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Archive for the ‘behavior’ Category

Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. Lately my Nature Friday posts have been all about the birds and this weeks is no exception. Don’t worry, Millie and Walter are doing well and will be back soon.

Charlie has been working hard in his wood shop this winter to get some new feeders ready for the return of our feathered friends this spring. The first thing he did was work on a new suet feeder.

Tufted Titmouse clings to the side of the old suet feeder

The previous suet feeder, seen above, was just a suet cage attached to a piece of wood and hung from a crook. The feeder was getting old and cracked and needed an upgrade. One thing we wanted to do was cut down on some of the “bully” birds that were able to access this feeder. The new suet feeder now has four sides so only birds that can cling to the bottom such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, tufted titmice and chickadees can use it. Other birds like starlings and grackles aren’t able to hang upside down and won’t be able to use it.

Upside down suet feeder

Since the crook was still in the ground we were able to hang this feeder right away. At first the birds seemed a bit hesitant to use it even though it’s in the same place as the previous one was but after a few days the realized that it contained the same suet they all love. The good thing is that the birds that can’t hang upside down, like cardinals and sparrows,  still get to benefit by hanging out under the feeder to pick up whatever is dropped.

A trio of new feeders – (left to right)
Platform Mealworm Feeder, Double Suet Feeder, Gilbertson Style Mealworm Feeder

Charlie also made a double sized suet feeder. You can see it in the middle above.

Underneath the double suet feeder

This feeder holds two suet cakes at a time and also has sides to prevent the non-clinging birds from being able to use it. The hope is that we will finally be able to attract a Pileated Woodpecker to our feeder. We have seen pileated woodpeckers around our yard but they are too big to use the smaller feeder.

Chickadee on Mealworm Feeder

The other two feeders that Charlie made are mealworm feeders. Our old platform mealworm feeder (above) was about 10 years old and needed to be replaced. The main difference with the new feeder is that now it will be attached to a 1¼” conduit with a strap instead of the wooden bracket you see on the old feeder.

Bottom of Platform Mealworm Feeder

The holes you see are for drainage and don’t really allow the mealworms to fall out. That happens well enough when a blue jay lands in it an starts flinging the mealworms around.

The other mealworm feeder Charlie made is a Gilbertson Style Mealworm Feeder.

Gilbertson Style Mealworm Feeder

Charlie’s version doesn’t follow the plan exactly. His is slightly larger with smaller posts in the corners to allow more room in the interior areas and he uses the same mounting method as the platform feeder above. As you can see this feeder has a cup inside where the mealworms will be placed. It also has metal rods running between the posts on all four sides. This prevents larger birds like starlings, mockingbirds, robins and blue jays from entering while allowing the smaller bluebirds, wrens, chickadees and tufted titmouse access.

How to access feed cup

In order to access the cup for refilling you are able to remove one of the metal rods. On the right, in the first picture of this feeder, you can see that one of the metal rods is bent with a small stop block keeping it in place. When it’s time to refill the feeder you just unlatch the rod and slide it out so you can reach in to remove the cup, which in this case is just a ½ cup measure with the handle cut off.

Once the ground thaws out (in a couple of months) we will be able to put up a new crook for the double suet feeder and put the conduit in the ground and mount our new mealworm feeders to them. The mealworm feeders will also be fitted with squirrel baffles to keep those pesky chipmunks and squirrels from pigging out on mealworms. In case you were wondering we feed dried mealworms which I buy in bulk from Critter Boutique. That is not an affiliate link. I am providing it since I think they have the best price for bulk dried mealworms in case you want to try using them. The suet feeders don’t need squirrel baffles since I only feed C & S Hot Pepper Delight Suet cakes. The birds don’t mind the hot pepper but the squirrels and chipmunks sure don’t like it and never try it twice.

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We are joining the LLB Gang for their Nature Friday Blog Hop. You should pop over to their blog to see all the other posts.

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Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. A couple of weeks ago I showed you some pictures of the birds that were feeding on common buckthorn berries in our yard. I’ve finally processed the videos I took and wanted to show you just how much action there was.

American Robins & European Starlings in Common Buckthorn

The Common Buckthorn species is naturalized and invasive in parts of North America. We didn’t realize this tree was growing in our garden for a few years because its form and leaves are very similar to the Miss Kim lilacs that it’s growing near. When it finally grew taller we could see that it was an introduced tree. Charlie did some research to figure out just what it was.

The birds gobbled up the plentiful berries.

According to Wikipedia:

The seeds and leaves are mildly poisonous for humans and most other animals, but are readily eaten by birds, who disperse the seeds in their droppings. The toxins cause stomach cramps and laxative effects that may function in seed dispersal.

We would like to remove this tree but it’s behind a few shrubs that make it difficult to get to. This tree was full of berries before this flock descended on it. Here is a video of some of the action.

If you can’t see the video you can go here to view it.

As you could see by the end of the video there were very few berries left on the tree and ultimately there were no berries left.

There are very few berries left at this point.

It is very rare to see so many American Robins in January but some are more hardy and stick around all winter although we’ve never see a flock this large before. It was a treat to get to see all the different colorings from the very dark orange to the paler looking ones. I hope you enjoyed seeing them too.

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We are joining the LLB Gang for their Nature Friday Blog Hop. You should pop over to their blog to see all the other posts.

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Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. Earlier this week I happened upon a scene in our backyard that amazed me. I had just walked into the kitchen to get a drink when I noticed a tremendous amount of bird activity in a small tree that was full of berries.

American Robin

There was a large flock of birds taking turns eating berries from the Common Buckthorn tree. The flock was made up mostly of American Robins and European Starlings.

European Starling

Charlie managed to get the back door from the garage opened without scaring the birds away so I got my long lens mounted to a tripod (it helps to keep it steady and with taking videos) and stood in the doorway taking pictures for about an hour. 

Northern Mockingbird

It’s unusual to see so many robins around this time of year but up until now our weather has been fairly mild so that might be why they’ve stuck around. The mockingbird has been a resident of our yard this winter and he (or she…there were actually two around) was not happy with this huge flock of robins and starlings eating all the berries he was trying to keep for himself.

American Robin with a full belly

I don’t know when the flock first showed up but after an hour of taking pictures in burst mode I had about 850 images to cull through and some videos I will show you later. The buckthorn was completely stripped of all its berries in the end too. By the way I was still thirsty as I completely forgot the reason I went to the kitchen in the first place!

It was a great opportunity to take some beautiful portraits of the American Robin, European Starlings and the Northern Mockingbird. When these birds are around in the summer it can be more difficult to catch a picture of them as they are often hiding in the foliage.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these birds this week. I promise to come back and show you more of the action from the day.

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We are joining the LLB Gang for their Nature Friday Blog Hop. You should pop over to their blog to see all the other posts.

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Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. Today I want to show you one of my favorite birds that comes to our feeders.

A Male Baltimore Oriole

We’ve had orioles in our yard every year since we’ve lived here (30 years!) but until recently we didn’t see them very regularly. May of 2018 was the first time we had one come to our hummingbird feeder. Charlie quickly made a orange feeder for them so they wouldn’t hog all the hummer food and they’ve been back every year. The above picture was taken in a different area of our yard near our suet feeder which the orioles like to use too.

You may have noticed that many of the bird pictures I’ve posted recently (here and here) have a similar looking background and the birds are often perched on the same stick so I thought I would let you in on my secret to getting the birds to pose on a particular stick.

The first order of business is to be well camouflaged.

When I first started, the weather was colder so I used my insulated camo jacket with camo gloves and a camo blanket I had to cover my tripod and disguise most of my body.

Here is what the birds saw of me

Now lets see what I was aiming at.

Suet Feeder with posing stick

Charlie found a nice stick in our yard and fashioned a way to mount it on a pvc pipe that was secured in the ground. At first we shoved some suet into cracks in the stick to help attract the birds to land on it. Once they got used to it the birds would land on the stick before going to the suet feeder and also look for the suet on the stick. You can see some of the orange colored suet at the top of the stick in the picture above. That worked well but we didn’t like the way the orange suet stuck out in the pictures so we modified the stick.

Four holes drilled into the back of the stick

We regularly filled the holes with suet

Having the holes filled with suet allowed the birds to hang out on the stick more to give me plenty of opportunities to photograph them. This worked pretty well but my camouflage needed to be better and it would be too hot when the weather warmed up so I upgraded to a LensCoat Lightweight LensHide.

Me in the LensCoat Lightweight LensHide

Here is a side view of the setup

With my camera set to burst mode I would wait for someone to show up. In order to get the shot I was looking for I often would capture a series like this:

Oh look! There is suet back here.

Nom, nom, nom.

Down the hatch it goes.

Now smile for the camera.

This set up has been working very well and allowed me to capture pictures of the birds in our yard like never before. We have plans on setting up another posing stick in our perennial garden near the bird bath and mealworm feeder.

In case you were wondering here is a look at the gear I’m using when I photograph the birds.

FujiFilm X-T4 with XF 100-400mm lens + 1.4x teleconverter
Manfrotto 502AH Pro Video Head
Manfroto 3011BN tripod

A closer view of the tripod head and camera.

This is a very sturdy set up that comfortably holds the large lens and allows me freedom of movement to track the birds.

I hope you enjoyed seeing how I’ve been able to capture pictures of the birds in our yard. Just to let you know I often have to sit in this position for a couple of hours to be able to catch the birds at the feeder.

I’m joining the Wild Bird Wednesday blog hop. You should stop by and see some more birds.

I was not paid to endorse any of the products in this post and purchased all the equipment for myself. The links and descriptions were included in case anyone was interested in the items used.

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Hi everyone! It’s Millie & Walter here. We’re finally getting some warmer weather and some of our trees and shrubs are starting to open their buds.

What should we look at first?

The Korean Spice Viburnum buds are ready to open.

Even though the buds haven’t opened yet the Korean Spice Viburnum sure looks pretty.

Ogon Spirea

This spirea has the tiniest flowers but with so many of them on each stem they almost look like they are covered in snow.

Serviceberry tree blossoms

We were afraid that some of the cold weather we had might ruin our crop of serviceberries this year but the flowers look like they are doing fine.

Serviceberry in Black & White

Serviceberry tree blossoms

We can’t wait to see all the fruit on the tree and have it covered with all kinds of birds that love to eat the fruit.

I found a nice stick to chew on.

We hope you enjoyed a look at what is blooming and almost blooming in our yard. With the warmer temps we are supposed to get this coming week we should start to see more flower opening up.

Join the Nature Friday Blog Hop

We are joining the LLB Gang for their Nature Friday Blog Hop. You should pop over to their blog to see all the other posts.

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Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. It’s been a few weeks since I showed you some of the birds in our yard. Last week our first Baltimore Oriole showed up (pictures to come at a later date) so we put up our orange feeder. Today we were surprised by an unexpected visitor to the orange feeder. (As always I recommend you click on the image to see a larger view).

Black-throated Blue Warbler on orange feeder

Black-throated Blue Warbler eating from orange feeder

It was a bit of a shock to see him sitting and feeding on the orange feeder since warblers are usually insect eaters, but according to Cornell University’s All About Birds:

Black-throated Blue Warblers search leaves and twigs for spiders, flies, and caterpillars, often taking them from the underside of vegetation. On the wintering grounds they supplement their insect diet with fruits.

He spent quite a bit of time using the orange feeder throughout the day but also landed on other perches.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Since warblers are usually foraging among the leaves of trees and shrubs it’s such a treat to have one land in the open to get such great pictures of him.

Another bird that before today I wasn’t able to get any pictures of was the Common Grackle.

Common Grackle

Until this year we’ve never had Common Grackles spend much time in our yard and we were fine with that. They are often bullies to other birds that try to use the same feeders. So far they haven’t been too overbearing to the other birds.

What’s down there?

Even though this bird looks mostly black, I just love how their colors come to life in the right light.

Lastly one of our favorite birds that nests in our yard every year is the Gray Catbird. Today I was lucky to catch one after a successful hunt for some natural protein.

Do these bugs make my beak look big?

You may have to click on the image to see what he is holding in his beak but I think it might be some inch worms. Yummy!

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the birds around our yard. These are only a few of the birds I was able to photograph today but I will save some of the other pictures for later.

I’m joining the Wild Bird Wednesday blog hop. You should stop by and see some more birds.

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Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. Last week I showed you our Bluebirds so this week I want to show you some of the other birds around our yard. Let’s start with the largest.

Blue Jay

There is no difference between male and female Blue Jays but the next pair has subtle difference between genders.

Female Downy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker

The only gender difference between the Downy Woodpeckers is that the male has a red spot on the back of his head. The next two birds are about the same size and are some of the smallest birds we have around our yard.

Song Sparrow

Tufted Titmouse

Like the Blue Jay the male and female Song Sparrow and Tufted Titmouse look the same.

I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the birds around our yard. There are more pictures to come as more migrants arrive and I’m working hard on trying to photograph some of the more skittish birds in our yard.

I’m joining the Wild Bird Wednesday blog hop. You should stop by and see some more birds.

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Hi everyone! It’s Cindy here. A little while ago my mom emailed me and was wondering if we had our bluebirds back. At the time we had only consistently seen a male Eastern Bluebird.

Male Eastern Bluebird

Just last week he seemed to have found a mate.

Female and Male Eastern Bluebirds

These two were perched on some branches overlooking the nesting box we have at the end of our driveway in our front yard.

Female Eastern Bluebird

Just yesterday I caught the female hard at work.

Does this stuff make my beak look too big?

Under the watchful eyes of her mate Mrs. Bluebird was perfecting her nest in the box. It was interesting to note that she took about 20 – 30 minutes between visits and it kind of makes me laugh to see how much she can hold in her beak.

I hope you enjoyed seeing this glimpse into this year’s Bluebird couple. In a few weeks I hope to report that we’ve had some eggs hatched. I will keep you posted.

I’m joining the Wild Bird Wednesday blog hop. You should stop by and see some more birds.

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