Post-pourri

Comma  7-23-15-7983Apologies for the bad pun. It’s been a busy, fragmented, hot week and a half or so. Also, the past weekend was one long party, with no birds in attendance. I am not used to being much of a social butterfly.

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A moth casts a shadow at Lurie Garden

I haven’t been out much during the day either. If I didn’t know better I might think the crows have given up on me, but I suspect it’s lack of the quiet shady spots we used to have, where we could convene without a steady stream of human beings. Pigeons are much less picky about habitat but definitely not used to having their pictures taken.

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ROPI 7-14-15-7441ROPI 7-24-15-8001On the days I have gone out, I have managed to keep amused. One bright spot, for instance, was finding some Monarch Butterflies in Lurie Garden.

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There are other interesting pollinators too. I think the wasp below was more black than blue, but lightening it up made it interesting.

Lurie Millennium 7-15-15-7549One afternoon last week standing outside the northern entrance to Lurie, I heard some earnest chirping and determined it was coming out of the small oak tree before me. There were a couple security guards talking to each other totally oblivious to the Robin’s nest I soon located.

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American Robin nestlings

I suspect the Northern Cardinal below is a young bird as well because it seemed to know the peanut was for eating but was perplexed by it anyway.

NOCA 7-14-15-7468NOCA 7-14-15-7460On hot, boring days at Lake Shore East Park, as long as I could find a bench to sit on, I took to photographing the fountains.

Fountain LSE 7-07-15-6698Fountain LSE 7-15-15-7502Then a few days ago I was sitting in the shade across from the east side of the Pritzker Pavilion, waiting for crows, and the little bird below darted out of the yews. The shade was so dense it was hard to get a decent picture, but this is the first time I have seen a juvenile Ovenbird at Millennium Park at the end of July. I was so surprised I thought I was going to get a rare bird alert but Ovenbirds breed in this part of the continent so even though I think it was rare for Millennium Park it’s not unlikely. This is the same spot I heard a White-Throated Sparrow singing a couple weeks ago, which is rare, so maybe just going to sit in this spot isn’t such a bad idea. Crows or no crows.

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Ovenbird, Millennium Park, 7-27-15

OVEN 7-27-15-8022The greatest reward perhaps is still seeing Monarch Butterflies. I have seen fewer than 20 individuals this summer, at least two of them flying around the cement canyons of LaSalle Street. I hope the Swamp Milkweed is making them feel welcome.

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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.

 

Report from the Home Front: Hector and the Society Matrons

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After two weeks of observing a very bored and resigned Isabella, I broke down and introduced three new Society Finches into the home bird mix this weekend.

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Isabella today, in a much better mood

Let me back up and say goodbye to Ferdinand, her former companion. He was still singing but a mess, unable to fly and down to his last feathers, before I left on my trip in November, so it was no big surprise to find out he had succumbed while I was gone. I knew I would miss his singing, for sure. But not missing having to cart him around every time I had to clean the cages, because he could not fly, not to mention his miserable self. If I took any pictures of him in his reduced condition I am not interested in finding them.

Isabella, Hector, Rikki and Phoenix

Isabella, Hector, Rikki and Phoenix

I started writing this post weeks ago, and now the Societies have moved in. Indeed for a while there it appeared they were taking over. They are recognizable by variations in appearance, and so I have named them Hector, who is a scruffy little pale male with a punk hairdo, Phoenix who is the darker one more resembling Isabella but not quite, and Rikki, who has a pink bill and a very loud call.

Hector

Hector

I bought three birds to practically insure I would get a male and have his song to compare to Ferdinand’s. There were about 16 birds or so in a tiny cage at PetSmart so it was a crap shoot which ones I would get when the young attendant opened the cage door from behind and started waving around his net. Hector is quite lighter than the others and he was smaller, so I wasn’t sure I wanted him, but now I’m glad he came, he’s definitely a character.

His song is quite different from Ferdinand’s. My first impression of his song was a little like a Winter Wren trying to sing Papageno’s “Magic Flute” song. Click on the clip below to hear him (apologies for the shaky background music).

After I’d had them a couple days, in a moment of weakness I decided to buy some nest boxes and put them around. The two bamboo ones have hooks on the back so they were made to stick in the cage. The other thatch nests I hung around but there is only one left after the budgies started chewing holes in them, and it belongs to Zorro and Fiona, in the same spot as their forever failing curtain nest but now replacing it.

The bamboo nests are in one finch cage and initially had 10 or so eggs between them. The three new Societies have been taking turns sitting on them. Three weeks ago I had no idea whether the eggs were fertilized but they seemed to think so. And just about when I had given up hope, I began to hear little begging noises.  I haven’t had birds breeding in the house for years, so this is kind of a nice diversion. I’m always up for hearing begging sounds in key with the music and new songs developing among young males. If I do get a couple males it will be interesting to see whether their songs imitate Hector’s or if they branch out on their own like my Zebra Finches tended to do when they were going at it.

Rikki

Rikki

But I will be removing the nest boxes after fledging because I do not want to continue this experiment ad infinitum. Inbreeding is not my calling and it shouldn’t be theirs either.

Society Finches don’t use a lot of nesting material like Zebra Finches so it’s practically impossible to resist looking inside when one nest doesn’t have anyone sitting on it. Last night when I was cleaning, I saw one, possibly two, pink eraser-like blobs moving in the leftmost nest. This morning I seemed to be able to see two or three with some feathers in the righthand nest. I tried to take a picture but it’s impossible to get anything between the cage rungs and the darkness inside. Not to mention it’s always a challenge to get pictures indoors anyway, with the cages backlit against the living room windows.

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If nothing else Hector and his Society Matrons have livened up the place and all the other birds have grown used to them. I hope to have baby pictures soon. In the meantime here’s another picture of Hector.

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