Posted by: atowhee | December 21, 2019

SOLSTICE: MY FEEDERWATCH ON DARKEST DAY

Prologue: We have two hanging feeders for sunflower seeds, shelled and cracked.  We have one holey log (hanging suet log=HSL) with suet knifed into the holes, and a standard suet block holder…both hang from the edge of the veranda roof where the squirrels can’t and won’t jump.  In addition I put plenty of seed onto the veranda cement for the American sparrows and others that like to eat on the ground, including the shameless squirrels.  There are two more hanging seed feeders in the garden but not visible from my own perch.

This is the shortest day of the year, start of winter.
730AM  There is only a hint of light on the eastern horizon.  Heavy rain continues as it apparently did all night.  Puddles have formed in low spots.  I turn on the veranda lights.  No birds yet.  Temp: 48.5 Fahrenheit.  I have put out seed, the suet feeders are full.
750AM  First of the Hardy Boys arrive:  a male junco on the ground, one Chestnut-backed Chickadee on a platform feeder.  Neither bird lingers.  Both are oblivious to the wet.  There is no wind.  Sunrise is happening and the sky is now lighter between horizons.
757  First squirrel appears, fur dry from sleeping inside his water-tight hide-out all night.  The bird baths overflow with each added drop.
759  Several juncos can be seen moving through the hydrangea vine and other shrubbery.
800   Two Golden-crowned Sparrows are creeping through the  vine. One squirrel in a platform, greedily packing it in.  No junco yet brave enough to land on the cement.
803  Now two squirrels.  One CB Chickadee (CBC) hits platform and leaves with seed. One Golden-crowned Sparrow (GCS) still around on ground along with several of the braver juncos. We have two types of feeding behavior among our birds: the grab and fly, the sit and stoke up.  Chickadees, nuthatch, warbler tend toward grab and go.  The rest will sit or hop around when circumstances allow.  Bushtits are somewhere in-between.  They lurk around the suet feeders for up to a minute, but seem to constantly shift exact position.  Very occasionally a Bushtit or two will grab a sunflower seed.
804  We now have at least a dozen juncos visible–sitting, flitting, on the ground.  Some are in molt so their bright white tail stripes are not covered and shine in the morning twilight.  They remain silent.
806  We have reached peak junco, they are insistent, persistent, omnipresent.  Much moving about, pushing and shoving one another without any actual physical contact.  Males, females, immature–each with its plumage signage.
807  First House Sparrow, a male, Goes to HSL.  He sits on perch dowel and breakfasts.  As I blogged earlier they alone do not fear their fellow invasive species, the starling.
809  Nora the dog awakens, sorta, ambles over for her back scratch. I offer her a step outside by opening the door, She harrumpfs at the sound of rain. Contented, she goes to nearest dog bed and back to sleep.
812 First Spotted Towhee of the day appears, the male.  Two juncos now on one hanging platform.  Several juncos on the ground and in shrubbery.  Chickadee makes a sortie for seed.
818  Squirrel eyes the platform feeders.  Climbs trellis and leans toward the HSL.  The squirrel contemplates, estimates, calculates, then wisely decide not to take the leap and the risk.  Goes back to a seed platform.  Unlike a healthy tree no squirrel can afford a broken limb.
824  Rain continues.  Temp: 48.  One squirrel, all birds gone for now.
825  I notice Auddie sneaking through the shrubbery.  This lone Audubon’s Warbler has been here for over a month.  With his warbler helo-flutter he grabs some suet from the HSL.  One squirrel still grabbing seed after seed while seated in a platform which sways slightly with his body motions.  Juncos beginning to return to view.
827  Two squirrels now.  Chickadee makes quick jab at log and departs.  Juncos galore.
829  Place is hopping with hopping juncos–at least 20.  One boldly perches on the HSL.
830  Three House Finches arrive, go to cement among the juncos and contendly begin feeding.  Much less nervous acting than the juncos.
832 One House Finch and one junco share a seed platform, no animosity shown.
838  Bushtit flicks arrives, twenty or more, to and fro.  They focus on HSL. For a moment or two as many as eight or ten hang on the log. The behave like a kindergarten class on the playground. They exude chaos and are left alone, though they rarely stay for more than sixty seconds.  Nothing in their world in measured in minutes, much less hours.  Two squirrels on the ground so the juncos have moved up to the seed feeders.
845 I turn off the lights.  Temp still 48.  Three squirrels now.  Birds scared off.
855  Near peak action.  Juncos back, at least 20. Three squirrels but birds pay no heed.  Auddie, House Sparrows, GCS, first starling on HSL.  One House Sparrow joins him there.
858  House Finches join the crowd, feed on the ground with bits of sunflower seed skin clinging to their busy mandibles.
900  First collared-dove (ECD) arrives.  Rain continues, 48 continues.
904  Two starlings now.  Spotted Towhee pair.  Juncos (20). GCS, ECD, 2 squirrels.
908  House Finches rejoin the crowd.  They are not leaders, not first at anything. Two squirrels running about in squabble, scare off many of the birds.
910  Starlings still logged on.
914  Both towhees, junco flock.
930  Auddie, GCS, juncos, House Sparrow, ECD(3).
935  Bushtits return to their log while starlings absent.
(Nora and I go away for rainy walk)
1104  Five starlings now, and the HSL is almost empty.  Juncos, towhees, Auddie, GCS, House Finches (3) all feeding.  Rain now perceptibly lighter.
1120  Song Sparrow arrives and goes to HSL.
1122 I put out more seeds.  Juncos now number at least 25.
1152   The warbler, confronted by all three CBC, is distressed and as he wants to chase each one but they don’t group and never stop moving  Tough situation even for an hyperactive little warbler.
1158  Scrub-jay swoops in to the HSL.  Gorges.  Nobody interferes, of course.
1250PM  Auddie is hanging around.  He detests the chickadees and their ilk.  He does not notice the seedeaters with their chunky beaks.  But show him a small insectivore, and it’s time for warbler wars.  The chickadees are quick and clever.  While Auddie is back in the shrubbery one flies to the opposite side of the HSL where it is unseen, and feeds.  Then the Red-breasted Nuthatch attends to the top of the HSL and poor Auddie has to climb through twigs and branches to be able to launch his attack.  The nuthatch left with a full beak, for sure.
115PM I go get the HSL because the starlings have nearly cleared it out.  I lay it on the newspaper on the utility hall cabinet where I do the filling.  Later, I thought, when I’m done with my current task, I fill it.
122PM   Raining hard again.  48 degrees, no wind yet.  The Bushtit flock returns.  There is a foot-long hook suspended from the roof beam to hold the HSL.  The Bushtits want what they want and want it NOW!  Several hang off the empty-ended hook, clear message: “Well, where the hell is our suet?  It’s wet out here.”
I quickly fill a few holes with soft suet and re-hang the log which is immediately occupied by several Bushtits.  Only a couple had bothered with the suet block which is much harder and takes more effort from these tiniest of Oregon’s songbirds.
Here is Bushtit and suet block image from last summer, in good light. I can’t use this log in summer because the softer suet melts and drips out of the holes:BT ATTACK2
145 Female towhee, various juncos, the Bewick’s Wren present.  The latter does not bother with suet or seed this time through.  Auddie seems to have gone off for an afternoon siesta.  I have refilled and replaced the HSL.
200   I replenish the seed supply as the cement has been gleaned clean.
211  Auddie vs. the chickadees, again.  Probably we have the only suet feeders within a short, safe flight.
212 Starling returns to HSL.  Do they surveil our garden?  Or did this one just circle past and note the refilled suet holes?
213 Now there are four starlings clinging to the HSL, feeding frenetically, but rarely bothering to bother one another.  Poor angry Auddie is clearly overpowered now.  Juncos scattered across the cement–they prefer sunflower chips to bits of stale bread (whole grain).
224  One starling on log, juncos and four House Finches across the cement.  Single squirrel comes around, doing his seedy best to get even fatter.  Hard to tell how much of his rotundity is due to winter fur, how much due to our generosity and lack of large pet constrictor.
226 Nuthatch on log, feeding with tail up, head down–photo through window: rbn facedown (2) How does his alimentary canal and digestive organs work vis-a-vis gravity?  Could you eat a peanut butter sandwich hanging upside down?  Two squirrels now.  Aren’t they full yet?  Do they just come in shifts, pretending to be two or three when there are fifty?
230 Female House Sparrow and one starling share HSL.
244  For the first time I see a chickadee flutter up to HSL, grab a beak(er) of suet and fly off while a starling is inches away, putting away more than his share of stuffing.
249  Bushtit flock back on HSL, still plenty in each hole though the starlings are determined to empty it before bed-time.  Juncos all over.
253  Male towhee joins the junco gang.
257  Auddies sits in hydrangea and watches chickadees make trips to and from seed tray.  Has he decided the suet log alone is worth protecting?  Is he tuckered out?  Too full and fat to fuss?  “You can have the potato chips but don’t touch my burger?” The warbler’s golden crown is a bright headlight whenever he bends forward. You can catch a glimpse of it here:AUDDY24.JPG
306 Pair of GCS alone on the cement.  No juncos to be seen. No rain right now, temp is 47.
330  Getting darker.  I turn the lights back on. All is quiet, not a squirrel, not a single pair of white tail feathers on a junco.  Rain in abeyance still.
346   Bushtits back on log, Auddie flies out for nibble and the Bushtits don’t flinch.  I guess Auddie can count, even he comprehends putting one warbler vs. 20+ Bushtits makes for a losing equation.

820 NW 19th Street, McMinnville, Yamhill, Oregon, US
Dec 21, 2019
14 species

Eurasian Collared-Dove  4
California Scrub-Jay  1
Chestnut-backed Chickadee  3
Bushtit  25
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
Bewick’s Wren  1
European Starling  5
House Sparrow  X
House Finch  4
Dark-eyed Junco  25
Golden-crowned Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  1
Spotted Towhee  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  1


Responses

  1. Reblogged this on Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog.


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