Monday, January 02, 2012

Feathered Fun

It's Monday, so I'm doing a FeederWatch count today, and I had a perfect example of why I like to participate in this project.  This morning, for about an hour, there was a white-breasted nuthatch flitting between my feeder-trees out back.  This is only the second time I've seen a white-breasted nuthatch in the yard since moving here 5 years ago.  If I hadn't been doing a count, I'm quite sure that I would have missed it.

Since I had the camera out to photograph that bird, I decided to take pictures of a few other birds that were coming in this morning as well.

Most interesting is this female cardinal that I've been seeing this fall.  Her plumage is distinctly brighter than most female cardinals, but not as bright as most males.  The other bird on the feeder is a Harris sparrow.

Here is a typical female cardinal for comparison.

So my question is whether this is just a plumage variation?  Or is this bird a hermaphrodite?  Or is there some other abnormality occurring?  Chances are that I'll never know, but it's interesting to speculate! 

Another oddity that I've noticed this year is that I have a few white-crowned sparrows who seem to enjoy eating Niger thistle.  Usually only goldfinch and house finch enjoy thistle seed, so it's rather odd to see a sparrow regularly perched and eating on these feeders.

No unusual issues for the rest of these feeder visitors, but they posed very nicely for me and the light was good, so I thought I'd share them with you.  This is a mockingbird who's a regular visitor to the water bowl....

In mid December (on a count day, of course) I photographed this female yellow-bellied sapsucker who stopped in to sample the suet, much to the irritation of my usual starling,...

as well as this male spotted (western) towhee, who had a penchant for digging in this same spot for several weeks.  I haven't seen him recently, though.

Beginning over Christmas break, it seemed like some of the birds started pairing up.  I've seen only male red-bellied woodpeckers so far this year, only one tufted titmouse at a time, and the downy woodpeckers came in to feed separately.  Today I've seen pairs of both the red-bellied woodpeckers and the downy woodpeckers, feeding in the courtyard at the same time.  I've also seen two tufted titmice at a time, as well as two chickadees.  It seems awfully early for courting behavior, but maybe they're living together for a while before committing to raising children together!

Before I know it, the red-winged blackbirds will be back in numbers and the early spring migrants will be headed north again.  The turning of the seasons in all its predictability and magic.  


Melanie said...

You are provoking me in the need to sit still for an hour and watch. We have a great tree row. .and I noted a robin this afternoon on the way to the greenhouse.. but generally see lots of sparrows and finches. .and some mourning doves. Maybe this weekend!! I LOVE to bird. .but too many distractions in my current life season of small children. I suppose someday I will be wishing that I could watch small children instead of birds :-)

Gaia Gardener: said...

Some day I suspect you'll have time to bird...and occasional time with young children as well. I hear that grandchildren are the best of both worlds!

I'll bet you get some great sparrows in your tree row! Do you have a yard list for your property? I start a new one every year. It's rather fun to compare what I've seen around home each year. I netted 76 species last year on our 10 acres!

Melanie said...

I've never heard of that. .but very intriguing!! I will TOTALLY be doing that this year. Thanks for the great idea. .I've gone through my little Ks birding book and marked species that I have seen. .but never recorded the ones in a year. Thank you, Thank you!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Melanie, I'll bet you'll really enjoy doing it! I become so much more aware of the season's changing as I watch the change in the bird populations, even while I'm seeing the change in the plant life.

I'm looking forward to hearing about your "finds"!