It’s spring, time to get the female cardinal to take notice
First a little singing, then fanning the tail feathers
The attentive female cardinal takes it all in
There are a few scattered piles of unmelted snow in the dark corners of my backyard, but some telltale signs of spring have come. The daffodils started poking out of the ground and, a few days ago, the spring peepers began calling from the boggy area down the road. I thought the birds would still be waiting for warmer weather, but the cardinals have already abandoned all thoughts of winter and progressed straight into the spring mating season.
I heard the male cardinal tweeting repeatedly the other day, so much so that I stopped what I was doing to look outside. From the top of a small tree, the male cardinal was loudly carrying on. The reason for all the ruckus? A female cardinal was perched nearby in an adjacent tree. After he finished his serenade, he flew over closer to the female and began chipping and strutting about, fanning his tail feathers and putting on quite a show. She played cool though, sitting very still and seemingly not giving him a glance. Today, I noticed the cardinal pair checking out the site of last year’s nest, so I suppose his display won her over. Spring is here!
Linking to “Signs of Spring” at the Outdoor Blogger Network.
Posted in Insects and Animals, Weather and Sky
Tagged backyard wildlife, bird watching, birding, birds, cardinal mating, cardinals, male and female cardinal, nature, New Jersey suburbs, New Jersey wildlife, Outdoor Blogger Network, photo, wildlife in suburbs
In a few months when the weather gets warmer, it will be time to start looking for the chimney swifts again as they return from South America. Although I hadn’t taken much notice of them before, this past summer they entertained me quite a bit with their fast flying antics. They were regularly flying overhead, darting back and forth in the air, similar to bats. Not only are they fast, but I don’t think I ever saw one land and sit for awhile. It’s almost like they fly nonstop. This constant motion made taking photographs very difficult. I tried for weeks to get a good shot of a chimney swift, but ended up with lots of blurry photos of distant dots in the sky. What you see posted here are my “best” pictures. I thought that maybe they spent their evenings nesting in the big brick chimney at the school complex nearby, but I wasn’t able to confirm that. I figured that stalking around the schoolyard with a camera probably wasn’t a good idea.
Although the chimney swifts seemed to be plentiful in my neighborhood, I read a web article recently about a decrease in the chimney swift’s population. While it had been presumed that these birds are becoming less numerous because of chimneys being capped off, the article points to the bird’s diet as a cause. Hopefully, this year the chimney swifts will be just as plentiful flying over my neighborhood, because I need another chance to photograph them!
Baby robin inside its nest
The newborn robin was in the nest on the left
So often bird’s nests are tucked away out of sight. You can hear the baby birds, but you can’t see them until they venture outside the nest. A few weeks ago, someone showed me a spot where three bird’s nests were built in a row on top of a ladder. I could hear that the nests were active. I was able to take a peek inside the nest without getting too close. I was surprised to see a newly-hatched baby robin (and siblings) inside.
Check out the Weekly Photo Challenge to see what others have discovered “inside.”
Posted in Insects and Animals
Tagged baby birds, baby robin in nest, bird nest, birding, birds, inside, nature, New Jersey nature, photo, postaday, robin, Wordpress weekly photo challenge
Baby robin waiting for food.
Our yard seems to have transformed into a baby bird nursery. Nests in the front yard, nests in the backyard, nests on the side of the house…we’ve seen baby cardinals, baby mourning doves, baby grackles, baby house finches, baby house sparrows, baby robins, and baby song sparrows. A walk around the backyard produces a din of angry chirps and tweets from bird parents telling me to begone or risk being swooped at.
Baby robin soon after leaving the nest.
More food for baby sparrow. It’s funny how some of the baby birds seem much bigger than the parents.
Ma and Pa Robin were the most outspoken. While hatching their four blue eggs next to our front porch, they chirped a warning every time I stepped off the porch steps. Once the babies came, their behavior became more frenzied. They relentlessly chirped and fanned their tail at me as I walked by. If you got too close, you’d have a speeding robin flying toward your head. Fortunately, I have not had actual contact with an angry robin’s beak.
Baby grackle opens wide.
Another meal for baby grackle.
Now that most of the hatching has taken place, baby birds are fluttering about the yard trying out their wings and discovering the world. Adult birds are zipping to and fro watching over their young and bringing worms, butterflies, and other tasties for their nourishment. Two things have amazed me about the bird nursery: 1. Adult birds seem to be able to find food for their babies quite quickly, over and over again; and 2., Birds can chirp pretty loudly despite having a worm hanging out of their beak.
Pretty soon we should be able to walk around our yard without creating a cacophony of angry bird sounds. In the meantime, it’s been fun observing the babies, and their parents, in our backyard bird nursery this spring.
Posted in Insects and Animals
Tagged baby birds, backyard wildlife, bird nests, bird watching, birding, birds, grackles, hatching birds, nature, New Jersey outdoors, New Jersey wildlife, photos, robins, sparrows
A bird made a nest at the bottom of this artificial Christmas wreath
Some traditional locations for a bird nest
I’ve always admired the resourcefulness of birds when it comes to building their nests. They flit around searching for nest-building materials just like people who scour yard sales looking for the perfect treasure. Leaves, sticks, grasses, as well as manmade castaways such as plastic bags, string, and bits of fabric are some of the chosen materials. Back in the “old” days, sometimes you’d see strands of tape from an audio cassette hanging out from a woven nest.
Not only do birds have to concern themselves with construction, but site selection is critical. Just as a home buyer looks for location, location, location, so to must a bird decide where to nest. You expect to see bird’s nests in trees, bushes, eaves, and bird houses, but some birds seem overly imaginative. Here are a few of the more unique and interesting locations where I’ve seen a bird’s nest:
- Several times I’ve noticed birds nesting inside the horizontal pole that suspends a traffic light or road sign over a highway. The birds fly in and out of the pole through a small hole that was probably pre-drilled for mounting purposes but never used. It can’t be very quiet in there, but it must detract predators.
- During a storm a few years ago, the plastic end cap blew off our portable basketball net. This created an opening at the top of the vertical pole. A tufted titmouse family decided to build a nest inside. We never knew their secret spot until the babies got hungry and the chirping began in earnest. We were forced to curtail our hoops playing for a few weeks.
- One spring, a robin nested inside a potted plant hanging from our awning. Unfortunately, the bird family was disturbed every time we went in or out of the front door. The location of the nest did give us a great view of the eggs and babies though.
- More scholarly birds prefer the comfort of the alphabet as a nest site. I’ve seen nests tucked away inside the open crooks of three dimensional letters that are part of an outdoor sign, like the inside of the letter “O” in the word “STORE” mounted to the front of a building.
- Last week, I saw an active bird’s nest at the bottom of an artificial, oversized Christmas wreath that had never been taken down from the side of an apartment building after the holiday season. The birds wove their nest right into the plastic branches.
There seems to be an endless variety of places birds build their nests. I’d love to hear about the unique locations where you’ve spotted a bird’s nest. Please leave a reply below.
Posted in Insects and Animals
Tagged bird nest, bird watching, birdnest, birds, interesting location of bird nests, nature, New Jersey nature, New Jersey suburbs, unique places birds build their nest, where birds build their nests, wildlife
I was entertained today while watching a group of ring-billed gulls on the lake. They were hanging out on the ice near an imaginary line separating the frozen surface from the open water.
When the urge struck, a gull or two would hop off the ice into the water to bathe.
Once they were satisfied with their splashing and swimming, they would return to the ice to preen in a variety of interesting styles. I witnessed the one-legged stance, the folded wing twist,
the yoga inspired wing stretch,
the modest head tuck,
and the two-legged pose.
There were a few speckled gulls that looked different than the others.
Later, I looked in my bird book and discovered they were juvenile ring-billed gulls. They have a bi-colored bill that hasn’t yet developed the telltale black ring of the adult.
I was only at the lake for a short period of time, but watching the ring-billed gulls preening and swimming was quite entertaining.
My backyard seemed to transform into a bird haven this morning; it also attracted an unusual avian visitor. The cold weather must have stirred up their desire for feeding, because within a one-hour period, I was able to witness a wonderful variety of birds. One type of bird would put in an initial appearance, make a curtain call or two, and then exit the backyard stage for the next bird act.
I’m pretty sure it started with the red house finches and a few goldfinches who have lost their summer yellow. Then, along came the juncos, tufted titmouse, and sparrows. Next, it was the nuthatch and the noisy wren. The woodpeckers took over to start the second half-hour of my impromptu bird haven. The male and female downy, the flicker, and the red-bellied woodpecker all made a visit. The starlings flocked in and shooed everyone else away, only to be replaced by the blue jays and mourning doves. There were crows flying by and one lone turkey vulture circling off to the left. This sounds great for birders, but it’s a problem for me. It’s distracting! Hey birds, I have work to do. Stop your trilling calls and your swooping fly-bys and let me focus on the projects at hand. Instead of kick-starting my day, I’m standing shoeless in my socks on the frosty back porch, with no coat, taking photographs.
Just when I thought I could get back inside to my work and the warmth, an unusual visitor made an appearance. I spotted a flash of white near a small group of finches toward the top of the neighbor’s tree. I thought maybe it was the nuthatch again so I walked closer. Unbelievingly, the white bird looked like a parakeet! Now I had a serious distraction — was there really a white parakeet flying around outside of my house? I took a few quick photographs before it flew off with the finches. Most of the birds who visited during my one-hour bird haven were frequent visitors. I never expected to see anything unusual. Do you think the white bird was a parakeet? We welcome your comments.