped chickadees like to hide seeds, each individual seed in a different place, and can remember thousands of hiding places. I can only dream of such a memory!

 Chickadees—friendly little acrobats of the bird world. I welcome their company.

(Lower two photographs from http://www.allaboutbirds.org)

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