Watching the (Almost) Winter Birds

Whoo-hoo! Today there were cedar waxwings in the treetops on the other side of my next door neighbor’s house. I’ve been wanting to see some of those birds for a while now. I usually catch them once a year when they come through. A couple of years or so ago, I saw them twice and I think I missed them last year, so it was really good to catch sight of them today. I think they are the most elegant birds. They were so far away that I couldn’t see their little red spots on their wings, the yellow at the tip of their tail feathers, and I couldn’t see their ‘eye makeup’ either. I could see the crest on their little heads though. It leans back like a fancy hat. I think they are the fashionistas of the bird world. Soft colors, the hat and the eye makeup…understated elegance.

As far as other birds, I’ve seen some interesting ones. One day last week I saw a hermit thrush in the shrubby tree outside the kitchen window. That’s where I have the hummingbird feeder. Well, I had one feeder out until…

On Saturday, I saw two hummingbirds! They were both females and they were fighting over the feeder. They wouldn’t be still so I couldn’t tell if they were both rufous hummingbirds, or if one of them was a ruby-throated who didn’t make the trip south this year. I got all excited and put out another feeder in the backyard, where it was out of sight of the one they both wanted to claim. And since that day I haven’t seen more than one at a time. I was out of town yesterday and just haven’t stopped and stood still long enough to watch the backyard feeder when I’ve been home, so I don’t know if only one bird is still here, or if they are just avoiding each other. I think it would be weird for two rufous hummers to avoid conflict on purpose. I’ve watched the first one who showed up chase sparrows away from her feeder. (They were just sitting in the tree!) I read that they are the most aggressive hummingbirds and I’m inclined to agree.

A couple of days ago, I saw either a house finch or a purple finch. He took off before I could be sure who he was. Usually, I have house finches, but the book doesn’t show them here in the winter. It doesn’t show either of them here in summer, but they’ve been here. I think I’ve had both over the past few years, but I’m sure I’ve had house finches. It does show purple finches here in winter. I don’t know if they have changed their territory or not though. Some birds have moved into different areas the past few years and I’m close to the edges of both birds’ winter territories. Something I’ve started doing is writing down what I see in a blank book that is now my bird book. There shouldn’t be so much confusion in the future; I’m keeping it with my binoculars and my main field guide (I should get the updated version!)  instead of scribbling down names of birds here and there, usually on a calendar that I don’t feel like digging out of storage.

I’ve been watching for goldfinches and so far have only seen one at a time. I put out a bag of thistle this year. I usually let them eat the black oil sunflower seed, but this year I read an article in Birds and Blooms magazine that motivated me to put out thistle so maybe I’ll get a pine siskin. I think maybe the junco that I saw last week may have come for the white millet. I hope so. I put that out there for him.

I’ve also been roasting squash seeds this fall and breaking them up just a bit and adding them to the feeder. I put them on the platform feeder on top of the feeder pole, along with whole raw peanuts for the blue jays.

I don’t know why, but this year we actually have pretty fall colors on our trees in the city. Usually, we have to go to the River to see such pretty colors. I think it’s fun when the leaves fall and we can see the bird and squirrel nests. Leaves are pretty on the ground, too, with the grass peeking through them. Then my next thought is that they make great mulch and I need to go curb crawling and grab a few more bags for the garden. I hope you all are seeing lots of cool birds in your yards.


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