Saturday, December 15, 2007

Winter Weather brings in the Birds

The snow has been falling most of the day and we have three to four inches on the ground. With the ground covered, the birds have taken advantage of the feeders and the seed I've thrown on the cleared-off deck rail. Juncos are at an all time high for my yard -- 35 best I could count, but I'm sure there are more waiting their turn at the seed in the trees and shrubs, or standing on alert in case the Coopers Hawk flies through. I saw him only once today.

I've also had lots of white-throated sparrows (9), house sparrows (~2 dozen), house finches, goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, too many starlings, and a pair of the long-lost Eurasian Tree Sparrows. Carolina Wren, Downy & Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, ....... I think that is about it so far. No partridge in the pear tree. Oh yeah, 2 mockingbirds and 2 blue jays.

The juncos and white-throated sparrows are predominantly ground feeders. They'll eat what falls below the feeders. On very rare occasions, today for example, the juncos will perch on the thistle feeder and eat. I was surprised to see the white-throats doing the same thing today. The red-bellied woodpecker resorted to sunflower seeds from the feeder. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Temps have stayed just under freezing all day. Tomorrow should bring a little sunshine ..... good for us suffering from SAD. No sun in over a week doesn't do much for the demeanor.

Still no "mythical" pine siskins.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Almost better than birds

My nephew, Jack, composed this video of his freshman year baseball team. I think he did a pretty good job. Nice photo selection and fade outs. First music set is good. Second, well, I'm not a teenager anymore.

Now, he may not be so thrilled that a bunch of pith helmet wearing birdwatchers sporting knee-high socks and binoculars around the neck are excited about it, but take a look. Jack is pictured at 42 seconds, or minus 1'37", depending on how it shows up. But isn't he so adorable! Doting Aunt. What a pain in the a** I am.

Oh yeah, still no Pine Siskins, despite the plethora of finches hanging out this weekend. They must not exist.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lunch Time Birdwatching

There are many benefits to working just four miles from home. The best has to be catching half an hour of birdwatching during the lunch hour. Even better now that it is pitch black when I leave the office at 5:00. Ugh. And it only gets worse through, what, December 21st? Yep, a mid-day birdwatching fix is what the lady needs to get through the cold and dark winter.

Today's clear skies and slightly warmer temps did improve things. I finally took a few pictures --- nothing noteworthy, but here are a few of the birds chowing down this afternoon:

Dark-eyed Junco; Mourning Dove & Common Grackle; American Goldfinch; White-throated Sparrow; House Finches dining with a Northern Cardinal.

Unfortunately, the bird show was cut short when they bolted en masse. Even the squirrels froze in their tracks for a couple of minutes. There must have been a hawk in the area, or at least flying overhead, but I never saw it.

Only this Northern Flicker stuck around a while longer not seeming to be all too concerned with the imminent danger.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pine Siskin, Smishkin

It's a hoax ........ All these birdwatchers all around me saying they are seeing the irruptive Pine Siskin. They don't exist, do they? I had a flock of House Finches hanging around the feeders today and thought for sure this would be my day, but not a chance.

Project Feederwatch counts for Cornell have been fairly good for the start of the season (three weeks of counts so far). Between visitors and holiday travel I haven't spent nearly as much time taking the counts as I have in past years. Only 12 different bird species the first week, but 15 each of the last two counts. Over the three week period, a cumulative 19 species have been observed.

Cooper's Hawk
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Favorites Return & Others

Fall is still in the offing since I still don't have the Dark-eyed Juncoes and White-throated Sparrows as regular visitors. A single male DEJU passed through briefly yesterday afternoon. He landed on the deck rail just a few feet away from me and then hit the road again. I haven't seen the WTSP's since last weekend.

I was happy to see some of the missing "usual suspects" show up this weekend. The Mockingbird (pictured first below) came in for a drink of water from the bird bath this morning. Yesterday, a male Red-bellied Woodpecker hung around for a while and finally left after finding a morsel of something from one of the trees. He had a nut, berry, or whatever in his beak when he finally flew off for the day. Also seen were the long absent Downy Woodpecker and Song Sparrow.

Another interesting visitor both yesterday and today was this female? juvenile? Northern Parula. This warbler breeds in Missouri and then heads south to Mexico and Honduras for the winter. They are usually out of here by the end of September, maybe early October, but this one has found my yard and enjoyed a sip of water and refreshing bath. I first saw the Northern Parula for the first time during the Spring migration. Hopefully this one will hit the road soon and remember my yard on the return trip.

I know I have complained to the point of exhaustion about the squirrels. But I had to laugh as this little fellow showed off his acrobatic abilities on the shepherd's hook and feeders. This is one determined squirrel.

And how he was able to cling on to the "Cling-A-Wing" feeder, I'll never know. The feeder will probably be destroyed in due time. Squirrel-proof feeder? I don't think it exists no matter how hard Duncraft pushes them. These are clever little devils that will figure out any challenge put in front of them!

Til the next time, hang in there!

ID HELP! Probably Impossible

I was going through all the bird pictures I've taken the last couple of months and ran across these that were taken in late August. Yikes, why did I ever let these go so long! Other than the date, I know very little about what was going on when I took them. In fact, the pictures were of such poor quality, I had to undertake a major photoshopping to pull out a recognizable image of a bird.

At first I thought Kinglet, but nope, that's not it. Eastern Phoebe came up as a possible suspect, but I also ran across the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Don't mind the colors in the pictures below because they probably are not true after all the manipulation. When I say the BGGN, I'm looking at the eye ring, length of the wings, and, most importantly, the tail feathers. The BGGN has a black tail, but from the underside a distinguishing characteristic is the white outer tail feathers that give the "underside of the tail a mostly white appearance when the tail is closed."

If you have any ideas, let me know!

Cornell's "All About Birds" has suggestions for similar species:

Similar Species

Cerulean Warbler with streaking on chest and sides, two wingbars, and shorter tail, lacks eyering and white outer tail feathers. NO STREAKING on my bird.

Kinglets with greenish, with wingbars and shorter tails. STOCKIER, MORE YELLOW (can't tell on my pictures, but seems to be more whitish on the belly & sides) & MORE PROMINENT EYE RING? compared to my bird.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher with mostly black undersides to tail feathers, duller overall. Breeding male with black cap. TAIL IS MOSTLY BLACK. DIFFERENT RANGE. compared to my bird.

California Gnatcatcher with darker underside and nearly all black tail. Breeding male with black cap. TAIL IS MOSTLY BLACK. DIFFERENT RANGE. compared to my bird.

Rare Black-capped Gnatcatcher female very similar, with longer bill and more tapered tail. Breeding male with extensive black cap. UNLIKELY - SW US. vs. Missouri.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hawks are Difficult!

Cooper's Hawk? Sharp-shinned Hawk? All the field guides say that these are pretty much identical except for two things: Size & Tail.

The Sharp-shinned is 10 to 14" in length with a squared-off tail. They eat birds and small mammals.

The Cooper's is 14 to 20" in length with a rounded tail. They eat birds and mammals. (No distinction as to what size mammal they chow down on, so maybe a squirrel is a possibility?)

I swore last Saturday that I was seeing a Cooper's Hawk because of its size and the fact that it seemed to be going after a squirrel. Then I saw it again on Sunday and took pictures. The tail made me think it was a Sharpy. Plus it paid no attention to the squirrels and the squirrels paid not an iota of attention to it. Maybe I had one one day and the other the next?

Anyway, pictures posted below of the one I saw Sunday. What I do know for sure is that the birds are pretty much spooked by the Hawk, whichever it may be. The seed bill will definitely be down this month. The last two days I've seen a couple of brave Cardinals and the perky little Chickadees that seem to have no fear whatsoever. And of course the Moron Doves that generally seem to be the food of choice for the hawks.

I really would like to have your vote: Sharp-shinned or Coopers, before I submit my observations to eBird.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Changing of the Guard

All across the country bird watchers are reporting the arrival of the winter birds while the summer breeding birds are making their way further south. In just the past two days Dark-eyed Juncos are being reported in Cashton, WI, Connellsville, PA, Medford, OR, Canton, NY, Hanover, MA, and here in St. Louis, MO.

Other returnees joining the year-round birds of St. Louis include the White-throated Sparrows, Brown Creeper, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. I am not looking forward to the dark days of winter, but at least the birds will be around to brighten them.

Late this morning a Cooper's Hawk flew in and landed on the open umbrella on my deck to survey the yard. The birds had wisely flown off, but he had his eye on the beastly squirrel sitting on the fence. He swooped down at him, but unfortunately left without lunch in his talons. Better luck next time. I'm pulling for you Coop!

These are pitiful pictures of the White-throated and Yellow-bellied. Poor lighting, but here they are just the same.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My New Hummingbird Feeder

You know that hummingbird feeders attract bees. Most of the feeders have a bee guard to keep them from entering the feeder, and the guards are most likely yellow. Did you know that bees are attracted to the color yellow? So why in the world do hummingbird feeder manufacturers put a yellow bee guard on the feeders? I've never understood it.

Last week I realized that my Hummingbird feeder, with a ?stainless steel? base was rusting and leaching into the sugar water. Even though the hummer season is close to over, I purchased a new feeder. So what did I buy? a BRIGHT YELLOW feeder!!

What in the world was I thinking? Well, I now have the ultimate bee magnet. I'm not fretting too much. The more bees I attract, the more pollination that occurs. But I am still bonking myself on the head for selecting this one in a senior (not too far off)/blonde (formerly) moment.

It does look lovely in the yard and will defintely complement the Columbines if they bloom in the Spring.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New Life Bird!

It was just at dusk and I saw this little one that looked a bit different land on the trunk of a tree not five feet from me so I quickly ran inside to grab my camera. Given the lack of light, my shutter speed was quite slow and I doubted I could get a clear shot of the bird, even with the ISO set at 500. But I was lucky that it was coming in for water and I got a good look ....... wow! juvenile white-breasted nuthatch (WBNU). It was smaller than the WBNUs I see on rare occasions so I just assumed it was a juvenile.

But when I downloaded the pictures (very blurry as I expected), it was different. It had a black eye-stripe that is lacking in the WBNU. Red-breasted Nuthatch??? No way, Cornell's Birds of North America Online says they are never in this area. But I looked at my St Louis field guide and yes, they do visit this area, although they are reported as being rare or easily overlooked, especially in September. I then checked the MO Birders List-Serve and sure enough there have been a couple of reports of the Red-Breasted Nuthatch this week.

Yee-Haw! New Life Bird. Thanks Rosie for confirmation that it is indeed a Red-breasted Nuthatch! Here's my blurry picture:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rose Mallow Update

That didn't take long. This is what it looked like Saturday evening, just a day later.

And this morning it was wide open in bloom, with more buds on the plant.

I am in awe of a Mother Nature that allows something this beautiful to be in my yard.

I haven't taken many bird pictures lately, but was able to capture this cute little Carolina Chickadee taking a sip from the bird bath.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Rose Mallow - Hibiscus lasiocarpos

I never thought that I would see flowers blooming in mid-September, but obviously I am green and without a clue. See this Rose Mallow ..... it has about seven buds including one that will be in full bloom within days. Hopefully before Mordechai arrives next week.

From the Kemper Center/Missouri Botanical Garden:
Rose mallow is a Missouri native plant which typically occurs in wet soils along ponds and sloughs, in ditches or in wet woods, sometimes forming large colonies. A vigorous, erect, often woody-based perennial that typically grows 4-6' tall (infrequently larger) and features showy, hollyhock-like, 5-petaled, white or rose flowers (4-6" diameter) with magenta-crimson eyes. Flowers are borne in the upper leaf axils. Each flower has a prominent and showy center staminal column. Perhaps the largest flower of the native Missouri wildflowers. Long, mid-summer to fall bloom period. Ovate, serrate leaves (to 6" long). Leaves, stems and fruit capsules are distinctively hairy (lasiocarpus from Greek meaning hairy-fruited).

Despite the destruction of the tree rats, I am blessed with a lot of plants that are doing well. Besides the Rose Mallow, current bloomers include the Wild Ageratum, Downy Skullcap, Rose Verbena, and Eastern Blazing Star. I also have a Stiff Goldenrod that will bloom in the very near future.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Family Weekend

My Dad's side of the family has a reunion every year the weekend after Labor Day. I had a great time visiting with siblings, parents, aunts, cousins, etc. And it's amazing to see all the youngsters as my cousin's kids have kids of their own. And yes, it's happening in my branch of the family too. I will be a great aunt in early 2008.

Thanks to K & D K for being great hosts and to the B K branch in general for putting together a great reunion.

Monday, September 3, 2007

In Bloom at Birdscapes & Flutter-By

Wild Ageratum

Purple Coneflower - I have a number of coneflowers which are supposed to be great for birds. Unfortunately the squirrels like them too and chew off all their leaves.

Rose Verbena

Eastern Blazing Star and Monarch

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Garden Photos - The Big Picture

It still looks very sparse, but as the plants naturalize and grow it will start to fill in, I hope. And there is still plenty of room for new plants, but that will wait until next Spring. You can click on the photos to get a larger view.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Flutter By - Red-Spotted Purple

At least that's what I think this is. My more-loverly-by-the-day garden is attracting butterflies. Gosh, so happy I did this. The rewards are fun. I bought a Butterfly field guide and this looks to be the Red-Spotted Purple, although I haven't examined this guide as closely as the 15 or so Bird field guides I have. My getting-older brain can only absorb so much, and I think I've had my quota for the year trying to learn about the native plants!

Sunday, August 26, 2007


The path is built, 130 plants are in the ground. I knew I could do this when I started, although I lost confidence early on. Here it is almost 6 months later. This weekend I did a major weed removal and mulched the entire area. I'm looking forward to next spring to see how all the plants have faired. AND BLOOMING! I want to see lots of flowers!! I'll post pictures later to show you how it is shaping up.

Had a couple of interesting sightings today. I believe I've seen a Hairy Woodpecker in the past but could never confirm. Today I had a definite sighting, with blurry picture, but a definite picture! New addition to the life list.

Later in the afternoon I was cleaning the bird bath, tilted it up to dump the old water and found this cute little frog/toad? hiding underneath. Don't know how it got there, or why. Maybe to get out of the heat? Anyway, it finally scurried off after a long time and I was able to complete the chore. First time I have ever seen an amphibian in the yard.

UPDATE: Tree Frog

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Record-breaking temp today: 104 degrees

I bought 19 more plants last weekend and have all but 5 in the ground. Planting may have to wait til the weekend when the temps drop to below 90, hopefully. Once they are in, there will be a total of 130! Some of them are either destroyed by tree rats, unless they are just dormant, but that will be it for this summer. Looking forward to the spring when things really start to bloom.

I actually broke out of my "Type A" behavior mode. I had no list of plants in hand when I went to the nursery and bought whatever looked good, as long as it was native. Of course as I plant, I do update the plan. But geez, give me a break. There are 130 plants and I'm not getting any younger. I can't be expected to remember every single one without some assistance.

Keep Cool!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Hot forecasted, and delivered as promised

YIKES has it been hot. 90's up to the 100+ degree level. And no relief in sight. It won't be below 92 during the day for the next 10 days. I gripe about this as if it is my own personal problem! I'm sure many of you are sweltering as well.

Too hot to take pictures, so here's my written account. Sprinkler on to keep my plants growing and/or sustaining. Squirrels still showing their destructive behavior. I keep the babies planted and mulched the best I can, and check on them twice a day. The tomatoes continue to be vandalized just as they ripen (GRRRR).

Bird life is definitely down. Other than the three (count them, 3!!! high number in my yard) hummingbirds that show up, activity is way down. A month ago, I had to fill the feeders three times a day. Now it's once every three days. Prevalent birds are house sparrows, house finches, robins, cardinals, hummers, mourning doves. Occassional visitors: chickadee, goldfinch, grackle, starling, carolina wren.

To all, keep cool!

Sunday, August 5, 2007


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91° 69°
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92° 67°

Birds Absent

We spent the weekend visiting friends in Columbus, OH. Before I left, I filled three feeders with BOSS, one with Thistle, and made sure the sugar water was fresh. Usually if I go away for 24-hours, the feeders would be emptied. Not a one this time. Saw lots of feathers on the ground, so I wonder if the Coopers Hawk was prowling around and disturbing them?

The male Robin did notice that I had returned and quickly flew down for a few raisins. A male RTHummer was buzzing around the sugar water (I have only seen females until just last week.) And a few House Finches and Cardinals came around for seed. Other than that, VERY quiet at the feeders.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Links to plant descriptions

My earlier post listed all of the plants I have planted to date. I just added links to the descriptions of these plants if you are interested. The links under "Common Name" are from the GrowNative website. Under the "Botanical Name" column are links to the Missouri Botanical Gardens database.

Both websites have provided a great deal of inspiration as I have gone forward with "Birdscapes."

List of plants in the ground to date

Common Name Botanical Name
Maidenhair Fern Adiantum pedatum
Lady Fern Athyrium filix-femina
Christmas Fern Polystichum acrostichoides
Goat's Beard Aruncus dioicus
Celandine Poppy Stylophorum diphyllum
Jacob's Ladder Polemonium reptans
Wild Hydrangea Hydrangea arborescens
Strawberry Bush Euonymus americanus
Wild Geranium Geranium maculatum
Solomon's Seal Polygonatum biflorum
Wild Sweet William Phlox divaricata
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Crested Iris Iris cristata
Columbine Aquilegia canadensis
Rose Turtlehead Chelone obliqua, v speciosa
Golden Seal Hydrastis canadensis
Great St. John's Wort Hypericum pyramidatum
Short-stemmed Iris Iris brevicaulis
Garden/Summer Phlox Phlox paniculata
Downy Skullcap Scutellaria incana
Wide-leaved Spiderwort Tradescantia subaspera
Pussytoes Antennaria parlinii
Lead Plant Amorpha canescens
Shrubby St. John's-wort Hypericum prolificum
Scarlet Elder Sambucus racemosa
Orange Coneflower Rudbeckia fulgida
Foxglove Beard-tongue Penstemon digitalis
Rose Verbena, reg color Glandularia canadensis
Purple Coneflower Echinacea purpurea
Robin's Plantain Erigeron pulchellus
False Solomon's Seal Maianthermum racemosum

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

August already???

I feel like I just got started, yet here we are well into summer. Happy to report that there are now 111 plants in the ground! And most of them are in the shady area. I have to start planting in the sunny area. There's still lots of work to do before Fall arrives. Definitely more plants, tend to the stray green stuff that constantly pops up, and raise areas of the stone path that have sunk.

This week a long lost bird returned with fledgling in tow. I haven't seen the Carolina Wren in months. S/he was a welcome sight.

And I also saw my first Brown-headed Cowbird fledgling of the season. As usual in my yard, it was with a Cardinal. It seems to be past the demanding stage that runs the Cardinal ragged. Surprised this is the first I've seen of it.