Tag Archives: american goldfinch

Christmas Bird Count

Unofficial Observation

I’ve been thinking about joining the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count  (CBC) every year but never did.  Though I have good intentions, if I’m not sure I can fully commit I would rather not do it.  This year is the 114th of the Christmas Bird Count which is taking place from December 14, 2013 to January 5, 2014.  I envy those who brave the cold and snow to do this bird census.

I decided to do my unofficial Christmas bird observation in the garden today despite the 20 degree temperature.  Below are some of the birds that stop long enough for me to get a shot of them, but there were more of the camera shy (Northern Flicker, Carolina Wren) that stayed away until I came back in the house.  There were also the usual Northern Cardinal, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, Chickadee that aren’t bothered by my presence.  I spent just 30 minutes behind the camera each time in the garden, my fingers were numb despite having a hat, a jacket and insulated gloves on.   That’s why I envy those who commit to do the CBC.  Here’s my very short, unofficial Christmas Bird observation in the garden:

Male Downy Woodpecker
Male Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) is very common in our garden and they stay with us year round.  Once in a while we would see a Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus), a larger relative of the Downy.  I haven’t seen any of them this year.

American Tree Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow

Identifying a sparrow is always fun since there are many types of sparrows around and they look similar.  This American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea) is a winter visitor from the North.  The easy way to identify this one is a pronounced dark spot on the plain grey breast.

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) has plenty of dark brown streaks on the breast and a dark spot in the middle of the breast.  I mistake them for Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) many times when I try to identify sparrows.  I’ve since learned that the Fox Sparrow is a little larger and their color is more of a rusted brown.  I saw two or three Fox Sparrows in early fall but haven’t seen them since.

White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) are also common in our garden.  They are easy to identify because of the white patch under the chin.

White-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch

I think the White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is a very cool bird.  They routinely eat upside down and can do a very fast walk up and down a tree trunk.  There are about five or six of them that regularly come to the seed and suet feeders.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch
Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco

We have plenty of Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) as well but we don’t see them much in summer when food is plentiful in the woodland nearby.  When it’s very cold out, they puff their feathers up and make themselves look like a black and white ball.

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) are our garden’s permanent residents and plenty of them too.  I have difficulty identify male and female in winter since the males shed their canary yellow and black cap starting in early fall.

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

A Cooper’s Hawk landed on one of the birdhouses but quickly took off when he saw me adjust the lens.  I think he’s looking for his flying Christmas gifts.

These are birds that enjoy winter in our garden.  We are still waiting for the Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus) and Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea) to come down from the tundra for a visit .  We hadn’t seen many of them last year but they usually flock down every two or three years.  Hopefully, we will see more of them this year.

Early Nesting

Old And New Tenants

It’s only the second week of May but five bird families have already settled down in our garden, as far as I can see.  Two pairs of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have decided to build their nests here: one has taken a nest box in the front yard and one at the corner of the vegetable garden.  The same spots they nested in last year, actually.  The Eastern Blue Birds (Sialia sialis) have also taken the same nest box as last year.  The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) has built their own nest in a Rhododendron.  We will have to wait for the chicks to fledge before we can prune the shrub.  We can see the female sitting on her eggs from the bay window.  The Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) took one of the nest boxes in the front.  The Chickadees seem to move around the garden very year.  The Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) have been checking our patio ceiling for a perfect spot, but we try our best to discourage them.  Our experience with the Robins nested there one year, wasn’t pleasant.  Those are the ones whose nests I can see.

We have plenty of American Goldfinches (Carduelis trisis) who stay with us year round.  Most of the males have already shed their winter coats.  The Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) are still courting and claiming territory.  We also have more visitors from the North, Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus), this year.  Not counting the other residents like three or four different kinds of sparrows and woodpeckers, our garden needs air traffic control.

This year we also have an infrequent visitor, Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus).  They come around once in a while.  At this moment I ‘m waiting for the Columbine to bloom so I can put the Hummingbird feeders up to welcome the Ruby-throated hummingbirds back from Central America.

Tree Swallows by the vegetable garden.
Tree Swallows by the vegetable garden.
This male Gold finch still has some grey color left over from winter.
This male Gold finch still has some grey color left over from winter.
A male Cardinal perched but still keeping an eye on the feeder.
A male Cardinal perched but still keeping an eye on the feeder.
Eastern towhees have been visiting the ground below one of the feeder this year.
Eastern towhees have been visiting the ground below one of the feeder this year.

Birds of Winter

When Nothing Blooms Outside

Winter.  I have a love-hate relationship with winter.  I love winter best when it’s snowing and its aftermath.  The snow wipes out the sad look of bare branches and turns the world picturesque with dull gray turning to glistening white.  The quietness, since the snow absorbs sound so effectively, renders the world peaceful too.

There is not much I can do in the garden aside from feeding the birds and checking up on the bees.  That’s when I want winter to go away as soon as possible.  In the meantime when there is frozen snow on the ground, marked by deer and rabbits tracks, I spend my time camera-stalking birds coming in for food and water.  Here are some of them…

American Goldfinch in its winter coat.
American Goldfinch in its winter coat.
Carolina Wren waits its turn for the feeder.
Carolina Wren waits its turn for the feeder.
Tufted Titmouse, one of the more friendly and daring residents
Tufted Titmouse, one of the more friendly and daring residents
Chickadees will eat from your hand when you gain their trust.
Chickadees will eat from your hand when you gain their trust.
Fresh clean water will draw the birds in when everything else is frozen.
Fresh clean water will draw the birds in when everything else is frozen.
A female cardinal waits her turn
A female cardinal waits her turn

Hurricane (continued)

After Nature Had Her Way

I always love that period right after a rain or heavy storm, provided I don’t have to vacuum water out from our basement.  The sky is clear and the air is clean; I can smell the freshness in it.  It’s a very distinctive scent of life renewed.  Plants shake off the shower that washed away dust and dirt from their leaves.  Birds come out chirping and looking for food.  Mother Nature has a way of cleaning her house; as much of a mess as we might have made, as fierce as she can be.  She will also show us both her beauty and her kindness afterward.

And, hurricane ‘Sandy’ was no different.

Hurricane ‘Sandy’ blowing past
Sky afterward
During sunrise the morning after
American Goldfinch (in their winter coat) and Pine siskin came out to share the feeder
Northern Cardinal (male) perched on top one of the feeders
One of the White-breasted Nuthatch zoomed in and out for seeds
Downey Woodpecker (female) packing in suet
Red-bellied Woodpecker (male) tried to figure how to get the seeds from the feeder.