Turn of the Year in the Yard

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Downy Woodpecker

Unwilling to venture out any farther than my yard this past weekend, I was rewarded somewhat when it proved to be interesting. I think if I were home more, the outdoor crowd would become used to me and then I wouldn’t have to wait ten minutes for them to start coming back to the yard after I have planted myself at a sufficient distance from the feeders. This past weekend the cold weather might have tipped my hand a bit.

AMGO 1-1-18-4028I am grateful to have goldfinches back in the yard. Years ago I had dozens, and then they dwindled down to a few. It finally occurred to me that part of the problem was likely niger seed that had gone stale after I bought too much anticipating their return. Fancy thistle feeders did not seem to be appreciated either. I would get one or two goldfinches, but I knew there had to be more out there. So this year, I bought a small amount of fresh seed with the Audubon sale, and got a couple new thistle socks. At one point this past weekend I counted 20 goldfinches on two socks when they were full. The socks are even harder to fill with frozen fingers. But the goldfinches really like these socks, so I just bought some more, and filled up three of them last night in the warmth of the kitchen before hanging them outside. Maybe after another week or two of coddling, the goldfinches will make themselves more available for photographs. The only one I managed to get, above, was taken through the porch window and screen.

The heated bird bath is a big hit with the House Sparrows and everybody else, and probably the best thing I can provide. I have seen a couple birds actually take baths in this frigid weather and I don’t know how they manage to dry off quickly enough when the wind chill is 20 below. Must be a dinosaur thing.

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European Starlings

I thought the starlings were gone for the winter but there seems to be a hardy bunch hanging out in the yard for the daily offering of peanut pieces.NOCA 1-1-18-3970I couldn’t quite figure out what the cardinal was up to in the snow, and he was at a fuzzy distance, but I couldn’t resist his red.


At one point I went back out later New Year’s Day, I heard a lot of cawing and found four crows in a tree a block away across the alley. I suspected they were harassing a raptor but I didn’t see their target.

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I went back inside after walking around the block. A bit later, I looked out the kitchen door window to see the raptor below sitting in the same tree the crows had been in. I managed to get my large lens out for a better look.

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Red-Shouldered Hawk

I had seen the Red-Shouldered a couple times in the neighborhood around the end of November. The first time I was on my way to work and it was calling from its perch on a different tree, so I was able to identify it as much by sound as sight. Now it seems it’s taken up residence for the winter. This is exciting to me because it’s not a bird I have seen very often anywhere, so maybe I’ll get more familiar with this species thanks to this individual.

But just as I was done taking that picture, the Cooper’s Hawk below flew into my yard and then quickly perched on a fence in my neighbor’s yard. Needless to say everybody else assumed hiding mode. I only wish the Cooper’s had found a more attractive perch.

COHA 1-1-18-4111Two of my Diamond Doves were sitting soaking up the sun that poured into the kitchen window. I wonder what they thought of all the strange yard activity.

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Diamond Doves

I will be back soon with another post from Ecuador and a visual break from winter.

9 thoughts on “Turn of the Year in the Yard

  1. As I can see, your birds never abandon you… they know who’s good for them. Just make sure you bundle up my friend. OK? 🙂

  2. I was away for the holidays and the feeder went dry. The birds were not impressed and are only now starting to return again.
    It’s amazing what all finds its way to your yard!

    • After I came back from Ecuador the feeders were empty, the squirrels had tried breaking in to my back porch and it took almost a week for the birds to come back to the yard. I guess they have a Plan B! And maybe I’m not the only yard they visit. I am excited about the Red-Shouldered Hawk.

  3. 20 goldfinches? The most we might see is 6-8. I suspect you are right about the importance of fresh seed. I try now to change the seed frequently even if there’s lots still uneaten.

    • I used to get up to 30 years ago. But you need to have a lot of feeders to accommodate that many birds. It’s like they tell their friends and the word spreads. They also eat the sunflower chips but I think the deal with the niger is that they get to pretty much keep that all to themselves so that’s what attracts them, they don’t have to compete with the other birds. So what do I do with a 25-lb. bag of stale seed? It’s pretty harmless stuff, it won’t germinate, so I’m composting it, using it for mulch here and there. Whatever.

  4. Hi Lisa, I had the same problem with goldfinches this year. They were nowhere to be found except a few. I had read about stale seed and I’m not sure how old mine is but I never had an issue before. I have 2 Droll Yankee feeders and I usually buy 10 lb. bags. I’m gonna try the socks and buy fresh seed. Just came back from a 14 degree walk, not many birds but a beautiful red fox and deer. Let you know how the socks work out. Bye!

    • Hi Bruce. Even the socks the goldfinches can be finicky about – they seem to like them a bit on the filmier side. I put up a nice sturdy sock but I guess the seeds were too much work to extract. I don’t know why this is either, I used to have feeders that they came to before they stopped coming almost altogether. Anyway yesterday there were maybe 30 goldfinches at the Portage which is less than 2 miles away, and at times maybe another 20 or so in my yard… I don’t know if some of them are part of the same population. The weather being what it is, I’m switching out the socks with new full ones when they get down to a quarter full. Good luck!

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