Idle observations at the hopper feeder

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When the pileated woodpeckers visit the backyard buffet, they are mostly ignored by the other birds. Despite their size and fearsome-looking beak, they don’t seem to be feared, but they are certainly not included in the community activities. They operate solo! The pileated pictured here is a male who is interested in food, but isn’t looking to enjoy a friendly meal with his neighbors.

On the other hand, the smaller birds like the sparrows and finches are more community-minded (although not always friendly). At least as far as I have observed. Here they are, during their social hour at the hopper-feeder on a sunny morning:

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Now don’t take this seriously, but do you know any people who act like that? Are any neighbors in your community isolated or do they all share the communal space? Are they accepting of strangers or openly hostile? Do you see any familiar behavior in these pictures?  This is just a non-scientific, layman’s observation, based on the body language and the expressions on some of those beaks, but I’m wondering if, like some humans, not all little birds are friendly and welcoming during their social gatherings. Can we learn anything from the birds? As I said, this is strictly non-scientific, so don’t take it seriously! Just have fun watching the behavior of the birds in your neighborhood.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

 

Too cold for trailwalking

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As I warned in my last post, right after spotting the red-bellied woodpecker above, our temperatures plummeted and for the past several days have hovered around zero (F). Yesterday the high temp here along the south shore of Lake Erie peaked at zero degrees Fahrenheit and went down from there. The “feels like” temp, given the wind chill, was many degrees lower. It was, as I had expected, painfully below my acceptable trail walking minimum of 23 degrees, so I resorted to backyard birding…through my kitchen window. Here are a few of the birds I saw this morning after we trudged out to refresh the feeders.

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Starlings arrive in large groups
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They are pesky, but, taken individually, can be cute.
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Sometimes they search under the feeders.
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A solitary tufted titmouse

That’s all the backyard birding I have time for right now. Maybe I can capture a few more later, but I wouldn’t blame them if they all found a warm spot to huddle together out of the wind.

Thanks for visiting. Hopefully I will soon be back on the trail. Our temperature is supposed to moderate in a day or two. I’m thankful for that prediction because I have had enough of this worrisome sub-zero stuff. I’m fully aware that, while I am warm and cozy, as I watch the birds through my kitchen window, many others aren’t so fortunate. Some have to search out shelters for protection. They need our prayers when the weather conditions become treacherous, something that seems to happen with increasing frequency in recent months, or maybe I should say years.

Stay safe, fellow bloggers, and give thanks for your safety.
Trail Walker

Breakfast time at the Backyard Buffet

It was a dreary morning, but the Baltimore oriole appears unfazed by the wet weather. His bright orange coat is still looking good and adds a little cheer to the backyard buffet when he landed on the dish that holds his grape jelly.

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On the other hand, the pileated woodpecker struggles to make his usual smooth landing before settling down to eat breakfast.

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My funniest picture ever of a pileated woodpecker.
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However, he recovers his composure and carries on.

The pileated comes around every day for his morning meal, and nothing is going to interfere with it. A bird that big has to have his meals on time. Sometimes a fellow just has to do the best he can, regardless of the weather! Eating is serious business for the birds.

Thanks for stopping by today. See you soon.
~Trail Walker

He’s still here, and guess what…

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…He’s not alone! He brought a friend.

Yesterday morning I heard the distinctive call the pileated woodpecker makes when he swoops in for a landing at the backyard buffet. So of course I picked up my camera and headed for my post at the kitchen window (It actually makes a good bird shooting blind, although I do my shooting with a Nikon D7100 instead of a gun). Sure enough there he was at his favorite suet feeder, and for the next 10 minutes, I tracked him from feeder to feeder and even over to our neighbor’s apple tree. I shot lots of pictures! Here’s a sampling:

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Next to the oriole feeder
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On our neighbor’s apple tree
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Scanning the neighborhood from the top of the hopper feeder
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Still scanning
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Leaning over to grab a bite of suet
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Hanging on the trunk of our tallest tree
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Swinging from the feeder on the old swing set

Now how observant are you? Can you tell which bird is our usual P.W. and which one is the “friend?” Here’s a hint: the friend is a female. Take another look at the pictures. Three are of the female friend. Can you pick them out?

Here’s another hint: the male has a red mustache and a full head of red hair.

Are you an expert on pileated woodpeckers or were you as surprised as I was to discover that our guest is actually two different birds? (The female is sitting next to the oriole feeder, hanging on the trunk of our tallest tree, and swinging from the feeder on the old swing set.) S/he had me fooled! What a surprise.

Hope you enjoyed this visit to our backyard bird buffet.
See you soon. ~Trail Walker

A guest for lunch

One of our neighborhood big birds, the pileated woodpecker, came for lunch today. He swooped in for a landing on top of the hopper feeder, and Bob spotted him feasting on the suet cake that is right below his “landing pad.” Leaning over the end of the feeder, he would grab a bite of suet, take a look around the neighborhood, then grab another bite. He was in no hurry to leave, and I had time to take a lot of photos.

 

He’s almost prehistoric-looking. Check out that beak and those claws. I wouldn’t want to get between him and his suet because he obviously loves it. Finally satisfied, he flew away, moving unbelievably fast! Maybe next time I’ll be quicker with my finger on the shutter button and get a better shot of the takeoff!
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That was today’s excitement, but I’m betting he’ll be back!
Trail Walker

Big birds in the backyard

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To my delight the sky cleared this afternoon, and I was even more delighted when I heard a familiar sound in the neighborhood. I hurried to the window and, sure enough, the pileated woodpecker was in our backyard. It didn’t hang around for long, but before it swooped through the air to land on a tree farther away, I was able to grab my camera and get off a shot.

A visit from the big Woody Woodpecker look-alike is always a joy, and I thought to myself that I had my big bird photo opp for the day. But a little while later, Bob came home from his walk with Gulliver, rushed in the house, and announced, “Get your camera, and let’s go. The eagles are both at the nest.” So we took off for Bruce Yee Park, just a mile down the road from our backyard, where a pair of bald eagles have recently set up housekeeping. My longest lens really isn’t long enough to get great shots from much distance, but it was a delight to see this pair, Mama sitting on the nest and Papa standing guard in a nearby tree.

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I couldn’t get a clear shot of Mama.
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But Papa sat straight up and let me take multiple photo opps.
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They seem to be taking parenthood very seriously.

Our recent weather hasn’t been conducive to photowalking, and I haven’t added many shots to my trailwalking gallery nor posts to my blog, but this afternoon’s two unplanned and unexpected photoshoots …both without leaving the neighborhood, made up for my recent photographic dry spell. I couldn’t have asked for a better day!

Thanks for stopping by to see my big birds.
Trail Walker

A sure sign of spring!

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Spring has been wearing its fickle face recently, bringing lots of rain, wind, and even a few rumbles of thunder. Thankfully we haven’t had any severe storms, although at times the rain was heavy enough to create a large pond in our neighbor’s backyard. This happens every spring, of course, and, without fail, when the spring rain comes, this mallard couple comes with it.

A year or two ago, they were joined by several other male mallards, but that didn’t go so well. There was an outbreak of territorial jealousy accompanied by noisy quacking and threatening posturing. With multiple male mallards and only one female, peaceful coexistence was not a possibility. Watching their antics, I harbored a suspicion that the lady mallard was enjoying the ruckus…and maybe even egging the guys on! This afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Mallard returned for their annual visit, and happily it was just the two of them!

Back to the bluebirds

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I’m always delighted when I see Eastern bluebirds, especially when they are visiting my Backyard Bird Buffet. When yesterday dawned cold and soggy, I wasn’t expecting to see them, but as Bob and I watched the regular, daily visitors to the Buffet, a little flock of bluebirds joined the crowd and made themselves at home.

First this little male visited the new seed cylinder. I didn’t see him munching at the cylinder, but apparently it also works well as a perch and a place to check out the activity in the backyard.

A female joined him…
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…and he kept watch while she tasted a tidbit.

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Next they flew to the stump where they were joined by another female.

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Uh-oh, an intruder!

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A hungry one!
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Fortunately red-bellied woodpeckers are not a threat to bluebirds and other songbirds, so peace was restored in the Bird Buffet until a hawk flew in for a visit. At that point, all the guests at the Backyard Buffet scattered for safety. No one was left for the hawk to harm, so he flew away too.

That’s the end of Tuesday’s adventures at the Backyard Buffet.
Thanks for visiting! See you soon.
Trail Walker

Molting: more normal than you might think!

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When I posted a picture of this pitiful-looking bluejay on my daily photo site, some viewers expressed sympathy for him and his (normal, but sickly-looking) appearance. Molting, the process that causes some birds to lose their old, worn out feathers and get new ones, does leave the poor bird looking pretty sad for a short time.

Molting, sometimes called shedding, is a process in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body, either at specific times of the year, or at specific points in its life cycle.

For some of us, who photograph birds, a bird like this bluejay may look alarming in the advanced stages of the molting process; however, it is a natural process that occurs regularly (often seasonally) in bird and other animals. Many pet owners, for example, will be aware of shedding when they must clean their dog’s or cat’s hair off the sofa or vacuum it from the floor. Shedding is a form of molting. Chickens are another example of animals that molt, which I knew, but I didn’t know they often stop laying eggs until their new feathers grow in. Another interesting fact I discovered is that salamanders and frogs shed their skin, and then often eat it. These are just a few examples of molting. Students of biology and people who regularly work with animals in the course of their daily jobs would probably take our bluejay’s scraggly appearance for granted, knowing it is caused by a normal process, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Now that I know (a little), I thought I would share what I learned with the rest of you.

Thanks for reading this far. If you have anything to add to this rudimentary information, please join in the conversation by adding a comment below.

See you along the trail soon.
Carolyn aka Skip

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