Monthly Archives: February 2015

Spotted Towhee Under the Bird Feeder

Spotted Towhee

I love these fellows. They are timid and often hide in the bushes.  But sometimes they come out to hunt for seeds under our bird feeder.   For the longest time, I only saw one Towhee, but recently I counted two of them!   I think they might be a couple.

This picture shows you what a year’s worth of bird traffic has done to the area under our stand-alone bird feeder pole.  We installed it in our backyard last year.   It was lawn underneath, but the lawn directly under the hanging feeders seems to have died due to seed shells and heavy bird traffic.  There is a small area right next to the feeder pole that has flourished though… Apparently the birds have provided plenty of natural fertilizer!  Anyway, I don’t really have any landscaping ideas and the birds don’t care!

Junco and Finch Fight!

Finches and Dark Eyed Juncos are both pretty aggressive birds.. It’s not uncommon for a Junco to get in the middle of this bird feeder and fight off every bird that tries to land, but today the tables were turned and the House Finch was winning.

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About this feeder:   I switched to this Gardman Hanging Feeder Tray after using traditional wood and tube feeders last year.   I like the idea of a metal feeder because it doesn’t get moldy or deteriorate from all the rain we get.  I also like the platform feeder because it’s easy to see all of the birds in it…. I found with hopper style feeders, the birds would just throw out tons of seed.  I feel I have more control of the quantity of seed available this way.  I just put a cup of seed in it every morning.  I will have to admit that some days I refill it twice when the birds are especially hungry, or when a bird like a Scrub Jay decides to come by and store a lot of the seed in their throat for later use!

The Gardman Hanging Feeder Tray can accommodate 5-6 birds BUT most of the time there’s only 1-3 on it because birds fight so much.   Pine Siskins seem to be much better at sharing the feeder than the other birds, so it might depend on what species you have.

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About this photo:  I have a lot of practice taking bird pictures… I’ve taken thousands.  Practice is the key.  But here’s why this photo “worked”:

  • It was very sunny!  This helps a lot!  I have taken many grainy/blurry photos during cloudy and rainy days.  Sometimes such photos help me to identify birds, but they are far from being a photo I would show off.
  • I used Shutter Priority mode on my Canon EOS Rebel T3i and I set it to 1/500th of a second.  I almost always use Shutter Priority when taking bird photos.  If you have such a mode on your camera, you can practice and try to figure out what speed works best for your situation.  I use a 270mm lens and use a minimum of 1/400th of a second.   In general, the longer the lens, the higher the speed you will need.
  • I used “Continuous Shooting” mode so that as long as I held down the shutter button, my camera took shots.  Then I just select the good ones!

Setting up a Bird Feeding Station in Your Backyard

Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Watch Birds in your Backyard… It’s Easy!

I thought I lived in a bad location for bird watching. I don’t have any trees in my yard, although my neighbors do. I live in a pretty residential area and I thought I would have to wait to move to the country to become a backyard bird watcher. It turned out I was really, really wrong!

Years ago, I hung a bird feeder near my porch and nothing happened. This year I decided to try again, but in a different location. I decided to put in a bird feeding pole in my back lawn. Success! After a couple of weeks, birds found it and started flying between my neighbor’s bushes and my bird feeders!! At first, I only got Black-Capped Chickadees, but soon they told many other species, and Dark Eyed Juncos, Red Breasted Nuthatches, Red Winged Blackbirds, Fox Sparrows, Bushtits, and House Finches, are just a few of my new wild “pets.”

Here’s a Picture of My Bird Feeder Stand

Bird Feeder Pole in Winter

On a rare snowy day in Western Washington!

I wondered how could I set up a bird feeder if I didn’t have anything to hang it on? It turns out there’s this Bird Feeder Station which solves the problem! As much as I enjoy DIY solutions, I was pleased that someone else had already addressed this issue with this easy to assemble metal pole with 4 hangers.

The bird feeder pole can hold 4 bird feeders. This is great because I love experimenting with different feeders to see how long it takes the birds to try them out and to watch their behavior when something changes. You can hang bird feeders and suet feeders.

This bird feeder stand is designed well because the feeders won’t knock into each other when the wind blows. We’ve had some high winds (gusts of 40mph) and we didn’t have any problems!

It also turns out that the birds like standing on the metal pole and arms too. Sometimes they use it as a waiting area as they take turns at the feeder. You can hang pretty much any kind of feeder. I’ve got a Chalet Bird Feeder and a Suet Feeder.

My Most Popular Bird Feeder

Red-Winged Blackbirds

This “house” style bird feeder really attracted more birds to my yard. It holds 5 pounds of seed, but that doesn’t mean it’ll stay full longer! When you put out more food, you get more birds, and so your enjoyment soars but your bird watching budget might need some adjusting! Personally, I find the cost of seed well worth the amount of fun I get from it!

Provide Suet – You’ll Attract Some Birds that Don’t Eat Seed

Northern Flicker

 

Downy Woodpecker
The downy woodpecker is a small guy, just a little bigger than a Chickadee. The male has a gorgeous red spot on the back of his head. The female doesn’t have the red mark. I’ve had both the female and male downy woodpeckers come to my suet, usually about once a day. My suet is just your standard store bought woodpecker or song bird suet. I’ve put out both, and they seem to like each equally well.

Early Spring at Point Defiance Park

Yellow Crocuses

I walked around Point Defiance Park this past Sunday, during President’s Day weekend.   It was a breezy and sunny cool day. The crocuses were already blooming, as well as a couple of daffodils.  I was on a birding mission.. I am now recording my bird sightings and publishing on the eBird.org website.   I did find a lot of birds and even got some good photography in.  This picture was a big surprise when I got home and looked at it on my computer:

Red-shafted Northern Flickers

These Northern Flickers were flying from tree to tree together, checking out sap holes and picking on the bark for bugs.  Most of the pictures I’ve taken of these beautiful birds are of them on the suet feeder, so it’s nice to get them in a natural setting.  And my timing was sure lucky on this one!

American Wigeon

There were a flock of about 180 American Wigeon in the “duck pond” and on the nearby lawn.  The maps indicate that they winter in the Puget sound region.  I saw them last time I went to the park (last month, in January) and there were just as many.  They like to eat in the sun and the high contrast sunlight/shadow made them hard to photograph last time… Plus they fly away if you get close.  But this time the less timid pair, pictured above, crossed my path.

Common Goldeneye

I walked down the hill to Commencement Bay and found this pair of Common Goldeneye riding the rough waves during high tide… I had to get my bird book out to identify them.  I haven’t done much birding around water (yet), so I’m not that familiar with ducks.


Backyard Birding: Success!

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Why should I have doubted that the birds would come to my yard for free food? Could it be because they didn’t find my porch feeder before? The seed rotted in the tube.

That was some 8 years ago.

Sometimes you have to try again the right way.

It worked with magnificent success. This year has a been a busy year full of backyard birding. It brings daily doses of joy to my life.

Now I am going to share some of that joy. Here on this blog. And also I am starting to submit lists of the birds I see to Cornell’s ebird.org website. I’ve also gotten into data analysis over the past year and I feel that I should make my birdwatching discoveries public. For science and fun. It is fun to find out what kind of birds other people are observing. You can do that too over at ebird.

One of the birds I see on a nearly daily basis is the Stellar Jay.  I’ve heard that they mate for life, and I think that a romantic couple live in my yard.    They love peanuts! Continue reading