Category Archives: Birdwatching

Working to Eat

 

The pileated woodpecker has to work for his meals. This is Woody, who came to check out the old fir stump in my overgrown veggie garden. Notice how his tongue sticks out now and then to help lick up anything  he finds crawling around inside the wood.

After he had his meal, he flew into the forested area around the side of our house to have dessert at one of the other stumps we’ve left there.

I followed him to try to get another photo and was surprised when Junior flew in and landed in a tree quite close to me. You can tell that this is a young bird, maybe a female because of no red malar stripe (moustache). The red on her head is not as brilliant as it will be when she matures.

By the time I recovered from the surprise of her appearance, and refocused the camera, the backyard superintendents woke up from sleeping on the job, and came along barking their fool heads off, scaring the birds away.

I sighed, but couldn’t really reprimand them. After all, they are bird dogs.

 

 

Are We Hungry?

When I went outside in the bitter cold the other day to refill the birdfeeders and put out more suet, I was surprised that there were no birds around. I wondered if a hawk had passed by to bully them. I refilled the feeders anyway, and hung more suet in the wire cage along with the half finished suet block. As I worked I heard one bird tell another, “She’s bringing fresh food,” and another bird answering, “I know, I know. I see!”

It reminded me of standing in a Chinese smorgasbord line-up, looking at the dregs of a pan of … something … and then seeing the waitress bring over a new steaming hot pan of fresh chow mein.

As soon as I left the birdfeeder area, a flock of tiny birds (bushtits, I think) came to the suet and covered the whole block with their hungry little bodies. When I looked back I couldn’t even see the suet block, only a swarm of feathers. I think now, that maybe the suet had frozen and was hard to pick at. It was that cold. The fresh block was not frozen and everyone ate well that night. My photo shows only six of the birds, but I’m sure there were more than ten or twelve on the suet in those first moments after I left.
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Harshest winter, freezing cold,

Tests survival of the bold.

Icy winds pierce feathers fine

As the tiny creatures dine.

They know they’ll die if they can’t eat

So at the feeder they all meet.

New suet hangs there in the wire

Perhaps their fate is not so dire,

Internal furnaces will warm

The bodies of the little swarm.

They’ll live to see another day

And soon the spring will come to stay.

 

He’s Ba-ack!

Same tree, same kind of bird, and I would wager it’s THE same bird. He was here in July and now he’s back to one of his favourite restaurants, an old maple that has a lot of dying branches. The bark is probably loaded in bugs and grubs that will fill this bird’s belly.

When I did a post about him in July, I had no idea what kind of bird it was, but with the help of my followers, we narrowed it down to a red-breasted sapsucker.

Just like on his previous visit, he was not at all shy and let me take many pictures. I needed to do this because he moved so fast, pecking at the tree bark, that most of my photos were blurry. Here is one from when he held still for a split second.                                           dscn7491It’s hard to tell from the photo but he is about the size of a robin.

Harris’s Sparrow

Where could she be? … What in blazes is keeping her so long? dscn6806I’m sure I told her to meet me at this thorny bush next to the Russian olive trees.
dscn6808It’s darned breezy sitting up here waiting for her.dscn6811

WHO in blazes is THAT she bringing over? NOT that DANDY! Doesn’t she know he’s a real birdbrain?dscn6809

Well, what can you do? She’ll get over her little infatuation in a while. But should I hang around for her? I didn’t know she was so flighty. I suppose I’ll have to fly south without her by my side. Maybe she’ll be over him “By the time I get to Phoenix.” (Thank you, Jimmy Webb.)dscn6807a

Talent to Spare

Our friend Bruce Glover is a talented man. Not only does he know a lot about the habits of many animals, he can paint and carve their likenesses with such skill that any of his subjects would be flattered if they could see his work. Here, Bruce stands before a display of some of his work on loan to a seniors’ residence.

Bruce Glover

One of Bruce’s favourite birds to carve is the brant goose. Here is a flock of them flying near Goose Spit on Vancouver Island. Notice the various wing positions in this photo and the next one.

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Now compare the live birds with carvings that he has made.

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This life-size brant has fooled many an admirer whose first inclination is to touch it to see if it’s real. Of course, touching a carving is a no-no, because even the cleanest fingers leave an oily residue that would soon break down the paint. This brant is carved from wood and each feather looks delicate when you look closely. It’s hard to believe it’s not alive.

The little miniature ducks at the brant’s feet don’t belong there. That was my own (silly) addition to the scene.

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Bruce also did this flock of Canada geese …

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and this one of the pileated woodpecker.

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The black brant carved right into this piece of wood was meant to be a sign by our driveway. We didn’t like to leave it out in all kinds of weather though, and it now hangs in the house.001

A very large sign that Bruce has recently made covers the whole table in his shop. The bend in the wood is from the way the trunk grew when the tree was knocked over by a larger tree that fell on it. The small tree continued to grow for many years and had a huge trunk when it was finally knocked down. It makes a unique piece to work with.

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The lettering is part of the wood, not pieced on. So is the salmon which is about to eat a smaller fish. A great deal of work went into making this large sign which will hang at the entrance to a fishing charter business. You won’t find another one like it anywhere.032

A Bug is a Bug is a Bug

With the new fence around my garden, the area was bigger than before, so I had a bit of sod to turn over for the first time. The soil under the grass was almost pure sand but I would add to it and gradually turn it into better growing soil. As I dug up the sod I came across pests that I put aside to feed the robins.

We’re hearing a lot in the news about the European chafer beetle (Rhizotrogus majalis) having been brought to our gardens in western Canada, but the prawn-like larvae from my yard will change into  ten-lined June beetles (Polyphylla decemlineata) which must be a cousin of the chafer beetle. They look the same in the larval stage. 002

You’ll see cutworms and some other thing in a maroon coloured pupa (maybe they’re cutworms in the pupa stage, I don’t know), but most of the treasures being served up on the green platter are the ten-lined June beetle larvae.

These larvae eat the roots of grass (and other plants, I presume), so they are not wanted in my garden. I’d rather fatten up the robins.

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Here is a short video I took of a robin eating my beetle larva offerings.

 

Doesn’t it just make you want to go out and order a plate of prawns?

Nature’s Orchestra

It’s early morning. I throw a jacket over my housecoat and take our two dogs outside. We have a big yard so there is no need to go far, but I do have to step outside with them or they would just huddle by the door and wait to be let back in the house for breakfast. All winter it has been cold, often with rain pelting down sideways in the wind. I’m always glad to get back in the house to warm up (and to do that before any early walkers see me).

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But the other day, the air was noticeably warmer. The breeze carried a scent of trees and warming earth. The warm, pink rays of the sunrise said good morning to the snow-covered hilltops. Pussywillows on the neighbour’s willow tree seemed to have opened overnight.

The sounds around me were definitely of spring. I tried to identify each one.  No more morning stillness. I heard the calls of Eurasian collared doves, flickers, towhees, chickadees, juncos, nuthatches and two other songbirds I couldn’t identify, and of course the big indicator of spring – the robin. And right after the robin’s call came the scratchy cawing of crows. They are already cruising to find the early nesting sites of the robins so they can raid them. If they don’t get the eggs, they’ll get the chicks. Good old Mother Nature will provide well for the crows, as she does every year.

In the waters of the bay below, sea lions barked to call each other over a feed of herring while the loons filled the quiet gaps with their lonely calls.

It’s like an orchestra here on some spring mornings. The songbirds are the strings,clarinets, and piccolos, while the doves are the oboes, and the loon is the flute. The sea lions are the tubas, and the crows are the brushes, tambourines, and snare drums.

And me? I guess I could be the opera singer, calling my dogs to come in now for breakfast.