Betsy's Backyard Bird Journal - 1994

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August 8, 1994

Tonight I start the 'Bird Journal'. Sure, I've thought about starting a journal since the first feeder went up 2 months ago - but the procrastinator in me prevailed!
Tonight was different. After 20 days of tending and watching the hummingbird feeder - SUCCESS! Our first visitor was a female Ruby Throated Hummingbird. From the dining room, I noticed something flitting about the pine tree. First she checked out the Safflower feeder (full of House Finches as usual) - then she sat on the hummingbird feeder and drank. Unfortunately, I moved and she was gone. I waited silently by the window and she was back in a couple of minutes. First she "checked" out the squirrel baffle over the sunflower feeder (full of House finches of course!) then she landed and drank from the feeder. IT WAS WORTH IT - the constant cleaning and making solutions was worth it. The hummingbird is a gem to see.

So here's a brief chronology of the birds to date. First I started with a tube feeder filled with Safflower:

Bought another tube feeder and filled this with black oil sunflower: Later, tossed cracked corn on the ground: Of course, the cracked corn also attracted squirrels, chipmunks, Eastern Cottontails, and deer.
August 24, 1994

So by now, I have up a suet feeder, 2 tube feeders, a thistle feeder (totally unused :-( ), and for the ground feeders, cracked corn tossed near the blackberry bushes.

- A pair of Common Flickers arrived at the ground feeding area. Apparently they like cracked corn. Stayed for just a few minutes pecking at the ground the same way they would a tree. The white patch on the rump is VERY noticeable when in flight.

- New bird in the pine tree - Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus). The bird flitted about the tree like a wren. According to Peterson's guide, the Ovenbird habitat during migration is thickets of which we have plenty!. As with many birds, it flew at the window perhaps seeing it's reflection.

August 25, 1994

A new bird flitted about the pine out back for about a minute. It was a Blue Gray Gnatcatcher. The size and distinctive black/white tail gave it away!

August 29, 1994

Yesterday was a banner day. First we got a sparrow - I think it was a white-throated. I hope we see it again soon so that I can positively identify it. The bird (sparrow) had brown or rufous and black stripes on its back. A clear, grey chest and Black/white stripes on its head and beak similar to a finch in shape and size. In size, this bird compared to a small house finch maybe 4-5 inches tip to tail.

A small, male Goldfinch arrived first at the black oil sunflower feeder and later at the thistle feeder. This is the first goldfinch I've seen at our feeders! I've been trying to attract goldfinches from the beginning - I was just about to give up until this guy showed up.

There's been a Gray Catbird coming to feed for several days now.

August 31, 1994

New bird today!!!! A Carolina Wren with rufous-brown body, 4-5 inches tip to tail, a long, slender dark beak, black eye, prominent white eyebrow streak and very wren-like movements. What a cutie this bird is! The bird hung around quite a bit but didn't try any of the feeders.

A Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher was here today - also not at the feeders. The bird seemd content to flit about the pine & dogwood trees.

There seems to be a new family of Cardinals feeding on the seed and cracked corn.

September 3, 1994

New bird today - an American Redstart though just a female. Her yellow colors are quite prominent. The flight of this birdlet is interesting - it flits about like a butterfly!

Saw another new bird today. It took a while to identify this small bird with an olive back, black eye, small black beak, white "handkerchief" on wing and lighter underside (yellow-white). After consulting Peterson's and a couple of other bird identification books, I believe that this was a female Black Throated Blue Warbler. This is not normal territory for the bird though we aren't far from it (Appalachians). Perhaps the bird was migrating?

September 10, 1994

Saw the Brown Thrasher around 9:40am. It's been awhile since we've seen him. Apparently the dogwood berries were what attracted him.

We moved the big feeder and it's taken about a week for the birds to get used to the change. This new positioning away from the squirels with a large tray is quite popular now. The Cardinals can better feed from it.

Bought a hopper-style, squirrel proof feeder today. It'll hang from the pine in hopes of attracting birds closer to the house. I've mixed up a special batch of food (millet, cracked corn, peanuts, and black oil sunflower). We'll see how this does.

September 11, 1994

Not much luck with the new feeder yet - just Carolina Chickadee's. This will take awhile to catch on.

New bird today - a White Breasted Nuthatch was in the pine tree. It flew over to the big feeder but then flew off. Apparently, they can be attracted with suet or sunflower seeds. We have both!

For a recap on the birds to date:

  Cardinals               Gray Catbird          House Finch
  Mourning Dove           Rufous Sided Towhee
  Tufted Titmouse         Common Grackle        Common Flicker
  Carolina Chickadee      Carolina Wren         Chipping Sparrow
  Blue Gray Gnatcatcher   Downy Woodpecker      Hairy Woodpecker
  American Redstart       American Crow         Blue Jays
  Ovenbird                Brown Thrasher        Goldfinch
  Black Throated Blue Warbler      White Breasted Nuthatch
  Ruby Throated Hummingbird   

September 11, 1994

Saw a hawk swoop across the clearing out back to the cedar tree. All of the birds feeding scattered - FAST. I lost the hawk after it went in the cedar. It was a bit eerie - as all was quiet for several minutes afterwards.

I guess it was either a Sharp Shinned Hawk or a Cooper's Hawk. Jim saw the remains of a bird near that cedar tree. We probably have a new visitor. Fortunately, the back yard is heavy with small and large vegetation as well as numerous deciduous and evergreen trees. The birds will have some chance to flee from a hawk.

4:00PM - New bird just showed up (though I think I've seen it before!) It was a Yellow Throated Vireo. A cute little bird with bright yellow on its chest.

7:00PM - What a day! New bird in the pine tree - a Black Throated Green Warbler flitted about the tree. This bird is very common during migration.

September 15, 1994

A Black and White Warbler showed up in the Blue Atlas cedar. The bird flitted about the trunk and lower branches probably looking for insects. It's spending a fair amount of time here amongst the trees.

Yesterday was an interesting day - a flock of White Breasted Nuthatches descended on the place! Also, a Common Flicker just sat in the yard looking around. It didn't move until another woodpecker sounded it's terretorial call.

October 15, 1994

It's been awhile since I've written last but there has been a lot of activity. Today, the back yard seems to be "Bird Central". First thing this morning, there were a large number of Robins and Cardinals in the trees. The robins are probably after the berries in the Eastern Red Cedar out back.

There was also a new woodpecker in the Blue Atlas cedar. About the size of a Hairy Woodpecker. I never saw it's head or underside. The back was black and white speckled similar to a Downy but no white streak. It may have been a Red Bellied Woodpecker - I'll be watching for a positive id.

As I'm writing this, an Eastern Phoebe showed up in the pine very close to the window. A dull grey bird with whitish chest. The tail bobbed often just as described in Peterson's.

Here's a brief rundown of our visitors today:

    Chipping Sparrow        Downy Woodpecker
    Carolina Chickadee      Common Grackle
    Tufted Titmouse         Mourning Dove
    Cardinal                Eastern Phoebe
    Blue Jay                Robin
    Rufous Sided Towhee

Two new birds have arrived. One has been here for a couple of days but I can't find it in the book to identify it! Same size as a vireo, bright black/white streaks on head, light colored chest (tan or light yellow), greyish back & whitish wing bars. This bird hopped about the pine looking for insects just like the vireo.

October 24, 1994

Well it's raining and as usual all the birds are out. It seems like they come around the most in inclement weather.

New bird just showed up and is hanging out in the bush by the small dogwood. It's a Slate Colored Junco. So far I've only seen the one. Based on it's natural range this one is either wintering here or migrating through. This one was probably a male - odd since I normally see females here first.

A couple of days ago, White Throated Sparrows showed up. They have been here every day since feeding on the dogwood berries and on the ground where I've placed cracked corn and seed.

November 11, 1994

Wow. There was a flurry of birds and then silence. On the ground by the big tube feeder was a Sharp Shinned Hawk standing still. Then it flew up to a branch in the pine and grabbed - I'm guessing a finch. The sharpie definitely caught prey and flew to the ground to consume it. Unfortunately, Jim & I startled the bird when we tried to see what it was doing. The sharpie took off with it's prey in claw.

November 14, 1994

Have seen a new bird about for the last week. Finally got a positive id on it: Fox Sparrow. They winter in southern U.S. Pretty neat bird - it forages for food just like the Towhee. This bird is larger than the White Throated Sparrow with a rusty colored tail, rusty streaks on a whitish chest, rusty colored back with grey streaks, and grey and rusty streaks about the head. Sort of looks like a fox!

November 17, 1994

New bird today - a male Common Bobwhite. He was under the pine where many groupnd feeding birds looking for seed hang out. A bobwhite is a large bird - when I saw it I knew it had to be of the partridge/quail family. The white throat and stripe on the head were most prominent. The White Throated Sparrows were on the ground around the bobwhite and the cardinals were feeding in the back. There must have been 30 birds out back - a good day!

December 7, 1994

I must correct myself from before - the hawk I've been seeing was a Cooper's Hawk and not a sharpie. She's been coming through about once a day looking for a meal. I finally got a good look at her tail - very rounded plus she's as big as a crow. Definitely a Cooper's Hawk.

Today was quite the day - I saw half a dozen Cedar Waxwings eating from the winterberry bush at the driveway. Several more were in the cedar trees behind. Cool birds - the black stripe over the eye makes them look like bandits!

December 8, 1994

Today there were about a dozen Blackpoll Warblers jumping from limb to limb on the pine & dogwoods out front. Cute little birds but in their winter plummage - olive drab colored with streaks on side but center of chest is clear, faint wing bars and a stripe over the eye.

Also, a Mockingbird came to get some water this morning. I've been placing a pan of water out every morning since it started to get cold. The Cedar Waxwings were back! Must have been a dozen out back mobbing a cedar tree. You can tell winter is here - a Tufted Titmouse was hiding safflower seeds at the sliding glass door.

Christmas Holidays, 1994

Well, this doesn't qualify as my backyard but I saw some interesting birds in South Carolina over the holidays. The golf course is always a great place to see some interesting birds! At Myrtle Beach while out golfing I saw several Cormorants sunning themselves with wings wide open. Another day, an Eastern Bluebird flew with grub in mouth just a feet above me as I was about to putt. One of the last golfing trips for the year ended with a Red Headed Woodpecker making quite a racket in some pines surrounding the 17th fairway. There's no mistaking that bird - the bright red head stands out even at a distance.

So here's a list of the birds that I could positively identify while vacationing:

    Great Blue Heron      Cormorant
    Sanderling            Laughing Gull
    Ring Beak Gull        Red Headed Woodpecker
    Eastern Bluebird      Little Blue Heron
    Belted Kingfisher     Rock Dove
    Boat Tailed Grackles  Canadian Goose
    Great Egret           Red Shouldered Hawk
    Chickadees            Tufted Titmouse

The absolute jewel of the trip was seeing a Bald Eagle. It was nearing dusk and we were out for a walk. I spotted a very, large bird perched on a tree about a hundred feed away - it was the eagle. Fortunately, I was carrying my binoculars and was able to see the bird in great detail. What a magnificent bird!

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