Watch for birds in your dogwoods

I was in for a treat today. Actually it started about two days ago when I noticed a flash of red in my dogwood tree. I watched closely expecting to see a bright red cardinal, when in the same spot I briefly saw gray and white and thought I had seen a mockingbird. But it didn’t seem right to have seen the two different birds in the same spot so close together. As I continued to watch the mystery resolved itself. What I had seen was brief glimpses of parts of a much larger bird, the Pileated Woodpecker. It was eating the red berries on the dogwood tree.

Today I again noticed a large bird in the dogwood tree, though I couldn’t get a good look. So I retrieved my binoculars and began searching for the bird and found it. This time it was a Northern Flicker. I had commented to my husband only yesterday how we never saw flickers in our yard, only the Red-bellied Woodpecker which I used to mistake for a flicker.  Then I began to notice robins which don’t come to our feeders. All of the birds were after the red berries. I then discovered a female Baltimore Oriole eating the berries as well as the Red-bellied Woodpeckers. All within about five minutes I saw a wide assortment of birds, three of which I had never seen at our bird feeders.

But then, alas, the berries were all gone and the show was over. I went out in the rain to look closer, and sure enough, they had cleaned the branches of all red berries, though there were several lying on the ground under the tree. When the rain stops I may pick them up and put them in our feeders. I hung a suet basket near the dogwood hoping to attract some of the birds to it, especially the coveted orioles. I’ll be watching to see if the birds find it. We haven’t used that feeder for some time.

Feeding bluebirds?

I have bluebirds nesting in my bluebird house again this spring. This time there are six eggs in the nest. If you read my earlier posts on bluebirds you will see pictures of several stages in the growing process.

But I have been disappointed every time the babies fledged. I’ve never seen it happen and the birds mysteriously disappear as a new nest is begun. I don’t know for sure if they have successfully fledged or not. I know the mocking birds give them a hard time throughout the nesting process, so maybe once the babies fledge they find a safer place to finish their parenting role.

So here is my dilemna. I want to keep the babies around so I can watch them too. I plan to set out a feeder to entice them to stick around. But bluebirds eat expensive food that the mockingbirds will also want to eat. I need a bluebird feeder that is the right size for the bluebird while the larger mocking birds can’t get to the food.

I hope I have a few readers who can offer some suggestions on how to feed bluebirds without feeding the mocking birds as well.

Great Backyard Bird Count

The Great Backyard Bird Count has begun for 2009. This is an annual event hosted by the National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is my first year to participate, but I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Dave and I had noticed a new bird on our bird feeders within the past week and wondered what it was. With the help of their bird list of appropriate birds for our area and time of year, coupled with my bird hand book and their web site, I was able to identify this bird as a Pine Siskin. Here is a picture I took of my bird feeder.

Pine Siskins with one American Goldfinch

Pine Siskins with one American Goldfinch

The Pine Siskins have speckled bars going up and down their heads and breasts. The American Goldfinch has a solid drab yellow colored head and breast. The Goldfinch’s bright yellow coloring will return later in the spring when their mating season begins.

Can you find all eight birds in this picture? The Siskins and Goldfinches have flocked to our feeders in droves. It is very difficult to count either species when they are all mixed together and bouncing around, so I did my best to count everything to get a total count. Then I counted the species that seemed to have fewer numbers and subtracted that from the total.

I also counted several Cardinals, a Red Bellied Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker, a Mockingbird that was standing guard over the territory even though he wasn’t eating at the feeders, Titmice, Purple Finches, White-Throated Sparrows, a Chipping Sparrow, a Towhee, and a Blue jay. Later Dave and I went walking and saw and heard 9 crows flying overhead so I turned in a second count for the crows.

I encourage my readers to check out the Great Backyard Bird Watch on-line and either participate or check out the findings. See if anyone is posting for your community by selecting your state first. Have fun!