Happy Birds

The warm weather the last several weeks has given us a glimpse of some fun bird behavior.

We have a bird feeder in our backyard that Husband fills with black oil sunflower seeds. We are the only people on the block who feed birds, so our yard is pretty popular, especially given the tall lilac bushes where multitudes can perch. They also like weaving in and out of the twisty grapevines on our deck. There is a very large flock of about seventy sparrows, with several Red Polls, House Finches, Chickadees, Rose and White Breasted Nuthatches, and Junkos who frequent our yard. There are often seven Eurasian Collared Doves on the ground under the feeder, eating what the other birds knock down. A Downy Woodpecker also makes an appearance now and then. They are all really greedy, and feast and gobble as fast as they can. The Chickadees alert the others after Husband refills the empty feeder to let them know that dinner is served.

I cleared out the rhubarb bed the other day, leaving a large area of smooth dirt that the rhubarb leaves had formerly covered. Last Saturday I noticed about twenty Sparrows rolling around in the exposed dirt, digging into the earth, making little indentations in the soil. I guess they were having dust baths, a luxury in North Dakota in late November.

Even more luxurious was the shower they and a migrating flock of Cedar Waxwings had a month ago on the last really warm day of autumn. I set up a sprinkler to water our rhododendrons, bleeding hearts, fern bed, and hydrangeas before freeze up, and we saw the birds flying repeatedly through the spray and huddling on the ground, letting the water cascade over them. The Waxwings made a point of drinking copious amounts of the water that collected on the walkway. The next day, they were gone.

What are your favorite birds to watch? Tell your bird stories. What is your favorite bird-inspired music and visual art?

79 thoughts on “Happy Birds”

  1. I take it you don’t have many, or any squirrels in your area. About 90% of the traffic in my bird feeder is with squirrels and in the warmer weather with chipmunks as well. When I completely fill the feeder, it attracts raccoons at night and they completely empty it.

    The birds that do come are not especially exotic—sparrows, chickadees, slate juncoes, and the occasional cardinal.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. We have some squirrels in the area too, but they don’t mess with our two bird feeders much. Each one isn’t super squirrel-proof, but one’s on a metal hooked post a few feet from a fence and the other is a finch bag I hang on a small branch of a tree. I think our squirrels are more fond of digging up my wife’s flower beds.

      Favorite bird is the loon by a mile. No great stories other than wife and I got up close and personal years ago while drifting on the south end of Sawbill Lake one evening. Mom, dad, and baby allowed us to get within about 20 feet at times. I believe the parents were teaching junior to fish because they’d dive underwater for a minute or so, and he/she would duck his head into the water trying to see what they were doing. And you can’t hear a more haunting sound than the mournful call of a loon across a dead calm lake on a summer night.

      Eva Cassidy does a great renditon of a tune called “Songbird” which is probably my favorite bird song.

      Chris in Owatonna

      Liked by 4 people

    2. This is pretty much my experience as well, Bill. I do have a couple of goldfinches that I see occasionally and usually once or twice a year I do see a hummingbird at my feeder.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Favorite birds to watch: Budgies. And they watch me.
    I feed the outdoor people and have the typical species but the nuthatches are delightful as they feed upside-down.
    Two bird inspired musical selections: Feed The Birds from Mary Poppins (a tear jerker for me) and Firebird Suite by Stravinsky. The Firebird captures Slavic folklore wonderfully. Glory and promise rising from ashes only to perish in the flames of chaos over and over again.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Down here there is a lot of attention to the large long-legged birds that migrate through in droves – sandhill cranes and tundra swans – people drive for an hour to various viewing spots like Brownville to see them, which i will do some day.

    I haven’t kept up bird feeders here, because when I tried it, the starlings pretty much pushed everyone else out. There also wasn’t a spot with nearby cover. So I just watch and listen when I’m outside, but I do miss the crowd we had in Robbinsdale. I’ve talked about the purple martins, which are my favorites, but they come late in spring, and leave early in the fall.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    I have had many enjoyable contacts with birds. One of my memories that I love the most is of the loons in N. Minnesota. From 1977-79 my wasband and I lived on a remote camp near Grand Rapids. One entire small lake (think the size of Lake Harriet), Lower Hanson Lake, was surrounded by the camp property so it was very protected. Loons nested there. When we took our canoe onto the lake, the loons would come near us, then start to play with the canoe, popping up on one side, talking to us a bit, disappearing, then popping up somewhere else. They were never aggressive. Wasband got a distinctive photo shot of one of these birds in front of its nest with eggs. That shot was on the cover of the 1984 MN Weatherguide Calendar.

    During our time on that lake Bald Eagles were making a comeback, and we got to watch the eagles fish out of the lake, as well.

    I fully expect a comment from Minnesota Steve today.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I have little bits of bird-related “art” all over the house – there’s a pillow with a Victorian era robin, Mexican ceramic white something, a heron plaque”, a December owls on the calendar, a set of three framed still lifes – feather, nest, etc. And several of the Christmas decorations are birds and nests…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Got terrible news yesterday, not about my wife. So I am immersing myself in wildlife programming to soothe me. Right now BBC Spring Watch. Does me so much good. They show many birds, many almost like ours but not quite. They showed a bird and said we call that bird a loon. Did not look much like a loon really and call is quite different, not as rhapsodic. But he insisted they are the same bird. They call it a black-throated dipper.
    I bought myself another present. I am walking through my days without a life. So I bought myself a good pair of binoculars to look deeper into my woods. Very nice pair. Have a frame you can attach to hold iphone lens up to one ocular. Will try it out to see how well it works. There are a couple nature trails I can walk, paved, so maybe I can walk the woods a bit and watch for wild life.
    I found a bird food for nuthatches and woodpeckers and such. It really draws them in. I have my feeder hung off a tree limb out away from other branches. I have two baffles above it which defeat the squirrels.
    This time a year I get an almost daily flock of turkeys who walk down the lawn alleyway and past my window.
    Favorite bird will always be the chickadees, which we had by hundreds in my childhood and a lot in our feeder in our house on the shore. These few chickadees here are not as talkative. More nuthatches here than chickadees. When we butchered we threw the suet in a bin we kept out in the cold and then put chunks on windowsills of workshop. They got very tame. When I played in the woods as a small child they followed my around, or so it seemed.
    My sister is terrified of birds. How did a girl of the north woods develop that phobia?

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I’ve just finished Owls of the Eastern Ice by Jonathan Slaght. Slaght, who happens to live in Minneapolis and studied at the University of Minnesota, spent many winter months over the course of several years in extreme southeastern Russia searching for and studying the world’s largest and one of the rarest and most elusive owls, Blakinson’s fish owl. Despite having a wingspan of six feet, the owls are seldom seen and little was known of their habits or their habitat requirements. Slaght, along with a motley crew of Russian wildlife researchers, endured much hardship and extremely rugged conditions in an area that is primitive and lawless even in the most settled parts and much of the book is a portrait of those idiosyncratic wildlife researchers and life in that remote part of the world.

    Robin and I have had an especially soft spot for owls ever since a pair of great horned owls nested in the tree outside our picture window and their two chicks grew up before our eyes:

    We have seven or eight books dealing with owls besides Slaght’s in our bookshelf.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. Would be more apt to say grew up with owls that flew in and out of our baern door when it was open and sometimes through a small opening at the top of the peak. Many swallows lived in the barn and flew over us hunting.

        Liked by 4 people

  8. A year ago, at this time, I was reported for feeding birds by a vindictive neighbor in my condo association. I believe his hostility stems from the political sign I hung from my deck before the 2020 election. Anyway, he reported me to the Association and I was sent a stern letter instructing me to take down my bird feeders – all of them – and store them in my garage. Well, I don’t feed birds all year long, just November through March, then I stop. So at this time last year I had just started and I had lured the birds all back and they were quite content with the situation. I was furious at being told that I couldn’t feed birds, especially since I had already been doing it for five years and no one had complained before. So I did as I was told, removed the bird feeders and stored them in the garage. But I fumed. And I got an idea. The deck here has walls on the sides, then a railing and another wall. It’s possible to hide things behind the wall where the vindictive neighbor can’t see what I have. So I bought a feeder that can sit on a table top and I covered my deck-sized garden bed with tarp and boards. I set the feeder on top and now I have plenty of bird action right outside my patio door. This makes me so happy! I have house finches, gold finches, juncoes, nuthatches, lots of chickadees and lots of sparrows. Last year the squirrels found it and I’m afraid they will give me away. I also just scatter some corn and black sunflower seed out on the driveway. Rabbits come at night and feed in the driveway. Sometimes crows come, but again I’m afraid they will give me away. Pippin goes nuts when the squirrels are on the deck. I’m happy with the set-up even though I have a lot of cleaning to do in the spring and it isn’t really ideal.

    I love to watch the hummingbirds. They’re the only species I feed in the summer. I hang the hummingbird feeder right in front of my patio door and I get to watch them all summer. They are very feisty and territorial, squeaking as they chase each other away. The sound of their squeaking is familiar to me now and I’d know it anywhere.

    I also enjoy watching crows and trying to figure out what they’re talking about.

    I love loons and their calls too, but I rarely have a chance to hear that anymore. Another favorite is owl watching and I will drive long distances for a glimpse of a great gray owl or a snowy owl when there is an irruption in deep winter. I also love the little saw-whet owls. I don’t know if there is a more adorable or photogenic bird.

    I really enjoy Jim Brandenburg’s Nature 365 videos and many of those feature birds. I also have a lot of artwork in my home that is of birds. I have a hummingbird tapestry, a couple of hummingbird paintings, loons, wood ducks and chickadees. Yes, I am a huge fan of birds. Great post, Renee!

    Liked by 5 people

  9. I enjoy the cardinal festival we have in the spring and the hummies that like our hummisuckle. I spotted one sitting in the forscythia one time, so I just sat there with it, because I did not know they would do that- they always seem to be zipping around.

    Music-wise, I feel like I must have first heard this here, but I can’t be sure of that, and I won’t hurt if it’s a repeat.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. I first heard this song sung in concert by James Keelaghan. The version posted above is by David Francey who wrote it. If you’re not familiar with Francey’s work, check him out. He’s a wonderful lyricist and an engaging performer who is usually accompanied by a skilled guitarist. This song speaks of spring and hope to me.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. HI-
    We have bird feeders in the back yard. I do the block of suet, plus the plugs, black sunflower, and one of mixed seed. Plus I stick an ear of corn on it.
    I had to add some wires to keep the turkeys from sitting on it. And a piece of PVC pipe keeps the squirrels off it.
    Lots of Downy and Hairy… a few Pileated. Used to be more red-headed around.
    Course Barn Swallows are our favorites.
    I don’t think I have any bird inspired art…

    Liked by 3 people

      1. A piece of PVC pipe on the post about 4’ tall means the squirrels Can’t climb that. Wont help if they’re coming from a tree or jumping there from somewhere else.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. favorite bird is an eagle
    i can’t believe all the eagles i see these days

    out back we feed with black sunflower too but squirrels are a secondary issue

    finch cardinal and woodpecker are favorite visitors
    owls nearby

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Anyone else have bird clothing? I have a couple of nice Christmas-y sweaters with birds on them, and a pair of earrings that I wear constantly in the summer – ring of copper with a tiny bird on a branch that goes across like an almost-diameter… I often get comments on then.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. And another one from a nursery rhyme book my mom would read to me:

    Once I saw a little bird come hop, hop, hop
    So I cried, “Little bird, won’t you stop, stop, stop?”
    I was leaning out the window to say “How do you do?”
    When he shook his little tail, and far away he flew!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Loons, bald eagles, and hummingbirds are at the top of my list. Friends have a cabin on Lake Vermilion. We take kayaks out along the shoreline and often see loons. Once, when coming around a point, we saw 4 bald eagles sitting in a huge pine tree. My friend has several hummingbird feeders on their cabin deck. We sometimes sit there for a long time with our cameras poised to try and capture them – kind of hard to get them in focus as they don’t hover in one spot for very long.

    One of the best birding areas in the world is the Pantanal in Brazil (near the border with Bolivia. We were not disappointed. Actually there were beautiful birds everywhere we went in Brazil, none of which are seen in these parts.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. At husband’s last place of employment, his office was facing a grassy slope bordering the neighboring property. One summer there were a bunch of crows that visited that grassy slope right in front of his window every day. They behaved as if they were taking a bath, and would take turns, but there didn’t appear to be any water and no dirt for a dust bath. After a couple of days, husband decided to investigate. He discovered that it was a large anthill the crows were visiting, and they would take turns covering themselves with ants. This went on for weeks, and the time of the crows arrival was predictable enough that I drove up to see it a couple of times. Crows are amazing birds.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. At the time this occurred, Jacque, I Googled it and discovered that this behavior has been previously reported. There are, of course, theories as to why crows do that, but at least at the time, it was all speculation. I don’t know if the phenomenon has been studied further since then, or whether “they” have established a scientific explanation by now. My own homespun theory is that the ants either eat parasites that live on the crows, or perhaps emit some sort of substance that somehow help clean the crows’ feathers. I’m no ornithologist, but that seems like a reasonable theory to me. I might delve into that rabbit hole when I have a minute.

      Liked by 5 people

    1. Well, I can tell you from first hand experience, tim, that it takes many, many blackbirds to equal the meat of one chicken. I wouldn’t want to try it with any of the smaller birds.

      Liked by 2 people

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