december 2: feederwatching
I took this photo a couple of weeks ago; most of those glorious leaves have fallen now and the sky is hung upon the bare arms of the trees. Light glows from behind the clouds. I hadn’t realized how much I missed clouds, all those years under the clear blue Southern California sky. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the sky is painted by Maxfield Parrish, shot through with light. Even when it’s overcast and gray, there’s a glow behind the veil.
I made a list yesterday of things to write about. I’ve tucked so many stories in drafts this past year! But everything on my list feels like work. And I’m trying really hard not to work today.
So I’ll talk about Project Feederwatch instead. 🙂 Are any of you participating this year? We missed it last year. And our San Diego feeder attracted rats, so we abandoned it. But here, the birds are putting on quite a show. Our count days are Monday and Tuesday. Last week we counted 25 goldfinches, a flock of bush tits (we lost count at 25 but I think there were more), a handful of house finches and juncos, a female Northern Flicker who visits the suet feeder every morning, a downy woodpecker, two chickadees, two scrub jays, and some starlings. A highly satisfying count. The best view of the feeders is from my studio window, and it amuses me no end to come in here and find the chairs pulled out for better viewing. Huck and Rilla spend a lot of time in here, watching the show.
If you’re interested in taking part in the project, it’s not to late to join for this season. It takes a few weeks for the packet to arrive, but you can download a data sheet to tide you over. Once you get your registration packet in the mail, you begin entering your bird counts online. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses this data to “track long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.” I think it’s open to U.S. residents only (and costs $18 to participate), but there’s a Canadian version linked on the site.
I fill our two tube feeders with sunflower seeds. One suet feeder holds a peanutty cake, and the other is a suet-and-insect cake that the woodpeckers seem crazy about. We scatter a bit of millet on the ground for the juncos, and they clean up any sunflower seeds spilled by the squabbling goldfinches. We also have a mesh sock full of nyjer thistle for the finches. But my favorite is when they descend upon the big pot of cosmos and pick out the seeds from the flower centers.
I keep watching for the varied thrushes who began visiting our yard last winter. No luck yet but I’m hopeful!
I would love to hear about the birds that visit your yard, feeders or no!
Out on our farm in the cold months (northern Iowa) we hear owls at night. DD spotted screech owls up in the rafters of the barn, and I’ve seen a great horned owl in our tall evergreens. It was being bothered by some crows, which gave away his location. Occasionally we see bald eagles in the tree tops or eating road kill. Pheasants often, more rarely turkeys. Red-tailed hawks on the tops of electric poles. Canada geese fly overhead, sometimes we see them resting in the fields, but they prefer the golf course near town.
The smallest birds we see regularly in the winter are blue jays—we have about 6 pair.
I don’t feed any of them, but we have a variety of fruits, nuts and seeds growing around the farm. I do put out water when it is dry. Other birds migrate through, seasonally.
In town 5 miles away at my mom’s, she sees mostly small birds. Two types of nuthatches (rosy and regular), purple housefinches, goldfinches, chickadees, juncos and downy woodpeckers. We hear cardinals. She does feed them, thistle seed, black oil sunflower and suet and has a heated bird bath. She will have different birds in the spring. Juncos leave but the rest stay.
On December 2, 2018 at 4:13 pm
Lise McGuinness says:
We have downy woodpeckers, chickadees, tufted titmice, bluejays, sparrows, and one big fat squirrel who scares them all away and eats the food faster than I can afford to replace it. 🙁 We’ve had no luck squirrel-proofing. He’s awfully cute, but I really wanted to watch the birds!
On December 2, 2018 at 6:09 pm
Here in dark December we have Cardinals, Woodpeckers of various sorts, Crows and Ravens, Great Horned Owls to accompany the nights …. Lots of others that I can’t always see quickly enough. The ones I’ve listed I see most regularly, and lots of them … No feeders here, but we have lots of birds year round in our tree filled yarden.
On December 3, 2018 at 3:56 am
Just put out our tray feeder with saffflower . We have gone to that bc anything with sunflower seeds attracts all the bully birds. Those European Starlings are my nemesis. Got a new feeder for my birthday that will go in the backyard. It will also have a saffflower mix. I really want to get one of those thistle sock things because gold finches are just so adorable. I saw a eastern bluebird at a park about a mile away and I really want to lure one in my yard sometime. anyone know what they like?
On December 3, 2018 at 10:29 am
We are overrun by squirrels these days, but I still fill the feeders as often as I can. Recently we’ve seen cardinals, nuthatches, finches, titmice, crows, bluejays, woodpeckers, mourning doves – the usual New England in December suspects!
I don’t want to be mean to the squirrels, I *like* them, but really, there are a lot and they don’y leave much for the birds. It’s a problem.
On December 3, 2018 at 10:42 am