Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Touch of Winter and Counting Birds

Just five days ago, we were pulling weeds in the garden in short sleeve shirts. During the course of the week we've had torrential rainfall, flooding, tornado warnings, thunder storms and Saturday it started snowing, leaving an accumulation of over 3 inches. 

Song birds become very active in such changing weather and it is a perfect time to survey the garden and see what birds are actually out there. 

Here are a few from my walk around the garden. 


Of course the easiest one to spot is the Eastern bluebird. Both males and females are dressed in bright blue feathers that pop against the subdued greys and browns of the hardwood trees and [currently] the bright white snow.


This bluebird was trying to go unnoticed with its rust colored breast blending in with the red oak leaves that remain on the tree until spring.


In the same red oak tree, a female pine warbler thrashed around amongst the leaves, perhaps searching for insects or seeds dropped from other birds. In winter they often visit suet feeders when other food sources are scarce.


Cardinals are numerous in our woodland and one of the most easily recognized birds. The females are not as brilliantly colored as the males, their brownish orange feathers with just a hint of red trim is understated.


This lady was actively moving from tree to shrubbery in an effort to reach the feeders we put out when temperatures turn fridged. She often rested on limbs, fluffing her feathers to create air pockets for additional insulation to stay warm in the 30 degree morning.


A male house finch, another common backyard bird, steadily perched on a limb, looking a bit nippy. Frankly, I was feeling much the same with frozen fingers trying to manipulate the camera lens.


Song sparrows were low in the vegetation industriously turning up exposed leaf litter as the snow melted. These sweet birds appreciate the grasses and perennial flower heads that we don't cut back until spring so that they serve as a source of food and cover, creating a perfect winter habitat.


Valentine's Day marks the start of the Great Backyard Bird Count of 2020. This is a fun citizen scientist project that anyone young and old can participate in. It's easy. Go to GBBC and set up an account, check out the links with helpful bird identification tips, as well as an online bird guide. You can count multiple times, different locations, and with different groups. Enter your data once you've completed each count.

Why is this project so important? Recent studies have indicated that bird populations are declining significantly. Birds are a critical piece in the natural food web. They are an indicator of the health of our environment. How is your backyard supporting birds? Find out by counting February 14-17. 

9 comments:

  1. I can’t be the crazy weather you’ve had! Love your birds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been the craziest! But maybe we got it all out of the way in the week and nature can focus on spring now.

      Delete
  2. I love doing the GBBC, have counted for a number of years. A female Pine Warbler? Good for you. Will have to read up on figuring out male and female Pine Warblers. The birds always pop in the snow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be fun to compare our counts and see how our bird populations differ. Male pine warblers are easy to id as they are a vibrant yellow. Females are often confused with goldfinches. But here is the link https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Pine_Warbler/id

      Delete
  3. Makes sense Karin. Males are always more vibrant. (duh!) Will read the link, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your winter photography is beautiful, Karin. I am not a fan of winter photography; I've had frostbite too many times over the years. But I appreciate it when people capture the beauty of winter. The birds that you show are regulars here, too, although my own garden is too shady for bluebirds. It makes me sad that the numbers of birds keep declining. Outdoor domestic cats are the biggest problem, so we keep ours inside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. We've occasionally seen a feral cat in our garden but our dogs quickly chased them away. I often try to photograph the birds from windows or the garage. We have a space heater in the workshop and I'll warm my hands periodically so I don't get frostbite. The colder the weather the more cooperative it seems the birds are. I'm able to get closer to them and get better shots.

      Delete
  5. Looking forward to GBBC this weekend. No bluebirds around here, which is disappointing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We noticed a big increase in the bluebird population in our garden when we put up nesting boxes for them. We mostly see them in winter and spring around the house. Summer and fall they are more widespread on the property.

      Delete

One of my favorite things about blogging is the conversation with readers. Leave a comment and let's get talking. ~Karin