Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Cardinals' New Address

I don't know why the one nest was abandoned, but I was able to locate a new Cardinal nest: just south of the garage along the east property line. More specifically, in the overgrown shrub I was about to take a "machete" to this weekend. As I was cleaning up in other areas, I kept hearing this chirp chirp, and seeing a female Cardinal hanging out close by. I suppose that trimming project will have to wait until the babies fledge.

I did see my first Cardinal fledgling this morning. There must be two nests in close proximity. It's not unusual to see two females or two males, duking it out for territory. This youngster must be from the "other" nest. Lighting was terrible today and baby was up in the Redbud obscured by the leaves, so the picture isn't very good. (It couldn't possibly be operator error, could it?)

One of the male Cardinals (the one residing in the overgrown shrub, I believe) has taken lessons from the Robins. One day I was tossing out raisins for Mr. Robin when Mr. Cardinal swooped down and snatched a raisin before the Robin could get it. Ever since, the Cardinal is keeping an eye out for me and my canister of raisins.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Spring Birds

I keep a record of all the birds I see in the backyard as often as possible. This Spring I recorded sightings 44 days and ended up with 40 different species in the backyard. Included were 6 birds added to my life list!

For ease of calculating and picture posting, Spring in my world is March, April & May. I may change that to April, May, June as I go forward since summer doesn't start until late June. I am sure you don't care. Superfluous rambling. (Is that a redundancy?)

I won't post any pictures here. If you want to see some, I'll make you work for it! Pictures of most of the 40 can be found at my SmugMug Backyard Birds photo site. If you don't want to take the time to look through all of them (trust me, it doesn't hurt my feelings), click on the hyperlinks below for specific birds.

Backyard Birds - Spring 2007 (March, April, May)

Species How Often
Species How Often
American Robin 100.0%
Cedar Waxwing 15.9%
House Finch 100.0%
Rock Pigeon 15.9%
House Sparrow 100.0%
Gray Catbird 13.6%
Northern Cardinal 100.0%
Eurasian Tree Sparrow 11.4%
Common Grackle 97.7%
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 11.4%
European Starling 97.7%
Red-bellied Woodpecker 9.1%
Mourning Dove 97.7%
American Crow 6.8%
American Goldfinch 86.4%
American Redstart 6.8% *
White-throated Sparrow 79.5%
Brown Creeper 4.5%
Carolina Chickadee 63.6%
Carolina Wren 4.5%
Song Sparrow 54.5%
Chipping Sparrow 4.5%
Brown-headed Cowbird 50.0%
American Kestrel 2.3%
Dark-eyed Junco 40.9%
Blue-headed Vireo 2.3% *
White-crowned Sparrow 36.4%
Northern Flicker 2.3%
Downy Woodpecker 27.3%
Northern Parula 2.3% *
Blue Jay 25.0%
Red-winged Blackbird 2.3%
Brown Thrasher 25.0%
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet 2.3% *
Northern Mockingbird 25.0%
Swainson's Thrush 2.3% *
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 25.0%
Swamp Sparrow 2.3% *
Tufted Titmouse 18.2%
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 2.3%

* Life Bird

The percentage is based on 44 days of record keeping. A "How Often" percentage of 2.3% is equivalent to 1 day.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Back in Town

Ed & I were in our Nation's Capital last week visiting his son Philip & fiance Alysha (lovely couple in green to the right), as well as Ed's brother David & family in Olney, Maryland. Wonderful trip, although NO BIRDING!!! How in the world did that not happen? Bummer :(

While we were gone, the Robin eggs have hatched! I keep seeing two little beaks rising from the nest begging for food. The Cardinal nest, however, is a different story. I have a feeling that the parents abandoned the nest while I was away. Absolutely no activity. The Cardinals are still around, so hopefully they will be able to build a new nest and start all over again.

Landscaping Update: Whatever. No progress since we were out of town, although I have identified a number of plants that will do well in the yard that I MUST have! Strawberry Bush is a definite. Loves a shady location and provides food for the birds late in the year.

Ed & his Maryland nieces & nephews.

Other pictures from the trip can be found at my SmugMug photo website.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Latest on "The Birds"

The backyard has the sound quality of Hitchcock's "The Birds." The starlings have fledged and it appears there is a bumper crop of 'em. From sunrise to sunset they are constantly screeching. This little fellow is just as big as Mom or Dad, but still demands to be fed. It's more irritating than fingernails on a chalk board.

I've lamented lately that no woodpeckers have been around. This goes back to winter time when they are usually abundant. Downy, Red-bellied, Northern Flickers are common species. They tend to flock around the suet feeders, yet the "darling" starlings, aka Hitchcock birds, overtook the suet feeders last winter and seem to have run off all the woodpeckers. Last weekend, I was thrilled to see a male Downy show up a couple of days and a female Red-bellied on Sunday. The Downy was in a fight with the Robin nesting in the tree so I never got a good picture, but the Red-Belly stuck around for five seconds and allowed a half way (quarter way?) decent shot.

Even though they are not "our" Robins (the ones nesting ten feet from the back door), there was a pair of fledgling Robins on the deck rail when I came home tonight. Amazing that a sense of trust must be built into their nature. This little fellow was contemplating the bird bath, saw that I was around, yet never considered me a danger. I doubt that I could have come within 10 feet of him, but as long as I didn't make any sudden movements, he just carried on.

And from the sound of it "OUR" Robins might have hatched today!! The Cardinal nest in the shrub (that really needs to be trimmed, but won't be until the cardinals fledge) is still being attended to. Hopefully, no fledglings until we return from DC. I would hate to miss that event!

I think that the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have finally fled north for breeding. I was surprised they hung around this long, but wish them the best and hope they return for a few days next Spring.

Plant Selection

Although I implied I haven't done anything the past week, I really have. I'm ready to plant, but an important step of the process has yet to be completed. I don't know what will be planted!!! I have a binder full of potential species that need to be culled through after considering basic requirements, sun and moisture the most important. Another very important consideration is their ability to attract birds, as well as butterflies. And last but not least, the plants must be native to this area.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has a wonderful website that addresses all of these factors with a great interactive plant selection tool. Once I found the Grow Native website, my obsession with native plants took root. Benefits of using native plants in your landscaping:
Native plants conserve soil and water, provide the backbone for non-polluting landscapes because they don't need fertilizers or pesticides, support a diversity of wildlife through improved habitat, reduce long-term maintenance after plantings are established, contribute to fewer losses because natives are winter hardy and drought tolerant and are less prone to destructive insects and diseases.

Gee, seems like less work for me. Why wouldn't I Grow Native!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Landscaping Update

OK, here's an update. Thanks to my BiL Stephen for spurring me on!

I haven't done anything. End of story. Talk to you later.

That's really how I recall the past week. I suppose I have done stuff, but nothing monumental. The vegetable garden has been planted. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in our little vegetable garden. Come July, yum yum!

Butchered (trimmed) shrubs in the front yard.

Our first gas grill went out on us a year ago and has been sitting around since. I finally tore it down and put it on the curb for pick up. You would think that all the grease would make it easy to take it apart. But no, there was still enough rust to cause resistance. Good thing the crowbar was around.

When we had the kitchen remodelled, the HEAVY door between the kitchen & garage was replaced. Although the contractor was supposed to remove the old door, it has sat around for the past year. I finally realized that "NO SHOW ACHEPOHL" would never live up to his commitment so I took a saw to the door, placed the pieces on the curb, and hope that they will be picked up.

As to the landcape plan, I've been tilling away one section at a time.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


My mystery bird has been identified as the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Thanks to the MO-Birders and other friends for their help. There are so many little birds, I just never made it to that section when trying to figure this one out.

I've also had suggestions about the bluebird -- consider the Indigo Bunting. That is a very real possibility. I only hope the beautiful bluebird returns and allows me a positive ID.

I didn't have much time for birding today, but did capture the White-crowned Sparrow singing this morning.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks continue to grace my yard. There were three males and one female out and about during the day. They seem to be more "accustomed" to my presence. Although the male wasn't smack dab on top of the fountain, he was drinking from the fountain from an inconspicuous place not more than 15 feet away. The female was feeding on the ground in plain view.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Catbird de-lurks

Got him to come out of hiding. The Gray Catbird is a very secretive bird, but I lured him out with a blood orange. He came down four times tonight to consume this delectable treat.

American Redstart & Others to be Identified

Another lifer today! This American Redstart flitted through my backyard off and on all day. What a colorful little warbler. He is a summer resident of the area, and I'm so thrilled he graced my yard.

Although I didn't get a photo, I saw the back of a bird out in the yard and it was solid blue. It can only be an Eastern Bluebird and I have never seen one here before, although it is the state bird of Missouri. Hope he returns for a better look.

And finally, this bird was up in the trees but I could not get a great picture for the life of me -- backlit. I touched these pictures up best I could. Any ideas? The one thing that is bothering me is that it appears to have only one white wingbar and all the warblers in the field guides have two. Drop me a line if you have any suggestions.

First of Year Birds Today

First thing I saw this morning when I checked the feeders was the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. They have been spotted in the area over the last week so it was only a matter of time before the diminuitive one showed up here.

Later, the Gray Catbird was seen lurking in the shrubs. Even though this is a summer resident in St. Louis, I generally only see it once in the Spring and then it must go somewhere else to breed. Maybe I should keep some fruit around to entice him to stay?

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Another migrant came through earlier this week and is still hanging around. I have seen two male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, plus the Mrs. pops in every once in a while. They were around last year at this time as well, so it's not a life-bird, but still a handsome one that I enjoy seeing. They nest in northern Missouri and St. Louis is just south of the breeding range, so I doubt they will hang around much longer.

They generally are not feeder birds, but this week they have been eating the sunflower seed. Evidently the big freeze over Easter weekend had a huge impact on natural food sources and they have had to resort to alternate foods. Their preferred diet includes insects and fruits.

Kentucky Derby 133 - The Run for the Roses

I was born and raised in Louisville, KY so the Derby has a special place in my heart. Sad to say, though, I am just barely following it this year. The favorite? I'm not sure. I would like to thank my Mom and her cousin Frances for keeping my collection of Derby Festival mini-posters current.

The Derby is for out-of-towners and celebrities. Tickets can be had for the locals, but at a high price. Ed and I did attend two years ago thanks to my sister and her friend who obtained walking passes for the day. Just the third time I attended a Derby in my life.

The Oaks runs the Friday before the Derby and Oaks Day tends to be the day the locals can enjoy a day at the races. Another alternative, attend the fall meet as my family did the day after Thanksgiving last year. These pictures were taken from that visit.

I hope everyone enjoys the Derby, the most exciting two minutes in sports!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Another Lifer!

I was really excited to receive confirmation of last week's new life birds (Swamp Sparrow, Northern Parula, Blue-headed Vireo). And this morning, another showed up and I was able to ID it myself -- Swainson's Thrush. Kind of a drab looking bird, but the spotted pattern on the chest makes it interesting. I had to do a lot of investigation work to distinguish it from the similar Hermit's Thrush, but I am confident of my ID after absorbing the differences and then seeing the Swainson's once again during my lunch break.