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Backyard Birds: November 2013

I love watching and counting our backyard birds. As part of Project Feederwatch I am observing two days a week, a few minutes per day. Participating in this citizen science project has brought such focus to our birdwatching. We constantly are reminded that if we didn’t put in the effort, we would miss out on so many learning opportunities.

We saw a House Finch last week that has eye disease. This led to a bit of research on the All About Birds website. We learned the causes and the action we need to take when we see a House Finch with an eye disorder. You can read more on Cornell’s Website.

Today we saw a bunch of Juncos…one even posed on the back deck railing. Look at those feet. It spurred me on to pull out the bird feet activity from a few weeks ago to try to discover what kind of feet the Junco has.

It was quite an exciting afternoon when we spotted two Ruby Crowned Kinglets in our front yard. If you look closely in the center of this photo you will spy a little bird with red feathers on his head. He is fast so I wasn’t able to get a very clear photo of him but there he is! He is so light that he can land on branches of the butterfly bushes and they don’t even sag. He can sort of hover over the branch as well…amazing. I was able a few years ago to get a good photo in this entry: November Birds.

Here is our November 2013 List of Birds:
House Finch
White Crowned Sparrow
Dark Eyed Junco
Oak Titmouse
Anna’s Hummingbird
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Spotted Towhee
Western Bluebird
White Breasted Nuthatch
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling
Western Scrubjay
Bewick’s Wren – new to our life list
Northern Mockingbird
Ruby Crowned Kinglet

I am so looking forward to December bird watching!

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Project Feederwatch Continues – More December Birds

I had in mind a totally different post for you this week but our internet has been down for over a week so working online has been limited. Instead, I have a collection of recent bird photos that show some of our feeder birds that we enjoy everyday. As the leaves fall from the trees, observing birds becomes much easier. We also have more of a variety to enjoy this time of year and keeping track of them for Project Feederwatch becomes our normal routine at least two days a week.

The Outdoor Hour Challenges this month focuses on the weather and we have been noting how the weather affects the birds in our yard. We have had ice on the birdbaths quite a few mornings this week and if I don’t go out and break it up, the birds skid around on it which makes me laugh.

House finches can seem common at the feeders…oh, just another finch. But, when you see these colored birds through the eye of a camera, you realize they are not just another bird. They come in varying shades of pink, orange, red, and purple…they come day after day and provide a happy bird song (listen on All About Birds to hear the sweet sounds of a finch).

Our backyard Anna’s hummingbirds are still at the feeders every day. They have a particular tree they sit in and most days it is on the same little branch that hangs over one end of our deck. I can hear them making their little chattering noises whenever I am outside. In this image the feathers look black but it is just the way the light is hitting him. If he tilts his head in just the right way or the sun hits him just right, his chin and throat are the most brilliant pink and his body is a dazzling green. I always thought that hummingbirds were delicate creatures but I have seen them at my feeder in the pouring rain and when we have snow. All About Birds says that they weigh the same as a nickel….imagine that!

The return of the Dark eyed junco is complete for the season. We started having one or two a day under the feeders but now I am counting 12-20 every day. They mostly poke around under the seed feeders to glean some food but I have noticed that they are hanging out at the suet feeder as well. They do give the woodpeckers first chance at the suet but as soon as the woodpecker flies away, they hop on and have a meal.

Our Northern Mockingbirds make daily appearances at the berry vines in our front yard. I read on All About Birds that they switch to an almost all berry diet in the fall and winter. The other fact I learned about the mockingbird is that they don’t sing at this time of the year. The website says that they sing from February to August and then from September to early November. Isn’t that interesting? I am going to record the dates I hear them sing in my neighborhood…a little extra project for me.

The Nuttall’s woodpecker is a frequent diner at the suet feeder. We seem to have a female that is rather shy but I have observed her quite a bit as she hops up and down the trees near the feeder. She shares the feeder many times with the little White-breasted nuthatches.

The excitement this season is that we appear to have a wintering Red-breasted nuthatch who comes daily to the trees outside my window. At first I thought he was my usual White-breasted nuthatch but I read online that the Red-breasted has an eye stripe….sure enough, our nuthatch had an eyestripe. He is super quick and I have yet to capture a clear image but you can see in this one that he definitely has an eyestripe! Hopefully I will get a good image of him for my  nature journal sometime this winter.

Project Feederwatch has helped bring my bird observation skills to the next level. In just a few minutes a day, I have learned so much more about the bird life right outside my window. What a gift this activity gives…hopefully you enjoy seeing my bird friends and are inspired to start learning about your own backyard birds.

Take it one bird at a time and enjoy!

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There is a wealth of birding information on the internet but I have not found a more homeschool-friendly site than the ones sponsored by Cornell University. I would love to encourage you all to subscribe to their homeschool blog (click the logo to pop over there now).

You can also follow them on Facebook .
You can download their FREE Homeschool Guide to Project Feederwatch.
Of course, my favorite resource is their AllAboutBirds website which is a great tool for identifying and learning more about birds in your own neighborhood.

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A Few Bird Photos from My Saturday

My oldest son gave me his old Canon Rebel to use and yesterday I took a deep breath and started using it for the first time. I am a little intimidated by the sheer number of things I can do with this camera compared with my point and shoot.

I must have taken 100 photos and there are only four that are worth sharing. 🙂

Scrub Jay Gathering Sticks
I shared last week that we have a Western Scrub Jay building a nest in our front yard. I was able to capture him gathering some twigs for the nest as he flew from the backyard to the front yard about fifty times.

Scrub Jay in the feeder
Here is another jay in the feeder. I love the way his tail feathers are all folded up in this photo. He really is the King of this particular feeder. He spends a great deal of his time chasing the little birds out of the way.

Junco in the feeder
Here is a junco who managed to get his share of dinner before the jay swooped in and scared him away. The juncos are not particular about which feeder they eat in or under. I like the way you can see all his different colors of feathers in this photo.

Junco on the branch
One last photo of one of our resident juncos. He is so cut all puffed up and sitting on the branch of our sweet gum tree.

My goal is to work with the Canon a little each day so that I gain some confidence.

Stay tuned…..

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Great Backyard Bird Count: Saturday and Sunday

Saturday, February 13th-We were only able to observe in our own backyard about 30 minutes.
5 White-crowned sparrows
4 House sparrows
1 Anna’s hummingbird (Spotted in our flowering broccoli!)
1 Western scrub jay
1 California towhee
2 Spotted towhees
8 Juncos
1 House finch
1 American robin
1 Oak titmouse
1 American crow (heard but not seen)
1 Nuttall’s woodpecker

Spotted towhees
Sunday, February 14th-Two different times observing for a total of 45 minutes.
8 Juncos
1 Western scrub jay
1 Nuttall’s woodpecker
11 House finches
2 Spotted towhees (There are two shown in the photo above.)
2 California towhees
1 Anna’s hummingbird (in the feeder this time)
1 Oak titmouse
2 Red-tailed hawks (soaring over our house and screeching loudly)
2 Canadian geese (flying over noisily)
1 White-breasted nuthatch
5 White-crowned sparrows
2 American crows (loud caws and then they flew overhead, one had something in its mouth)

Robin in the Tree
I think we did a good job at counting this year and for once we knew every bird in the feeder. This is our fourth year participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count and we have come a long way from that first year where we only knew the most basic of birds.

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Winter Birds – So Lovely

My oldest let me play with his camera yesterday and I took a few bird photos out the window.

Birds make me happy.

Watching birds makes me happy.

Taking photos of birds makes me happy.

Junco in the tree.

Spotted Towhee in the feeder.

My favorite of the day…
A titmouse right outside the bedroom window.

See me being happy?