Tag Archives: Cardinalis cardinalis

Spring Is Around The Corner

Taking A Clue From Birds

There has been one snow storm after another and the official spring date is still more than a month away.  Our garden is covered a foot deep in snow crusted with ice.  The cold frame we put up last fall has become an igloo at this point. I have no idea what has happened in there since I can’t have access without digging my way in through snow.  I’ve left the honey bees alone.  The only sign that there are live bees in the hives is the fresh dead bees I found on top of the snow around the garden.

Our walkway
Our walkway
A pretty good looking dead bee  on top of snow
A pretty good looking dead bee on top of snow

It was very sunny and no wind today so I braved a low 30º F, in my knee-high boots, to stomp around inspecting the garden.  As much snow as there is on the ground, there are many signs that spring is not too far away.  I always see the arrival of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) as an indication that spring will be here soon enough.  Today was the second time I’ve seen a large flock of Robins come around.

Slightly disheveled looking Robin in a tree top
Slightly disheveled looking Robin in a tree top

Aside from Robins, the male Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) no longer keep to their truce.  They seem to keep close to their female companions now and chase other full grown males around the yard.  The Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are also looking for nesting spots now and no longer just coming to the garden for food.

A male Cardinal staying close to the female
A male Cardinal staying close to the female
A flock of Eastern Bluebirds at one of the feeders
A flock of Eastern Bluebirds at one of the feeders

The American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) are starting to shed their winter coats.  There are little bits of yellow tipped grey down here and there on the snow, and the birds are beginning to show spring colors in bright yellow blotches.

American Goldfinch starting to show a bright yellow color
American Goldfinch starting to show a bright yellow color
A Pileated Woodpecker also joined the garden party today
A Pileated Woodpecker also joined the garden party today

With a lineage that stretches all the way back to the dinosaurs, I figure the birds know better than I.

Truce Among Birds

Making Peace For Their Survival

After we finished preparing our beehives for the winter, putting a cold frame over the winter vegetable plot and cleaning up most of the leaves it’s time to focus on our avian pals.  We don’t feed them in summer because we don’t want them to depend on us completely for their survival and we want them to have some incentive for pest control in the garden.  But when insects die out or hibernate underground and flower seeds and fruits wane, it’s time for us to return the favor.  It’s only fair.  We’ve been carrying on a symbiotic relationship since I started gardening.

Late autumn and winter is also the time the birds make a truce with one another for their own survival.  The territorial line is diminished, no need to defend a non-existence.  No female to impress, no kids to protect…they only need food, water, shelter and to avoid becoming food themselves.

Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals
Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals

Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) will steal other birds eggs or chicks during breeding season so other birds never let them get close.  Still, small birds depend on Blue Jays to give them warning when there is a hawk around.  Blue Jays sometimes even gang up on a hawk.  But at this time of year smaller birds seem to welcome the company of Blue Jays.

 Four Northern Cardinals wait their turn for the feeder
Four Northern Cardinals wait their turn for the feeder

Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), especially the males, are very territorial during mating season.  I’ve seen them chase one another in the garden far too many times.  In winter, however, both males and females stay together in a flock.  One year, our Forsythia bush lit up with twelve male Cardinals looking like Christmas ornaments in the snow.  Three females and one male, above, were waiting for their turn at the feeder.

A Blue Jay puffs up against the wind
A Blue Jay puffs up against the wind
A Tufted Titmouse enjoying probably the only bird hot spa in the neighborhood (electrically heated)
A Tufted Titmouse enjoying probably the only bird hot spa in the neighborhood (electrically heated)

View more backyard bird images at photo blog Amazing Seasons

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.

Another Snow Storm

…And The Birds Are Still Happy

I checked on our vegetable garden early last week and was happy to see the garlic I put in last October came up.  The Daffodils and tulips have also pushed themselves above the soil.  But Mother Nature doesn’t seem to give up on winter just yet, she dumped a whole load of snow on us again last Friday.  The storm ‘Saturn’, with just a winter storm advisory, has dropped around 10 inches of snow over night.  The vegetables and flowers, were fooled by a few days of warm daytime temperature, have disappeared under the snow again.

Our avian friends who have started to claim territory and housing were force to make a truce between them.  Yes, they will have to eat together at a few feeders we put up for them in winter since snow has covered everything else.  With snow still falling, they patiently wait their turn at the feeders.  Here are some of them….

American Tree Sparrows (Spizella arborea) have been with us all winter.  They're probably packing up for a flight back to the Arctic.
American Tree Sparrows (Spizella arborea) have been with us all winter. They’re probably packing up for a flight back to the Arctic.
A female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) keeps her eye on the feeders from atop a trellis.
A female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) keeps her eye on the feeders from atop a trellis.
A male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) also waiting in the rose bush.
A male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) also waiting in the rose bush.
One Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) preferred to wait in the lilac bush rather than eat with the other Chickadees.
One Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) preferred to wait in the lilac bush rather than eat with the other Chickadees.
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), the sparrow that can really sing, preferred to hang out on the Blueberry branches.
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), the sparrow that can really sing, preferred to hang out on the Blueberry branches.