Betsy's Backyard Bird Journal

1994 Journal | 1995 Journal | 1996 Journal | 1997 Journal
Home | New | Services | Clients | Staff | Links | Contact Us!

Winter, 1995

Well, I've been pretty bad about keeping up the journal. This entry will cover the months of January and February. It's been a weird winter, mild in January but cold and wet in February. There's been a Marsh Hawk here most days during the winter. It took me about a week to identify this bird as I'd only get to see a glimpse of it. Then one day it perched on the Locust tree near the house and remained there long enough for me to identify it using several books. I'm very much impressed with the size and power of this bird.

There have been several exciting events with the Marsh Hawk. First, it came out of the woods and flew just above my head when I was out turning the compost pile. The bird then swooped down and hugged the ground as it flew away - looking for unsuspecting birds or mammals I guess. The next time I saw the bird, I happened to be looking out the back window and saw it take a Robin out of the Sycamore tree in the back. The robin had just alighted in the tree when seemingly out of nowhere, the hawk attacked. AMAZING!

Theres been a Hermit Thrush (rufous back and tail; small, thin black beak; white eyering; black eye; pink legs, streaked breast) hanging out on the front porch. Must like the inkberries!

When the snow came, we had a few more visitors: Field Sparrow, Red Winged Blackbird, Yellow Rumped Warbler (that yellow rump is VERY visible!), and a Song Sparrow. Unfortunately, a flock of European Starlings discovered the cracked corn on the ground. I spent some time chasing them off - with some luck they'll stick to the berries in the trees.

The Goldfinches are now coming in 2's and 3's to the thistle feeder. I'm quite pleased to see that considering I just purchased a 25-lb bag of seed for them!

March 15, 1995

Well it's been quite a while since I've written. Today brought a new visitor in the big sycamore out back - an Eastern Meadowlark serenaded us this morning. A good size bird - the yellow breast with a black 'V' made it easy to identify. The call was a nasaly 'dzzzt'. It remained in the tree for about 5 minutes - long enough for a positive ID.

April 19, 1995

Well it's definite - Spring is here! And with warmer weather brings new birds some already with mates, others calling for a mate. Today, a pair of Red-Bellied Woodpeckers showed up at the suet feeder. They also spent quite a bit of time feeding on the cracked corn on the ground. Interesting bird - it's call resembles a rattle! The woodpecker is also aggressive - it has pushed out the Common Grackles (itself an aggressive bird) from ground feeding areas.

The Chipping Sparrows are back! This is the first sparrow I've seen which feeds at the big tube feeder. The Rufous Sided Towhees are also back. I love the male's song - "Drink Your Tea!!"

For the first time, Brown Headed Cowbirds have come here to feed. I've seen them around the golf course but not in the backyard until now. It will be interesting to see which birds end up raising it's young.

April 25, 1995

This morning Jim asked me what kind of bird was at the suet feeder just a few feet from the window. Imagine my surprise when I saw a Pileated Woodpecker, hanging upside down eating the suet. This is a very large bird but somehow the woodpecker looked comfortable in that feeding position.

I noticed that the House Wren is back this year staking out his territory. I've put up two bluebird houses hoping to attract a bluebird but the wren has taken over the boxes. I've got my fingers crossed hoping that his mate chooses the same spot as last year - in a pottery jar on the side of the house.

April 28, 1995

So many more of the birds are pairing up and fighting for territory. I look forward to the new families. Well it seems that the House Wren has found a mate! I saw the two of them just this morning by the pottery jar on the side of the house. :-)

The Gray Catbirds are everywhere. I've just noticed them in the last couple of days. And the Tufted Titmice are quite noisy - I can see and hear one now as I write this entry!

May 12, 1995

Gee - as usual some time goes by before I make another entry! Well, the House Wren found a mate but is officially nesting in the new bluebird house out front :-(. I was hoping they'd take the small pottery jar on the side of the house. Well, this way I get to see the family grow in it's short 17 days in the nest.

A pair of Cardinals have build a nest in the Barberry bushes in the driveway. I just discovered the nest when I heard the little 'peeps' of the nestlings. This is the first family I've come across this year. I can't wait to see how many babies and watch them come to the backyard feeders! The male and female Cardinals are both very busy tending to the nest.

The cracked corn is quite popular this year. A Brown Thrasher comes to feed whenever I spread some fresh corn out. Quite a comical bird jumping around - darting in and out of the bushes.

Well no new sightings to report in a while. I guess I'll have to wait until the fall for migration or go to the golf course. At least the Pileated Woodpecker, keeps me entertained with her acrobatics on the suet feeder.

May 15, 1995

Where do I begin? Just yesterday I was reading in the Washington Post about a woman and her real life adventures trying to spare a mourning dove nest from attack by a crow. Didn't think it would happen here - no siree! You know we live in this sterile, plastic, happy world where every baby grows up big and strong. Well today, I stepped out of the garage and the barberry bushes were rocking. There was a huge fight between the parent cardinals, a blue jay, and a catbird over the cardinal chicks. I couldn't believe it - not here!

Well I stepped in and shooed off the offending birds. Granted what I was watching was nature at work, but I just couldn't stand by and watch the fight. The catbird flew up in a tree just a few feet away and squawked at me for a minute or two - how dare I intrude! The blue jay went a little farther away - neither bird willing to leave the area altogether. Both cardinals were frantic - papa flying around the nest and into the trees to ward off the intruders and mama flying into the bushes to check on the nestlings.

As I neared the nest, I came upon a chick on the ground alive and in seemingly good shape. The catbird must have dropped the chick in it's haste to flee from this mad screaming human. I felt so sorry for this tiny creature just days old - so helpless and so naked. I had been so looking forward to seeing the new brood in a couple of weeks and in a matter of moments there nearly were none. sigh :-(

Mama watched intently as I carefully placed the baby back into the nest. I've read that all those old tales about how you can't put a chick back into a nest (human smells) aren't true. And they were right, mom and dad cardinal immediately took up parental duties once the chick was back in the nest. I'll call him/her "Tuff-a-tony" (a nickname my husband & I have for scrappers) and keep my fingers crossed.

Several hours have passed since the incident and all is well. Ma & Pa cardinal are busy tending to their remaining chick - yes it's Tuff-a-tony !!!!! :-) All my fingers are crossed if we can just last a few more days....

May 18, 1995

Quite a busy day. First I'll start with the what's changed lately.... Haven't seen the female Hairy Woodpecker in several weeks, I wonder if she's tending to a nest? Also, the Northern Juncos are gone - haven't seen any in about a month. I guess I'll get to see them only in the winter. The White Throated Sparrows are few and far between these days. I understood that when more natural sources of food became available and as birds began setting up territories, there would be fewer birds to the feeders. BUT I enjoy so much seeing all that activity that I know I will miss them and can't wait for winter!

The female Pileated Woodpecker comes every day now to the suet feeder. What an impressive bird - the white stripe across it's cheek and down the neck gives it a primieval look sort of like a creature from Jurassic Park. I watched it's defensive behaviour today, quite an impressive show. She spread her wings wide and slightly opened her mouth - trying to be as large as she can. Then she suddenly pecked HARD on the branch she was standing on. She did this several times, getting large and then bang! on the branch.

I went to check on little 'Tuff-a-tony' today since I haven't heard much from him/her in the last two days. What a little cutie! He/she (can't wait to find out which!) is all covered with teenie little feathers (more like fuzz) and growing like a weed. Ma and pa Cardinal were ever on the guard.

Saw the first Ruby throated Hummingbird this season probing the flowers on the Winterberry. Time to put up the Hummingbird feeder and see what happens!

May 20, 1995

Tuff-a-tony (the baby Northern Cardinal I've been keeping an eye on) was noisier than ever this morning. No need to check on his/her progress - I think the entire neighborhood now knows! The feeders have been depleting at record rates but I don't get to see many of the summer birds who frequent these feeders. I guess that the nesting duties mean less time hanging out at the feeders - dinner on the run.

I went to check on Tuff-a-tony later and he was gone from the nest - ma and pa Cardinal were making a fuss like he was still around and the bushes were rattling. My heart sunk as I realized that I would not be able to track his progress any longer. Tuff-a-tony had fledged (is that the proper word?). This is all so new to me and I must admit that I'm very disappointed. I'm also thrilled that he's made it out of the nest but I won't get to discover if Tuff-a-tony is a boy or girl.

May 24, 1995

I never get tired of the posturing of the Common Grackle with his beak as high in the air as possible. What a sight! And just when you think the show is over, the grackle will puff up almost doubling in size and let out a shriek! I've watched this go on for several minutes when "fighting" over a prime spot at the feeder. The grackles come and go in waves - one day they cover the ground and the next, not a one shows up.

I've been seeing more Chickadees lately. What I've been unable to figure out is whether these are Black-capped Chickadees or Carolina Chickadees. I've heard both songs here this spring - the Fee-Bee Fee-Bay of the Carolina and the short two note Fee-Bee of the Black capped. Hmm..... I'll just have to continue watchings and looking for signs as to what type of Chickadees are coming to the feeders.

May 26, 1995

Well it's been babies on parade day! There've been numerous squawking baby Starlings (ugh - I understand they are on the decline in England - wouldn't mind sending them a few of these fellows!), baby Grackles (so cute and so AWKWARD!!), one young Cardinal (could it be? my little Tuff-a-tony...), baby house finches, and many baby grey and red squirrels. I'm not sure where the parents are proud or frazzled - particularly with the Starlings. Just today, three babies pursued a parent around the back yard looking to be fed and at one point even ran over dad (or mom) trying to get some eats.

December 11, 1995

It's been a LOOONNNGGGG time since my last posting here. After losing the House Wren family, I haven't really wanted to continue logging the sightings - but I'm BACK! So first the wren story and then on to the latest sightings.

One day last June, I stepped out to leave the previous night's dinner leftovers for my 'Outdoor Garbage Disposals'. The American Crows have become accustomed to looking for last nights scraps in the side yard (they'll consume it all except peas) and noisily notify the members of their clan that lunch is served - but I digress. Every day, the little male wren could be found in the dogwood closest to it's nesting site singing loudly and proudly. This little guy has a distinct enough voice that I can pick him out from the other neighborhood wrens. So, this morning I was quite surprised that it was so quiet. Several times as we packed the car for a trip that day, I kept looking for the wren.

Just as we were pulling out of the driveway, I looked back one last time at the wren's nest and a rat snake poked it's head out! Now I knew what happened to the little wren and his family :-(. I couldn't believe it! Yeah, I know that snakes are generally beneficial but at that moment I was ready to hop out of the car and dispose of that snake. (Don't worry the snake survived another day - I don't have a stomach for critter disposal). So the wren and his family were gone. Another male wren and mate took up nesting in the same spot a couple of weeks later, but they did not produce any young. I miss that little guy with the big voice.

Well, the summer went on and many new babies came to the feeders. Little cardinals, finches, titmice, and chickadees all squawking to be fed. I thoroughly enjoyed watching as the frazzled parents desperately tried to keep up with the veracious appetites of their young.

So, summer is over and winter is here. I knew that winter was upon us when the Northern Juncos and White Throated Sparrows showed up in the back yard. We have a couple of new visitors to the feeders for the winter. The first to arrive was a Red Breasted Nuthatch - a cute little bird with racing stripes on his head. Several of the different types of sparrows we saw last year are back again. These include Chipping Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and White Throated Sparrow. My worst nightmare :-) also occurred - we now regularly have Purple Finches, male and female at the feeders in addition to the House Finches. Being a part of Project Feeder Watch, I'll now have to work harder on identification of the little brown birds at the feeders.

The newest arrival at our feeders just showed up today. A pair of female Brown-Headed Cowbirds are feeding at the big black oil sunflower feeder. I've seen the males during mating season but not in winter. Looks like this will be an interesting winter!

December 18, 1995

Christmas is upon us and of course, I'm not ready but the cardinals certainly are. This year I expect to have 15 to 20 males at the feeders. The largest one time sighting in the backyard so far has been 10 but if last year was any indication, I can expect more come January. A Red-Bellied Woodpecker has started feeding regularly at the suet feeder. I was surprised to see him since there haven't been any since early in the mating season. Could the pileated be coming back soon? I hope since that bird was probably the most enjoyable to watch!

No new sightings to report - just the usual array of birds, squirrels, and ground hogs. Did see a large buck (deer) in the backyard yesterday and will add that as a sighting (close enough!). It's supposed to snow tomorrow, so I expect to have a large gathering of interesting birds - maybe some new ones!

This page last modified: