A Short Note About This Winter’s Birds

My bird feeding has been erratic the past several weeks, mostly due to my misadventures with my back. So, there has mostly not been any bird feeding. My back is fine now and the other day I put some seed out. Finally, I’ve got a goldfinch. I even saw two of them while ago. My neighbors down the street haven’t seen any yet and they have had seed out, so I guess I haven’t been missing anything and these are the first ones. ¬†Last year we started seeing them in November. Not sure if that was unusual, or if this year is unusual.

I’ve had a few hummingbirds. There are at least two rufous hummingbirds and at least one ruby-throated. I think one of the rufous is a young male, the other is female, as is the ruby-throated.

I have no idea where the blue jays went. I haven’t seen one in months and I wish they would come back. They have attitude and they are so pretty; I love to watch them.

Mostly, there are tons of sparrows. Well, birdtons anyway. I think they are pretty; the shades of brown are nice to look at. There are doves, too, of course. I’d just like some variety. I have seen a few warblers in the vines on the fence, but I’m so out of practice identifying warblers that I can’t tell you what kind are out there.

I sure miss putting out the lard, peanut butter, flour….all that good stuff mixed up. It’s got gluten in it, so I can’t have flour and cornmeal in my kitchen. I could feed them gluten-free flour and cornmeal, but that is pretty expensive. So, I can’t. I’m keeping an eye out for substitutes though. If I find anything, I’ll try to post it here in case someone else is in the same boat.

Well, I just thought that if anyone is wondering where the goldfinches are and what else might be making an appearance on the Upper Texas Gulf Coast, I’d give y’all a little report.

Happy Birding!

ADDENDUM: Be sure to read “All Those Hummingbirds Will Come HERE?”, written on March 11, 2013. I misidentified some birds!

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Hummingbird Season Won’t End at My House This Year

Oh, how exciting! This morning I was on my front porch when I looked around and saw a small brownish hummingbird in the non-bearing pomegranate shrub. At first, I wasn’t positive if it was a rufous or if it was the female ruby-throat that was here yesterday. Was I sure about that color? Is it really a rufous? Am I seeing what is really here, or just what I want to see?

I walked over closer to get a better look, and it sure looked like the rusty color on its side just in front of the wing. Just to help me out, the little bitty bird hopped around in the branches giving me a better look. Oh, my goodness! It’s a rufous! It was like God was saying, “Happy Birthday, Diane.” I certainly said, “Thank you! This is great!”

If you live on the upper Texas Gulf Coast don’t take your feeders down. Even if the last of the ruby-throats has left, you may get a rufous or even a buff-bellied hummingbird. I used to have to go about 10 or so miles north of here to see a rufous, but last year I finally had not one, but two of them. Not bad for the first time to have rufous in my yard. They are pretty aggressive and may chase Little Miss Ruby-Throat away. They may even be why I didn’t see a buff-bellied last year, whereas I had one spend two winters in a row here before last year. You may get a buff-bellied, too. They will sometimes hang out along the Gulf Coast during the winter.

I like seasons. I like the cooler temperatures, the changing leaves and even no leaves on trees, the color of the sky, and the different birds. We never had hummingbirds in winter until recently. This is the fourth year in a row for us to have a hummingbird in the yard who came specifically for this season. If you haven’t had them in the winter before, don’t give up. These little winged creatures are on the move and may show up at your house, too.

ADDENDUM: Be sure and read “All Those Hummingbirds Will Come HERE?”, written on March 11, 2013. I misidentified a few birds!

Rufous Hummingbird!

All right! Two years ago I got it into my head that I wanted a Rufous hummingbird to come to my feeder in the fall and stay for the winter. They do that on the Gulf Coast, although the closest ones I know of have been seen about 10 miles from me (that’s 10 miles as the crow flies, which is important when you’re talking about birds).

Two years ago, I left my hummer feeder out past the Ruby-throated migration in hopes that a rufous would find its way here. I didn’t get a Rufous, but got something totally unexpected. A Buff-bellied hummingbird showed up. Boy, I had no idea what that bird was until I looked him up. That’s when I learned the male and female Buff-bellied hummers look alike.

Last year, I left the feeder out still hoping for a Rufous, but also wanted the Buff-bellied to come back. Mr. or Mrs. Buff-bellied did show up and spent the second winter here. It was really nice, but still no Rufous.

This year, I left the feeder out hoping the Buff-bellied would come back. No Buff-bellied hummer this year, but about a week and a half ago, we saw a hummer at the feeder. It was small and I thought it was a female Ruby-throated straggler who would only be here for a day or two; she was busy doing other things when everyone else left and now she was running way behind. I don’t really know how a person would tell if a bird was old and too weak for the trip, but she looked fine to me.

Then came the surprise! When I was washing dishes and she was feeding, I would be watching her. That is when I noticed a flash of rufous coloring on her sides and tail when she flew. The first few times I saw it, it didn’t really register in my head that this was not normal for a Ruby-throated. After about a week of watching her, it dawned on me that even though she didn’t look like any Rufous I’d seen before, she just might be one. So, I looked in my bird books and that is when I discovered the male and female don’t look alike. What I had seen before were males. I needed one more good look to make sure who this bird is.

Then, along came a cold front. We had rain and a cold north wind and it got down to freezing last night. I read that the Rufous might stay for a week or two and then move on, and I was afraid she would leave if she didn’t like the climate, and I’d never be positive about her identity. Well, she didn’t leave and today the lighting was just right, and I finally got a good look with binoculars at her side, belly and flank and she is a female Rufous! I am so happy! My friend who lives 10 miles away has had them stay all winter, so I expect that as long as she likes the groceries and I can keep them coming, she will hang out with me this winter. I’m so happy.

Plants, Hummingbird, and Frozen Pipes

The South froze. Leaves on some plants that stay green all year are dark green and drooping. One of our cactus plants looks OK, another looks iffy, and the third…Well, yesterday it was about 8 ft. tall, and today it’s about 7 ft. tall. The paddles are all flopped over. We may have lost the satsuma tree, but won’t know for sure till this is over. We tried to insulate the bottom of the trunk. We piled up dirt, leaves, newspaper, more dirt, more leaves and wrapped the whole tree in a blanket but it still might not make it. It’s a young tree with a thin trunk. The county ag man told us to put dirt if we had it, and leaves if not,¬† around it and make sure it covers the graft near the bottom of the trunk. He also said that some fruit trees aren’t going to make it through these temps in the 20s. He looked really funny when I told him that other than that tree, and bringing in a few potted plants, whatever makes it makes it, and whatever doesn’t, just won’t. We’ll see how that works out.

The Buff-bellied hummingbird is still here. His food was frozen this morning so I fixed up some more for him. It was about time to change it anyway. In winter, it should be changed about every six days. Since we will hit 20 F. again tonight I’ll have to bring the feeder in when it gets dark and put it back out at daybreak tomorrow so he will have some breakfast that he can drink. Instead of one cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar, I’m using one cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar and then about a spoon more of sugar. I want him to have extra calories to help him keep warm. I sure wonder where he’s sleeping at night? My husband wanted to let him in the house yesterday evening, but couldn’t figure out how to manage that. Plus, we’d have to hide him from the cat. We start thinking crazy in the South when it gets cold, don’t we?

Some of our pipes froze, but later thawed out. However, my neighbor was outside working on some things in his yard and he came over and told me I had a busted pipe while ago. We looked and it’s broken just above the ground. It’s at the outside edge of the house, so it won’t be hard to fix. Don’t know what will happen when we turn the water back on though because there is another pipe that was still frozen when my neighbor turned the water off for me. Husband will be home from work early today. Hope he’s ready to go to the hardware store.

We have a couple more nights of this. The weather man says it will be up around 60 degrees next week. We never get a chance to adjust to the weather before it changes again. Another thing the weather man said is that this is not the last of the really cold weather we can expect this year. A friend of mine says even Al Gore is shivering right now. That makes me smile.