Our eyes and ears should be open and alert to the natural wonders that surround us every day. Take time to look out our windows to see the birds that visit us and open our windows to hear them. Walk around whatever space we have to enjoy the birds in nature. Every day, work on improving our powers of observation.
Nature happens. We cannot MAKE natural things happen (or NOT happen). We can create habitats to encourage natural things to happen around us, but there are no guarantees.
Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them. If you are unwilling to accept these responsibilities, you shouldn’t feed the birds. We also have a responsibility to share these natural wonders with the next generation.
This morning we lost our buddy Spud. For however long they inhabit our lives, our pets leave indelible images on our hearts. Here's some of our favorites images of this sweet girl who was part of our lives for nearly 17 years.
This has been our screensaver at the store for a number of years
She LOVED boxes - sitting in, sitting on, just give her a box and she was happy!
The best of both worlds: a heated kitty cup under a chair!
When May hits, the migration pace quickens, so I better get my 2nd spring migration report in the books! This year, I'm learning a little more about each of these birds as they arrive and will share a fun fact or two from Pete Dunne's "Essential Field Guide Companion".
Song Sparrows seem to be a timely bird, returning on March 23rd this year. That's within 5 days of all their other return dates. They can be seen year-round in New York but I only see them during migration, even though Pete Dunne describes them as "probably not far from where you are right now"!
Dunne Fun Fact "Sings all year, though infrequently in winter. Individuals sometimes sing at night. Song is variable but simple in pattern and easily recognized. Usually begins with two to four (usually three) quick, clear, identical notes followed by a long trill and an ending that has several short notes: chee, chee, chee tureeeee, uree tee tee."
I heard the phoebe before I saw him later the same day, April 2. Don't mistake the chickadee's two-note fee-bee song for a phoebe! The phoebe's "fee-beeeee" has a harsher, sore-throatier "beeee".
Dunne Fun Fact "Has adapted well to humans and often chooses to use human structures - most notably bridges and buildings - to secure its nests."
Sorry, no celebration of their return on April 14, the same date as in 2009. So I have a NIMBY attitude with the cowbird: go lay your eggs somewhere else...
Dunne Fun Fact "Only the interiors of mature, dense, unfragmented forest and woodlands seem impervious to cowbirds." Another reason to stop forest fragmentation....
I think the Chipping Sparrow is just so dapper and I welcomed their return on Tax Day April 15. They were just about on time, they've returned anywhere from April 15-22 over the last 5 years.
Dunne Fun Fact "The combination of the bright chestnut cap, prominent white eye stripe, and mascara-fine eye-line is distinctive and easily separates Chipping from all other rufous-capped sparrows. So don't sweat the details. You want to identify adult Chipping Sparrow? Just look at the face. The expression is smug."
FUN FACT SOURCE: Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion, Published by Houghton-Mifflin, 2006.
EASTERN CHIPMUNK Emerged from hibernation early this year, on March 10, earlier than years' past.
I bought this new high-tech dry cat food dispenser that you can program to feed your cat breakfast, lunch or dinner at prescribed times in preset portions. Instructions included this wording: "Adjustment time for the pet could be as short as a day or as long as a couple weeks, depending on your pet's personality".
Within hours, Lizzie was serving herself from her own personal vending machine!
She sticks her paw up in the dispenser and anywhere from 1 to 6 pieces of kibble drop in the bowl. Not how it's supposed to work but she LOVES her new feeding machine!
After an abbreviated Project FeederWatch at home last week, I did get to watch birds in my dad's backyard in Peoria, Illinois. They have a beautiful backyard, maybe a little too neat for me, but outfitted with all the right feeders. Their birdfeeding stations were designed with the assistance of Jim and Deb Parrott of the Wild Birds Unlimited shop in Peoria. My thanks go out to Jim and Deb for helping bring so much nature into my dad's and Ginger's life.
Being neat-niks, they like to put their feeders in their garden beds and totally avoid the lawn. So sometimes the feeders get a little close to squirrel jump-off points like trees, shrubs, and garden furniture. As a result, besides the baffles, they've chosen caged tube feeders to keep squirrels off, and also serve seed that squirrels don't like safflower and niger.
Their squirrels are HUGE! They have Fox Squirrels in their neck of the woods, critters so big, their thighs rub together when they walk! I even thought I saw a double chin on one! This one looks like he's been over-inflated.
Cardinals are regular visitors in their suburban yard. And not just the one cardinal I see occasionally, but up to a half dozen at a time! Their finch feeders were filled with goldfinches almost the entire time I was there. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker feasted on suet and shelled peanuts. And I was really pleased to see a Carolina Wren at their feeders too. I wish these two birds were regular visitors in my yard!
A mixed flock of House Finches and House Sparrows frequent the tube feeders. My dad says he doesn't mind feeding the house sparrows and that the only birds he doesn't like are "those grackles", though he does admit that his tolerance for them is increasing because they only stay for a short time and then move on after a week or two. Even I have to admit that during my stay, the house sparrow presence didn't bother me too much. The numbers were manageable, and they just seemed at home within the mixed flock of small birds.
I gave them one of our WBU Seed Wreaths, which the birds found in no time at all.
The other feeders filled with sunflower chips had a steady stream of activity created by goldfinches, chickadees, and Tufted Titmice. My dad has a lot of success with the tube-feeder-in-a-cage approach that lets all the little birds in and keeps the squirrels out. And watching the level of activity at his feeders, it's obvious that little birds have no problem passing through the 1-1/2" square openings to get to the food inside.
The shelled peanuts are the favorite of the titmouse and they're joined there by both male and female Downy Woodpeckers, house sparrows (looking chubby from all the high fat foods at this restaurant), Blue Jays, and a White-breasted Nuthatch. Mourning Doves cleaned up underneath all the feeders.
I was pleased to see a few Dark-eyed Juncos in their yard and to be able to point out the bird to them. They had never noticed one before (not saying they haven't visited before!) I am making the assumption that they are just winter visitors in Peoria.
During my 2 day stay, I saw 13 species including my first of the year Carolina Wren. I had a nice, relaxing Thanksgiving that included a couple days of central Illinois feeder watching. And Lizzie liked watching the birds too!
We took in a stray cat last week and are introducing her to the blogosphere today. Say hello to Lizzie!
Lizzie was a stray that started hanging around the yard about the 3rd week in September. We have an indoor cat and didn't want a stray in the yard terrorizing her as well as the birds.
We had been down to just one cat since the old girl Jess passed away in June 2008. It just seemed the right time to bring another cat in.
So we moved her into the breezeway one week ago, asked around if anyone had lost a cat, and kept an eye out for Lost Cat flyers. Her first vet visit was Friday, when she got all her shots and a clean bill of health - no fleas, no worms, no ear mites. She'll head back to the vet in early November to be spayed and (laser) declawed. But after her first vet visit, she enjoyed a day up at camp.
She's very friendly and seems quite comfortable on a lap. The vet estimated that she's 8 months old; she weighs in at 6 lbs. 11 oz. and will always be a petite cat. Quite a departure from our rotund Spud.
We'll have to gradually introduce Spud to Lizzie when we phase her out of quarantine next week. Spud hasn't liked the couple times that she's seen us with Lizzie, giving us the hizzing and growling routine. Spud is 15 and is pretty easy going but has enjoyed being the top cat the last 16 months. Hopefully, Spud and Lizzie will get along!