Tag Archives: birds
We have two areas in our yard where birds in the neighborhood can get freshened up on a dusty day. In front, there is a large stone birdbath. In the rear, we have a small pond with a very shallow stream of water running over a ledge. Many birds land by the pond and walk over to the ledge for a quick rinse. By far, however, the all-time favorite bathing spot is the pothole in the street in front of our house. Every time it rains and water collects in the hole, a variety of birds come – some solo, some in small groups – to bathe. Maybe the hole is the perfect depth and width to attract them, or maybe they just like muddy rainwater, whatever the reason, it attracts more visitors than the birdbath and the pond.
This is THE place to hang out if you’re a black vulture. Linking to Friday’s Fences at Life According to Jan and Jer.
For a bird, a fence makes a great place for sunning your tail feathers after the snow.
Linking to Friday’s Fences at Life According to Jan and Jer.
Think back to the days of your youth (or maybe it was just the other day). Did you ever pick dandelions after they became seeded, blowing on them to make the fluffy seeds fly into the air? Or, did you wave them rapidly back and forth for the same effect? We called the seeds “wishies.” Sometimes we’d randomly see “wishies” floating by and try to catch them, storing up as many wishes as possible. I don’t think we ever thought about the fact that we were helping to disperse dandelion seeds into the manicured lawns of the neighborhood. Some of those “wishies” we caught might not have been from dandelions; they could have been from thistles.
Thistle seeds are similar in appearance to dandelion seeds. Before seeding, the thistle has a beautiful purple flower, as well as spiny leaves to give the plant some protection. When the thistle flower turns to seed, the seedheads are larger than dandelions but with the same whitish, feathery appearance. The thistledown, attached to the seeds, gives them their airy abilities. The thistle also gets a little help in the dispersal process from goldfinches who love its seed. We have a birdfeeder in the backyard just for thistle seed; the goldfinches visit this feeder almost exclusively.
While at the park the other day, I saw goldfinches going crazy over the thistle that was growing in a field of wildflowers. From plant to plant, the birds were picking at the thistle seeds. As they feasted, they were causing the thistledown to fly all over the place. Some of the goldfinches were covered in thistledown. It made me think about how people love to eat Jersey-fresh tomatoes picked right off the vine in the summer. In the winter, those tomatoes on-the-vine from a grocery store are acceptable, but they don’t compare to the taste of a handpicked, in season, straight from the garden treat. Maybe the goldfinches feel that way about eating beak-picked seed directly from the thistle, instead of packaged seed from a birdfeeder. They were certainly behaving like they enjoyed it right from the source. After floating away, the downy part isn’t wasted; some of it may be used for nesting materials.
In the past, when I saw dandelion or thistle seeds floating by, I never thought about how they got into the air. They might have taken flight all on their own, or perhaps, they had the help of a goldfinch.
In the movie, “The Big Year,” the character Kenny makes the statement, “Birds wait for no man.” On a recent road trip, we found a place where the birds do wait. In fact, you can take your time as you observe more than 500 birds, including migratory species, ducks and raptors. How is this possible? The birds are hand-carved from wood.
When our summertime travels brought us northward, out of New Jersey, we ended up visiting the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington, Vermont. This museum is home to a meticulously designed collection of wooden birds that are displayed according to their natural environment. The craftsmanship is amazing. Each carving is actual size and extremely detailed, posed to capture the personality and behavior of the bird in its habitat. For example, the kingfisher had a freshly caught fish in its beak and the nuthatch was positioned on the trunk of a tree.
As we first entered the museum, we were immediately drawn to a windowed viewing area to watch the live birds visiting the outside feeders. A row of binoculars lined the windowsill for the guest’s viewing pleasure. When the hummingbirds and other species flittered near the window, an outside microphone picked up the sound so you not only saw the birds, but heard them as well. For a chance to see more live birds, you could sneak back outside to hike around a nature trail.
The curator chatted with us for a while, answered questions, and then showed us a quick, informative video about the museum’s history and the artist, Bob Spear. After that, we explored the upstairs and downstairs collections on our own. The collections included replicas of Vermont’s nesting birds, as well as endangered and extinct species. There were sections for birds of the wetlands and raptors. Even a life-sized Tom turkey was on display. Many of the plaques identifying the carvings contained a scannable bar code allowing you to hear the bird’s call. In the artist’s workshop, you could see various wooden shapes being transformed into birds. The collection is continuously being added to. The latest project is to complete the carving of the ducks and shore birds section.
The Birds of Vermont museum gives you an opportunity to study the details of birds in a way that a one-dimensional field guide can’t. Although the birds are hand-carved, they are lifelike. There was a lot to see, but my favorite carvings were the owls, wrens and warblers. If you are taking a road trip this summer, plan a visit to the Birds of Vermont Museum.
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.
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!
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.”