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.

Meanwhile Back at the Bungalow

Drew in the Kitchen Window

Drew looking out the Kitchen Window

No matter how distracted I may become by It All, and that’s amounted to Very Distracted Lately, there is always ongoing comedy/drama/opera relief going on at home.

Of course when it’s that rare sunny afternoon I’m home and able to sneak a picture or two of the indoor crowd, invariably we haven’t cleaned yet. So what few pictures I have here are cropped as much as possible…

A while ago I decided to buy the music to the Ravel Piano Concerto in G, simply to learn the adagio so it wouldn’t make me cry every time I heard it. In any event it’s a nice piece for the birds to chime in on. Drew likes it. You can hear him singing along in the beginning of the clip below. Arturo Toscanini, a Zebra Finch, sings one of his many songs before the music starts, and there’s also a lot of bathing going on which translates into sounds of water spraying everywhere.

Dudlee on the back door curtain rod

Dudlee on the back door curtain rod

Drew and Dudlee have become friendlier and they hang out together, but she still has somewhat of a crush on Mr. Green (Jeremy Casanova Green) the Budgie who still wants to be a Zebra Finch and spends much of his time imitating Zebra Finch chatter, chasing Zebra Finch girls and sweet-talking the hens when he can corner one of them.

Getting a young budgie female for Mr. Green did not work out. In fact, sadly, Bianca disappeared over a month ago and I have not yet found her. I suspect she was not well or sufficiently feisty enough to fit in with the crowd, as she spent longer than usual (days) inside the cage she was in, too timid to come out even though the door was open after the first day or so and everyone else was going in and out. Mr. Green did finally show her the ropes but didn’t pay a lot of attention to her, and she was quite reticent. While I don’t think the other birds did anything to her, I suspect she made sure she would not be found by them or me.

I am not going to repeat the experiment. At first I thought another green budgie, or even two, might persuade Mr. Green to identify with his own species, but I have decided the older the birds get, the harder it is to change things. If Mr. Green identifies with the Zebra Finches, so be it. It’s my fault, however unintentional. I can cut Mr. Green some slack and say I’m not sure the chasing is all his idea as the Zebra Finches do quite enough of it among themselves. So we will continue as a dysfunctional family.

Mr. Green

Mr. Green

If I can ever get Arturo Toscanini to sing his full-throated repertoire like he does when I’m not recording him, I will put a recording in a future post. He has evolved from one little song into about four or five and when he strings them all together and does variations on the themes it’s quite impressive.

Zebra Finches

Zebra Finches

One more picture below of Drew in the kitchen window. His eye-ring is wider than Dudlee’s and his primary tail feathers are longer, I am sure to enable his fantastic displays. Which he does quite elaborately from time to time, trying to impress the Zebra Finch females (I guess he picked this up from Mr. Green).

Drew at the back window

Drew at the back window

The Society Finches are still with us but somewhat harder to photograph. I never dreamed they would be intimidated by Zebra Finches who are smaller than they are.

So it’s back to the drawing board for that world peace model… 🙂

 

 

Eclectic Mix

Black-Capped Donacobius

Black-Capped Donacobius

I keep coming up with lots of valid excuses for not finishing anything. I seem to have everything half-started and that of course includes the project of going through the pictures from Colombia… But I am including a few pictures here although I am nowhere near done cropping and identifying everyone.

Yellow-Green Vireo

Yellow-Green Vireo

I have succumbed to the addictive distraction of the new BirdsEye app on my phone, which I downloaded before I went to Colombia along with the collection of Colombian bird songs. I added the monthly world-birder subscription (why not?) which automatically tells me where a bird was reported if I have an Internet connection. Another feature of the app is that it allows me to enter my life list without asking all the annoying questions like what day, what time, where were you precisely when you saw this bird…while at the same time syncing with whatever has been entered in ebird…so at last count I was somewhere around 1,236 with 5 or 6 countries to go… I still don’t consider myself a lister but I am just getting curious about the tally.

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler, wintering in Colombia, now thinking about Boreal Forest breeding grounds

You will eventually hear more about the home birds, but Blue the Last Budgie died of ripe old age last week and Dudlee Ann the Diamond Dove did not stop talking to me or perhaps to his memory, so I promised to get her a new budgie (not wanting to cross the line and try to find her a mate of her own species…!) and since Saturday we have been getting used to Jer (short for Jeremy or Jerry, we haven’t decided yet what’s going to stick) and he to us. He is a lovely green and yellow youngster. I wanted to go with traditional color even as the PetSmart attendant tried to push a pure white or yet another blue budgie on me.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

While we’re on distraction, how about that weather, huh? Warm one week and cold, raining and windy the next (presently). If I were migrating I wouldn’t be venturing north at the moment.

As you may be able to tell, we ran into some familiar species like the Neotropical migrant warblers above, in addition to those not so familiar.

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

Speckled Tanager

I promise there will be more tanagers when I get them all organized. These just snuck in with the Yellow-Green Vireo when I forgot to change the name as I processed the photos (either before or after I fell asleep?).

I leave you with two more photos of the Black-Capped Donacobius which seemed so thrilled to see us they posed for a lot of pictures, making it that much harder for me to choose!

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Meanwhile Back Inside

Society Finches Watching the Snow

Society Finches Watching the Snow this afternoon

Perhaps the highlight of this long winter has been keeping track of the daily changes going on inside. I usually get a more complete picture on Friday nights when I clean the living room and swap out dirty cages for clean ones. Getting a feel for the youngsters’ progress, and the general health of the flock, makes the cleaning chore something I look forward to.

Like snowbound romantics, the adult finches have been nesting and reproducing apace. I may have already lost count. There are four new Zebra Finches as of last week, in addition to the original five which are nearly grownup.

It will take a while before I can name any of the Zebra Finch kids that have turned out to be males, but here’s a little video of the oldest one from last week. His song was still pretty shaky. Today it’s beginning to take shape.

The Zebra Finches are turning out in different shades which makes them even more interesting. I have never had champagne-colored Zebra Finches before and now I have two. Below is the newest one, with two siblings in different shades of gray.

3 of the latest 4 Zebra Finch Fledglings

3 of the latest 4 Zebra Finch Fledglings

It’s hard to get decent pictures during the day with the light pouring through the front windows but the basic idea here was just to show maybe half of the birds at one time.

Finches watching the snow 2-15-15-3772 Finches watching the snow 2-15-15-3771

As for the two birds not finches, my remaining Budgie and the Diamond Dove, I did manage to capture Blue and Dudlee preening each other in the video below about a month ago. There were a few nights spent together as well before Dudlee went back to sitting on her plastic egg nest in the kitchen. On days I go to work I carry her, sitting on the nest, out to the dining room and put her behind the sheet covering the hutch so she has privacy. When I come home at night she’s flying around, cooing and making sure I don’t forget to put her nest back in the kitchen.

In general, the kitchen is everybody’s favorite room. I don’t know if it’s because it’s forbidden territory when I’m at work or if everybody just likes being where the food comes from, or a bit of both.

Blue in the kitchen

Blue in the kitchen

On the Society Finch front, after Trevor and Tina created Treasure, who has since turned out to be a male following his father’s singing tradition, Trevor produced eight more through his couplings with Phoenix and Rikki. Seven have survived, and I heard a little subsong going on today with at least one of them.

Society Finch Fledglings

Society Finch Fledglings

Society Finches napping in the kitchen

Society Finches napping in the kitchen

The Society Finches live up to their name much of the time and hang out together in a tight grouping. What’s perhaps funniest is to see them all piled into a nest together for the night.

Gulls...frolicking

Gulls…frolicking

I will be back with some pictures from the weekend’s local birder winter social event, the Gull Frolic, after I manage to sort through them all, which could take some time as I try in desperation to figure out what isn’t a Herring Gull.

Blizzard Preoccupations

It’s snowing and blowing, travel is forbidden, and after two energetic attempts today, I am not going back outside to move any more snow until tomorrow. So I’m using the storm as an excuse to get caught up with a few loose ends.

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Below is a link to the YouTube videos, for those who are interested in what came of my first choir participation in the St. Odilo Festival Choir. I sang in the alto section. We all started together and ended together even if there were a couple times we lost it in between… At least we lost it all together. Maybe it’s just as well as there were only four of us. I had an epiphany about this phenomenon while listening to parts of the concert on my way in to work Friday morning. You know how birds all take off together at once as if responding to a single cue out of nowhere? That’s kind of how it was when we all forgot to come in. Nevertheless I think we sometimes sounded quite good; in particular I was pleased by the a capella piece, which was Bruckner’s “Christus Factus Est.”

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLg3KkSe0kac64cTatDPzrz3qv_s7DX0r5

Also new and exciting, Bill Hilton has posted a complete play-by-play annotated write-up of Operation Rubythroat’s last bird banding expedition in Costa Rica, and you can read all about it at this link.

And now a little word from The Chicago Blizzard of 2015. (These pictures are in color, in case you’re wondering.)

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Juncos actually seem to be enjoying this

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After taking fuzzy pictures through the screened porch windows, I decided a fuzzy video of the birds braving the snow and wind at the feeders might be even better. The snow started out thick and wet and it’s still snowing as I write this.

Dudlee Ann was monitoring the whole weather event from her newest favorite place, the window over the kitchen sink.

IMG_1165And thanks to recent comments on my last post about vultures, I went looking for pictures of a Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture, which I had seen several times in East Africa in November of 2013. I found a couple pictures taken on November 22 in Tanzaniya:

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Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture

Ruppell's Griffon Vulture

Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture

In the process, I realized that I had never finished going through all the pictures from that trip, so I look forward to revisiting those images at some point in time. Not that I’m wishing for another blizzard anytime soon…

Vultures & Storks at Zebra Kill 11-24-13 8529.jpg-2Incidentally, the bird completely covering the kill with its wings spread in the picture above is also the Ruppell’s Griffon.

This excerpt from a webpage of facts about the Ruppell’s Griffon from the National Zoo:

“Ruppell’s griffon is the highest flying bird on record, once spotted at an altitude of over 37, 000 feet in the skies of Africa. From a standing start the Ruppell’s vulture can fly over three miles in six minutes. They can cruise at over 22 miles per hour, and will fly as far as 90 miles from their nest in search of food.”

Maybe now I can try to dig out the car a bit more…so I can move it to the other side of the street tomorrow.

Home, Home on the Futon Part II

Zebra Finch w Fledgling 1-4-15-1684I’m really not spending all my time on the futon but it’s been a rough week weather-wise so it’s perfect to sit with my feet up under the quilt, watching and listening to the birds.

When I last posted about the indoor crowd, there was only one fledgling, a Society Finch I think I just named Treasure. In the last week, five Zebra Finch Kids have fledged, and they are somewhat easy to tell apart for the moment as they are all varying shades of gray. One in particular is much lighter than the others (a sibling of the first to fledge group of three), and the last two are quite a bit darker than the rest.

The Zebra Finch adult couples hang out together quite a bit, going on foraging expeditions, and then at other times they get into territorial squabbles that sound ferocious to my ears, but nobody’s suffered so far from being chased.

Zebra Finch Fledglings 1-11-15-0123I have noticed today that the fledglings are still begging noisily but they’ve been ignored at times. They have also started picking at spray millet and experimenting with foraging in general, so I suspect they will be weaned very soon.

The video has the new fledglings eventually all on one perch, and Arturo T. singing half his song at the end.

I have no new pictures of the last remaining Budgie and the Diamond Dove, but Blue Budgie sits in the kitchen and serenades Dudlee Ann, the Diamond Dove, from time to time. He is absolutely smitten with her. Whenever she comes out into the living room, he is right by her side. When she takes off for the kitchen he zooms right after her. She is fond of him, but feels a duty to sit on her plastic eggs. Last night she came to join him briefly on his perch in the second finch cage, but then left for her nest.

During the week, Dudlee talks to me and tells me when I come home from work that she wants to go back into the kitchen and sit on her plastic eggs, after spending the day with the other birds.

Society Finches and 2 Zebra Finch Fledglings

Society Finches and 2 Zebra Finch Fledglings

The Society Finches will increase by at least two, as far as I can tell from the sounds coming out of Phoenix and Rikki’s nest. I suspect they are Trevor and Phoenix’s offspring.

The nicest thing about all this is that everybody has settled in, we are comfortable with each other, and now I have birds born in the house again. I am looking forward to seeing the Zebra Finh fledglings turn colors, become either girls or boys, and particularly to hearing the boys working on their songs. Arturo T. and Ricardo M. keep working on their songs and they have fleshed them out considerably since they arrived fresh from the pet store. Arturo T. has the most lyrical song, and I have figured out how to put “Arturo, Arturo Toscanini” to it. Ricardo’s song is more percussive and I haven’t figured out how to add his name to it yet.

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Meanwhile in the yard this morning the House Sparrows were all hanging out at the pool. My view through the kitchen window.

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It is snowing again. Cold, but not quite as sub-zero as last week. I hope to visit my crow friends soon.

First Fledgling of 2015

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Society Finch Fledgling (on top of the nest) leaving a confused parent inside

And here is an update from the Aviary.

The Pins (the Zebra Finch nestlings who at least used to sound like someone shaking a box of pins, but now it might be more appropriate to call them The Screams) were poking their heads out of their nests today, which means they will be leaving soon. In the meantime, Tina and Trevor’s offspring – and there was only one, as I suspected – has fledged. After hanging on to the top of the nest, it fluttered down to the floor, then managed to fly up only small distances, and cannot negotiate getting back in the nest. I watched Tina and Trevor trying to show it how to fly to the nest by repeating the trip several times with encouragement, but they must have short memories of their own infancies. It will take the fledgling some time to figure out direction and landing.

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The Zebra Finches think they own the place so they had to come and check out the new kid on the block. I suspect they will be quite busy when their offspring fledge, which could be tomorrow. And I will have to start watching where I step.

A Society Finch, and a Zebra Finch

A Society Finch, and a Zebra Finch

The video has a couple Zebra Finches perched on a microphone cord, curious about the new bird, and then the fledgling, also perched, asking its parent for food. I am not using the microphones on the boom stands anymore but it seemed like a good idea to leave them around for perching purposes, at least for a while.

The Zebra Finch Kids, a/k/a The Pins, were available for point-and-shoot photographs this morning. There appear to be three in one nest and one in the other, but I won’t know for sure until they all emerge. I tend not to be nosy about this sort of thing. Although their parents have been very cavalier, I like to respect everybody’s privacy. By the same token, it’s up to them to feed the kids and show them around, no hand-raising going on here.

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Zebra Finch Nestlings

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And as I promised, The Pins sound louder than they did last week, so here’s a little recording featuring their begging. The begging itself took on a new dimension yesterday. Instead of waiting for a parent to show up before they started making noise, one, probably the oldest, started calling from the nest to the absent parent, as if to say “Hey, where the heck are you? I’m hungry!”

With all this finch reproductive madness going on, Dudlee, the Diamond Dove – who now sometimes is “Dudlee Ann” – has been nesting furiously. Prior to finding her favorite spot, she was restlessly in pursuit of it. It took some tweaking, but she decided upon the kitchen.

Dudlee the Diamond Dove in my mother's old KitchenAid attachment

Dudlee the Diamond Dove in my mother’s old KitchenAid attachment

The video is also of Dudlee cooing shortly after she found her favorite spot.

But then I had to go to work which meant carrying Dudlee out into the dining room and closing the kitchen door. We’ve been working on it all week, but we finally got it down to perfection after Dudlee decided to sit on all the plastic eggs I had collected in a small stainless steel condiment cup. I put the plastic eggs in the small basket that was standing on end in the photo and video above. Dudlee moved her own egg out of the bottom of the KitchenAid attachment into the basket and she has been sitting on all the eggs, plastic and her own, ever since.

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I will have to carry Dudlee and her basket back into the dining room tomorrow morning because I have to close the kitchen door while I’m gone, but she’ll get used to this, we’ve done it before, and we seem to be sort of on the same wavelength. I understand her need to do this, and I think she knows that, even if she doesn’t quite get why I have to close the kitchen door when I’m gone for more than a couple hours.

Dudlee is still friends with Blue, the Budgie, and they visit now and then and talk to each other. The night before she decided on her final nesting arrangement I confess I saw her preening him as they both sat next to each other on a perch inside a finch cage. I’m sorry to say they haven’t spent a night together since, but Blue seems to be okay with it.

Life with the new birds has been good, and it’s fun to be a grandmother again. And like any doting grandparent I will be subjecting you to more photographs and videos from time to time.