Monday, May 11, 2020

Spring is for the Birds

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I love birds and enjoy watching them and photographing them, but it is hard work! This post is a compilation of bird pictures I have made over the years. Especially during this pandemic, the birds have been wonderful company and have piqued my interest in observing their habits and learning more about 
 them.
 The picture of this Cedar Wax Wing was amazing. Our son and his family were visiting and we were sitting outside. All of a sudden a flock of these beautiful birds swooped in and did not mind us at all. I quickly got my camera and had no trouble taking pictures because they were entertained eating the berries. I've entered this picture in several contests but it hasn't made the cut. It was exciting to catch him with a berry in his mouth. The flock flew in and had a feast on the Mahonia berries.



Cedar Waxwings are mostly seen in flocks looking for berries. They are very sleek-looking with a pointed crest, light yellow belly and bandit like black mask.  They obtain their mask after the first year and red wingtips after their second year. The tip of the tail is bright yellow and the tip of the wings look as if it has been dipped in red wax. 
Food consists of cedar cones, fruit and insects.


Eastern Bluebirds like open habitats such as fields, pastures, and roadsides. Sings a distinctive "chur-lee chur-lee."They nest in old cavities of woodpeckers, or man-made nest boxes. The female builds and they have two broods per year.  
I had to zoom so far to get this shot it is blurred. They are sensitive to movement so shots are hard to come by. 



Bluebird eggs are such a sweet shade of blue and are tiny. They lay 4-5 pale blue eggs without markings.  The incubation is 12-14 days. Female incubated. Fledging is 15-18 days. Male and female feed the young.
I love the vivid blue of the bluebird. I wish my birdbath had been cleaner!
Here is a link to another post on bluebirds.




I was so pleased to capture this many robins together in the bird bath.
This is a cell phone pic of a robin. 
Robins's eggs are a brilliant blue. They build cup-shaped nests and lay 4-7 eggs without markings. My daughter made this picture at her house in north Alabama. Robins migrate to south Alabama. They do not nest here.

 This Robin was photographed in a savannah holly. There were hundreds of robins and cedar waxwings feasting on the berries.
 I found it interesting in my reading that it is easy to differentiate between male and female robins. The male's  has a dark black head and brick redbreast and the female's head is gray with a dull redbreast.

 A robin is not listening for worms when cocking its head to one side. It is looking with eyes placed far back on the sides of its head. A very territorial bird, often seen fighting its own reflection in windows.



Male Cardinal on the fence. I have cardinals year-round in my garden that visit my feeder. 
Female Cardinal on fountain. Both males and females have a distinct red bill.
Male and female Northern Cardinals Kissing? You have to look hard to see the female she is so light.  During courtship northern cardinals go beak-to-beak as the male feeds the female. Although not every pair of cardinals mates for life, many of them do.  
I feel very fortunate to have gotten this picture. 
I've had these little small feeders for a long time but they require filling often. I was very pleased to capture both the male and female together.


I'm sorry my picture of the American goldfinch is not better. The American Goldfinch is a perky yellow bird with a black patch on the forehead on the male. It has a black tail with a conspicuous white rump. I find it very interesting that the male's color changes in winter. There is a dramatic change in color (more drab) during winter, similar to the female. The female is dull olive-yellow without a black forehead, with brown wings and a white rump. Their nest is the cup type and the female builds it. They only have one brood per year. In Alabama, they are partial to non-migratory: flocks of up to 20 birds move around North America. They eat seeds, and insects and will come to feeders. They like Nyjer thistle seed.

This Brown Thrasher and his wife were so cute taking turns in the birdbath. When I first saw them one was perched on the fence and the other in the birdbath. By the time I got my camera the one on the fence was gone. I am amazed by how polite birds are. They actually take turns. I haven't seen the brown thrashers at the feeder but they love my birdbath.
 Brown thrashers have yellow eyes which helped me be sure they were not a wood thrush. 

Male Red-Winged Blackbird. They are so hard to photograph and this is not a good picture. I see them all over the golf course close to our house but not in our neighborhood. The male is a jet black bird with red and yellow shoulder patches on upper wings. It has a pointed black bill. The female is a heavily streaked brown bird with a pointed brown bill and white eyebrows. In fall and winter, migrant and resident redwings gather in huge numbers (thousands) with other blackbirds to feed in agricultural fields, marshes and wetlands. 
I think this lone goose was late migrating. 

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul- and sings the tunes without the words -and never stops at all." Emily Dickinson

This peacock picture was made in Charleston at one of the plantations.



This is a Carolina Wren that built in a planter close to our porch. You can view the post here about the family. It has a distinctive white eye stripe and a short stubby tail often cocked up. It is similar to a house wren. It sings year-round. They build in our garage every year. You would think they would learn we shut the doors at night and they are trapped inside.
You might notice the DIY birdseed feeder. I was inspired to make the bird feeder by Mary@Home is Where the Boat Is, DIY Cottage Bird Feeder seen here.
Red-bellied Woodpecker- I believe this is a female because it has a gray crown. Males have a red crown. They have a zebra back. They nest in a cavity that female and male excavate and have one brood per year. Male and female incubate 12-14 days. The female incubates during the day and the male incubates at night. 





 Pileated Woodpecker- This is a terrible picture but I did make it in my yard. I was facing the light so the picture looked perfectly good through the camera lens but not well at all when I loaded the pics.

Pileated Woodpecker (9597212081), crop.jpg
I borrowed this pic and I am not sure where.


This is a Baltimore Oriole that has stopped by for a visit at my friend's house for a number of years now, usually in February. I made this picture from her window. This bird is a male with a bright flaming orange color and blackhead. The female is a pale yellow bird with orange tones, gray-brown wings, white wing bars, a gray bill, and dark eyes. They build a hanging or pendulous nest that the female builds and has one brood per year. Their eggs are bluish with brown markings. They migrate to Mexico, Central America, and South America. This bird is a fantastic songster and is often heard before seen.
For some reason, he did not show up this year. My friend first spotted him at her hummingbird feeder. Upon reading about them liking oranges we both put out oranges. They also like grape jelly.  I keep hoping one will come to my house. 
Look at the top of this birdhouse and see the mockingbird a very common bird in our area. The Northern Mockingbird is found year-round in our entire state. It is a very animated bird. It performs an elaborate mating dance. Facing each other with heads and tails erect, pairs will run toward each other flashing white wing patches, and then retreat to cover nearby. Sits for long periods on top of shrubs and my observation is they sit on power lines frequently. They imitate other birds (vocal mimicry) hence the common name. Young males often sing at night. Often unafraid of people allowing close observation.
This is a double-crested Cormorant. It is a large black waterbird with a long snake-like neck. It has a long gray bill with yellow at the base and a hooked tip. They are often seen flying in large V formation. Usually roosts in trees close to water. We see this bird on the pond on the golf course near my home.


Great Egret. The male and female are the same. They are a tall, thin, elegant all-white bird with a long, pointed yellow bill. Black stilt-like legs and black feet. The male and female build a platform nest and have one brood per year. Male and female incubate. They eat fish, aquatic insects, frogs, and crayfish. They are now protected but were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s for its long white plumage.


Red-tailed Hawk. Their food consists of mice, birds, snakes, insects, and mammals.  They are 19-23 inches and have up to a four-foot wingspan. The nest is a platform nest and the incubation is long- 30-35 days and both female and male incubate. Fledging 45-46 days and both male and female feed young. They have 2-3 eggs white without markings or sometimes marked with brown. 
The red-tailed hawk is a common hawk of open country and in cities, often seen perched on freeway light posts, fences, and trees. Look for it circling over open field and roadsides, searching for prey. Their large stick nests are commonly seen in large trees along roads. Returns to the same nest site each year. Develops a red tail in the second year. This picture was made in my back yard.


Carolina Chickadee is a mostly gray bird with a black cap and chin. Has a white face and chest with a tan belly. It has a darker gray tail. The female is the same as the male. They nest in cavities. They fly to feeders grab a seed and carry it to a branch. To get to the meat inside, it holds the seed down with its feet and hammers the shell open with its bill.

One common bird I have not photographed that we see in our area is the familiar Blue Jay. We also have house finches and mourning doves that I have not photographed. In January and February, my husband saw a pair of Bald Eagles while walking early in the morning. They were terrorizing our local Cormorants in a nearby pond.
I have two hummingbird feeders on my porch and as I am typing this post the hummingbirds are buzzing in and out from the hummingbird feeders.  When I hear the Chickadees distinctive calls I look up and see them at the feeders. Squirrels are constantly moving about. The birds have been pleasant company and I keep my camera handy always wishing for a better shot and when I do I will replace a few of these photos! I have a bluebird family in my bluebird house now. The picture of the bluebird eggs is recent. 
 
 I hope I have piqued your interest in birds and maybe you learned something you did not know.  I did a program for my Garden Club in March on Birds. I shared lovely pictures from Birds and Blooms magazine of many birds I have not seen. If you are interested in identifying birds and learning more about them I recommend Birds and Blooms magazine. Every time I look at my old issues I learn something new. My research source on this post came from "Birds of Alabama" field guide by Stan Tekiela.