Our Wonderful Daylily Mystery

My husband says I planted these and forgot that I did it. Nope. I forget some things, but I’d remember planting flowers. I think. Really, these I would remember.

Aren't they beautiful?

Aren’t they beautiful?

I’d also remember the location, right by the mailbox near the street, because when we went to Kelowna, BC, last year, I was so impressed with all the beautiful yards that it made me want to do more to mine. So far, I’ve basically pulled weeds and cut things back which is a constant thing around here. Haven’t got to the planting part yet. During one of those weed pulling sessions, I noticed some long grassy blades that looked different. When I see something coming up that I can’t identify right off, I usually leave it so that when it grows up I can see what it is and whether or not I want it to stay. I’ve regretted that a time or two, but it’s also how I got my mock orange and Turk’s cap. (Turk’s cap is a great flower for attracting hummingbirds, by the way!)

We really don’t know how these got here unless we have a neighbor or friend who is planting things surreptitiously in folks’ yards. I have some pretty cool family and friends, so that is a possibility. Actually, I think it’s probable because after reading a bit, it looks like daylilies won’t just pop up in a clump like this.  They will spread, but that’s only after being planted by a human. Another thing I learned is that hummingbirds and orioles are both attracted to daylilies. Wow! That just adds some excitement to this whole mystery!

Another good thing is that they can be expected to hang around here for a long time. I still have some yellow ones growing by the water faucet that my Aunt Myrtle planted when she lived here back in the 1960’s. My mom has always said that Aunt Myrtle could plant a dead stick and it’d come back to life and grow. I’m not like her. These babies are tough, and that’s just the kind of plant I need. The fussy ones can’t survive my sporadic care. Daylilies can handle drought and are pest resistant and they crowd out the weeds. Yea, for fewer weeds!

Well, we don’t know how these flowers ended up in our yard, but we sure are glad to have them. May God bless our mystery gardener!

I sure do wonder who…?

 

So pretty!

So pretty!

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Finches and Hummers and More

How pretty! I look out at the bird feeders and see goldfinches and house finches, too. The goldfinches are getting their yellow on and they are just gorgeous. And if the feed runs out, as it did this morning, a goldfinch will fly up to the window to let me know.

I’ve been asked what I feed the birds. I’ve used different things, but I always have black oil sunflower seed. Some folks think you have to buy thistle seed for the goldfinches, but I’ve run out and they are happy with the sunflower seed.

I get raw peanuts for the blue jays who usually make an announcement from the sweet gum tree before swooping down to grab one. When I hear them, I tell my cat, “Incoming!” so he knows to watch for them. We call all this bird activity kitty movies. Well, I call it that; the cat is pretty quiet, but happy.

I have some safflower seed that I got for a special treat, but I probably won’t buy that again. I put it on the platform feeder. The doves didn’t read all the books that say they are ground feeders and they are up there eating safflower seed. Those silly birds even get on the hanging feeders although they’d rather eat off the platform. If they wipe it clean and all they are left with is what’s hanging, they will flutter up against the windows trying to get me to put more seed out for them.

Sometimes, I’ve bought a mix of different seed, but still it’s not necessary. I guess if a person wants to discourage certain birds, maybe that’s a good idea, but if your budget is tight, sunflower seed (black oil seems to be best) is fine for everyone, even for the buntings that come through in spring.

Speaking of migration, it’s time to brush up on those birds that we only see once or twice a year. I really like to use Cornell Lab’s site. This morning, I used this to look at hummingbirds. I like the way they have it set up so you can see birds that are similar and compare them.

Last week, I watched the male rufous hummingbird sit on a branch near the feeder. He was constantly twitching his head from side to side, watching as if there was another bird that wanted to come to the feeder.  After a few minutes, sure enough, another hummer showed up. I’m almost positive it’s a male ruby-throat.  I figured he must be a scout. I’m not sure why they send a scout to find the groceries, when all they are going to do is fight over feeders once everybody gets here. The two of them spent a few days chasing each other and then the rufous left.

Now a female ruby-throat is here.  There was some confusion when I saw streaks on her throat, but as she sat on a branch preening, I saw that she has the forked tail of a ruby-throat. Yesterday I saw three different hummers and I’m not sure I can identify all of them. I’m really having to watch this closely and not assume anything since so many others are here in the winter. I may call a lady from the Audubon Society who gave a talk on hummers, and see if she makes house calls.

I’m really new to this as far as these other species goes. We used to put up feeders in the spring and take them down in fall after everyone left. I started leaving mine up four winters ago, hoping for a rufous. The first two years there was no rufous, but there was a buff-bellied hummingbird who spent the whole winter here both years. Last winter, I may have misidentified a few birds that I thought were female ruby-throats. This winter I learned there are several hummingbirds that the books used to say didn’t come here, but they do in the winter. If you live near the Gulf of Mexico in the Southern US, don’t ever take your hummingbird feeders down. Mine are staying up all the time, unless there’s a hurricane or a freeze. No one will stay through the winter who should be leaving, and you just never know who might show up.

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!

Birds This Summer

Did you get all excited about putting out hummingbird feeders this spring only to have the hummingbirds disappear in early summer? I found out where they went! According to Birds and Blooms magazine, they don’t come to our sugar-water feeders when they are busy feeding bugs to their babies. Ah,ha! I wish I had a bug feeder. (I’ve never heard of such a thing as a bug feeder, but it might be a cool way to dispose of garden pests.)

When my hummers disappeared this year I took my feeders down. Then a few weeks ago I had a male ruby-throat show up at the kitchen window. One of my feeders normally hangs near that window and he was apparently trying to convince me, by flying back and forth in front of the window and looking at me, to put the feeder back out. I did and I never saw him again.

One day last week, a female hummer did the same thing. I really didn’t want to go through the whole process again of making up the food and hanging it out for them when all I’d get to see is the food getting icky and not being eaten. So, I didn’t run to the stove with water and sugar.

Yesterday, a neighbor told me she and another neighbor are seeing hummers at feeders now, so I reckon today is the day. I’ll feed these fascinating little birds again and they and I will be happy about it.

Now about those other birds. Seems I was having chickens on my platform feeder and not so much the other birds. It happens every year. Not the chickens, but the song birds not coming to the feeder quite so often.

Yep. That’s a chicken.

The song birds like what God has provided in the woods during the summer I guess, so they don’t show up so much. Sometimes when that happens I slack off on the feeder-filling. This year the advantage of this situation is that the chickens might have forgotten there is bird seed up there? We’ll see. There were baby cardinals in the tree outside the kitchen window a couple of days ago, so I started putting seed out again.

If you wondered where your birds went, I hope this answered your question. They’ll be back, just hang in there. As for me, I hope the chickens don’t come back.

A Painted Bunting in January?

My son saw it first. He came and got me so I could see him. (I was washing hummingbird feeders for the rufous ones we have this winter.) We had a male painted bunting eating Scott Superior Blend Wild Bird Food. It has mostly millet, which is why I bought it and that is what this colorful guy was eating. He’s not supposed to be here right now according to the books. I don’t think some of the birds read the books. I was so excited I moved too fast and too close to the window and scared him away twice, but he came back both times. The third time he landed on the feeder and sat there eating and chirping for five minutes while I made Bird Sighting Phone Calls and watched him. You can see what they look like here. Tomorrow, I hope to get some batteries for my new camera and I hope he comes back so I can get some photos of my own!

ADDENDUM: I’ve learned that a painted bunting on the Gulf Coast in the winter isn’t unheard of. It is rare though.

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.

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.