Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


Greedy Guts

This varied thrush is in the same family as the robin, but for some reason we see them here more often in the winter or very early spring. I think this might be Mrs. Thrush.


Mr. Thrush, I presume? Either way, they are cooling their heels on the mound of snow that covers the top of a rhododendron. It seems Greedy Guts is hogging the feeder.

029aNo one else can get near the suet block. I can just hear that starling calling from the feeder, “Eat your heart out.” Sure, the starlings are hungry too, but they don’t care if the other birds starve. I don’t like that.

100 Europeans starlings were introduced (unfortunately, IMHO) to North America in 1890-1891. Now the bullies are everywhere. Pests, they are. They do have a talent for mimicking other bird sounds, which makes them interesting, but still not lovable.

My pretty little thrushes, sparrows, chickadees, nuthatches,  and juncos are afraid of the starlings and have to wait until he goes away to burp or take an antacid pill, before they can have a turn at the dinner table.


The starling’s coat is glittery

With iridescent shine.

His manners are atrocious, 

But he’s master of the mime.


Blurry Feeding Frenzy

No, they’re not sharks in this feeding frenzy, but they’re bushtits. This is the picture I was trying to get the other day when there were so many birds at the suet all at the same time. One photo I took today had a couple more birds than this one, but it was even blurrier. The reason for much of the blur is that it is taken through the window and I haven’t cleaned my windows for months, since the bad weather started. The salt spray reaches us even though we’re quite some distance from the water and it only takes one wind/rain storm to mess things up again. So why bother until spring? This window is too hard to reach anyway. Trying to focus on birds that won’t hold still was another challenge, so don’t look for sharp lines in this one – just count the little bodies. I think I see 11 of them. If I had risked opening the window to take the picture, the bird count would have been 0.



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.

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.



Red-breasted Nuthatch

“Yenk, yenk, yenk,” the nuthatches call to each other. I’m so happy they’re here working hard to rid my yard of a lot of insects and arthropods, especially in the warmer months when bugs are active.

When cold weather makes bugs a rare find, the nuthatches eat conifer seeds and bits of food (seeds) they cached earlier in the year. Smart of them to plan ahead. Of course a birdfeeder makes life a lot easier for them. They prefer the bigger seeds like sunflowers. They jam the seeds into a crack in the wood and hammer at them with their beak to open them.


They’re very agile and think nothing of hanging upside down to pick at food. My mother would never have allowed such antics at the table.


Nuthatches like to nest in holes in trees. Dead wood is especially attractive, most likely because it is easier to chip into. The nuthatch in the photo below worked for hours to chip a hole into the power pole on our property.


You can see that he had made quite a dent in the pole. But in the end,  he decided against nesting there. Maybe it was too exposed. Probably didn’t have enough “street appeal.”


Here’s a unique anti-predator strategy. The female nuthatch brings resin from trees and smears it around the inside of the nest entrance, while the male spreads resin on the outside of the entrance. This is meant to keep other birds from sticking their noses in where they don’t belong. Who wants to get pitch on their face anyway? The nuthatches themselves just kind of “dive” through the opening without getting any on themselves. It helps that they know it’s there.

These friendly birds are used to people. This is why I was able to get so close to them for taking photos. In our local bird sanctuary, they even land on your shoulder or outstretched hand if you hold birdseed out for them. If you do feed the birds in winter, be sure to do your research and feed them approved birdseed. No Cheezies please.


A Man’s Gotta Eat

When the cold weather hit us about ten days ago, I hurried out to make sure my birdfeeders were full, and added some suet blocks to the menu. One of the first to enjoy a meal of suet was this Oregon junco. My sister calls them her little soldiers because of their black helmets. (I took these pictures through a window and using the zoom lens so that accounts for the graininess, but it’s the only way I could get close to the birds.)010

But a rather large dinner guest arrived. The steller’s jay muscled his way past the little soldier. He gobbled down a big dinner and then beat a hasty retreat when an even bigger diner flew in.012

This woodpecker, a red-shafted northern flicker landed right on his dinner plate. He had his black bib on and came prepared for dining. He looks quite dapper with his polka-dot shirt and a slash of red lipstick on his moustache. No, it’s not Mrs. Flicker, according to my bird book. In bird families it’s the men who get all gussied up and the women who keep a low profile. So here we have Jack Flash and his red slash, holding on for dear life to his seat at the table.


“Is it okay to start eating?” he asks. (Polite young man, isn’t he?)


Oh, maybe I spoke too soon. He’s got food all over his mouth.


“Did you say something?”


I told him he had food on his face, but he didn’t seem to care. He just stuck his face right into his plate.


“This place is a bit too picky for me. Maybe I’ll try ‘Avery’s Restaurant’ next door. They don’t stand there watching you eat, taking pictures like private investigators. I suppose they’ll mail these photos to my wife. But go ahead. See if I care. She’s out to a ladies’ lunch date at the Treehouse Diner with her girlfriends  having the Insect Borgasschmord. I’ll get whatever I can get wherever I can get it, and so what if I make a pig of myself? A man’s gotta eat.” 036


Bird Invasion

“Coming Soon to a Neighbourhood Near You” is a species of bird that has an amazing travel history. I live on the east coast of Vancouver Island and until a few years ago I hadn’t heard of Eurasian collared doves. Now they are at my birdfeeders and birdbaths.

Basically they look like a slenderer version of the domestic pigeon, but the colour is paler and more beige. A dark partial ring at the nape of the neck helps to identify it. The ring is not always easy to see.


 In the 1800s the Eurasian collared dove could be found in southern Asia, from Turkey to China and India. By the 1900s they had traveled to Europe and north Africa. In the 1970s  they were introduced into the Bahamas and from there they have spread all over North America except for the extremely cold north.

But today at my birdfeeding station, they wanted dinner and a bath.


“That birdbath looks too shallow for us,” Mrs. Dove warns.


“I don’t agree,” he says. “And there you go again ruffling my feathers.”



“I’m going to go for it. Here I go. Bombs away!”

After watching this scene, what could I do but call Avian Rescue 9-1-1?