Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another Year Done

Just a couple days left of 2010, a good year for watching orioles and hummingbirds!
While hummer watching this afternoon, it became clear why the new feeding post (with 2 favored feeder types) is not getting much action. I should have expected, there is a very territorial male Anna's shooing off any mooching interloper getting near.

I saw a very sharp looking male Costa's hummer at one of the feeders, vibrant dark blue-violet neck and long back swooping 'sideburns'. It is supposed to be very rainy tomorrow, I hope to get a photo of him if he is still around after the rain.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Almost Christmas

It is almost Christmas and this year the hummers got an early present in the form of an additional feeder post with 4 spots for feeders. It is about 5 feet from their favorite feeder post but they do not seem too keen on the new one yet. Creatures of habit, I suppose. The bees seem more excited about it, although not for several days since the drizzle moved in. The bees are nowhere to be seen, they will be back with the sun I am sure. Lots of birds still around, about 1 gallon a day of nectar as a reference. The birds also got 2 aloe plant cuttings donated to them a week ago. They are in the ground, time will tell if they root and thrive. They each have a bloom stalk which, so far, have not fallen off. I take that as a positive sign.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sunny Saturday

I spent half an hour or so out with the hummers this afternoon around 2:00. There was a big crowd hanging out on the 'hummingbird tree' and on the feeding tower. Here is a photo of several hummers and a praying mantis that I almost did not see. I have heard (read) that a mantis can catch a hummer, maybe a much bigger mantis and much smaller hummer.
Here is a better photo of the lizard who has taken over the bird house!
This is about half of the birds in the tree, the rest are lower and are harder to see. That photo is next, most of these photos are clickable for a larger view.
I took a nice 2 minute video of the activity, almost like being there! Well, not quite...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Beautiful weather and Thanksgiving Day with family! It has been cool over night (frost Thursday morning) and the hummers are a little slow to the 'breakfast table'. But by 7:30 AM they are ready to go! Old Guy update: he may have moved his territory to the side yard. 2 feeders there are draining slowly and I caught a glimpse of a male Anna's who looks close to the profile.
I sat out with the hummers for a while this afternoon and tried to get a few pics of the males showing off there highlights.
Here are a four getting cozy while getting a snack!
I did not know hummers got Tats! the guy on the left has one right on the top of his head.
This guy has a case of pinhead going on. I rarely see them in that condition.
Here is 'The Lookout', he has got the high ground staked out.

It's a western bluebird box, I mean western fence lizard. It seems to be a favorite hangout for this guy. it is the box that had a family of house wrens this spring.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just the Winter population?

It seems like we may be down to just the 'locals' now, the feeders are only taking around a gallon a day to refill lately. I don't recall seeing nearly as many kinds of hummingbirds this summer and fall as usual and not the quantity in each type, except for Anna'a and Blackchinned. The weather has been excellent for the last week and generally nice all summer and fall, a bit cooler than normal. Did this keep some of the travelers from staying in the area? Maybe they were searching for warmer climes. Maybe their migration route shifted a little this year.

Old Guy update: Have not seen positive sign for weeks now, 'his feeder is seeing plenty of multibird action lately. I am hoping he just decided to share! Other very territorial hummers have been a bit less so lately, maybe just the season.

New phenomenon this year - for the last 2-3 weeks large quantities of gnat-like insects are getting into the feeders. I have not yet done a close exam on these insects in order to identify this latest annoyance. They may be an effect of the early rain and then hot weather. Better than bees, and they may be a protein source for the hummers - if so, fine.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

After The Rains

It has been gray for 6 days now and rainy for the last 3 (OK, drizzly 2 days, rainy with lightning 1 day). All told, 2 and 3/4" of rain. This seems to have built up quite the appetite on the hummers. Here are a few photos: the images are clickable for larger views.
 It is not as dark out as it may seem, but it was gray and a little drizzly so I used the flash to get sharper pics.
 This was, by a good measure, the most activity at a feeder I have seen at my yard. For some reason, this was the hot feeder this morning! This shot has 21 birds, I am pretty sure.

This photo is the dead ceanothus (Ramona Lilac) bush that is a favorite landing spot for the hummers (and orioles, when it is that season). I counted over 20 birds waiting for their turn at the feeders.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gray Sunday

Last week was in the 90s, today was 60 and wet. The weekend (actually, since Friday) has been gray and on and off drizzly.A good indication that this is just fog-marine layer is this capture from UCSD High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network
at around 5 PM taken from North Peak at around 5700 feet looking west.

Hummingbirds are not bothered by this weather and are buzzing around like crazy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Summer in October

It's October 10th, 2010 or as some have said - 10 10 10, earlier this day was 10h:10m:10s. Such a binary occasion, what could it all mean? Seems to mean "it is going to be hot today!' 92 degrees by 2 o'clock.

Old Guy hummer report: possible sighting - old guy behavior for sure, with a twist. He is still guarding his favorite feeder ( but losing the battle midday to the bees). But early in the AM and later in the PM he is hanging out on a ledge created by the outside window treatments. I think it may be warmer there than elsewhere, but who knows. Also, I was not sure what was happening to his tail feathers until I got a closer look. He's molting, just as Phinny (pinhead, photo to follow) the parrot is.
Of course, they all do it, just the first time I have seen a hummer doing it. I don't know if somewhat limited flexibility is keeping him from getting the casings off quickly. The bill condition is slightly improved.

 Here's the pin head, although it will be more noticeable in a couple weeks.

A photo of an Anna's showing some tail to a female, she's watching but not too impressed!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's Hot Again

It's really hot (over 100) today and will stay that way a couple more days. It seems to be having a bit of an effect on the hummingbirds. They must be staying up in the trees more where it is cooler, there is not quite the activity around the feeders today. 
Here is a photo of a hummingbird who may or may not be the 'old guy', he has all the right moves for sure. His beak is quite gnarly and might be due to avian pox according to a couple postings online. If so, it can heal up on its own, looks worse than it really is.
Lots of bees, will be going to hardware store in search of more solutions to bee guards for feeders. Orioles are gone so there are more options to keeping out bees. 

No sign of the partially albino hummer again, watch continues.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Orioles Are Gone

It has been a week since the last hooded oriole sighting, the last group must have returned to their winter home in Arizona or Mexico. Just about a year ago to the week was the previous end of the summer visit.

Lots of hummingbirds around, mostly Anna's and blackchin.Yesterday I saw a type of hummer I not seen before - a mostly white one. This trait is known as leucistic - where there is a partial loss of pigmentation. The feet, beak, and eyes were dark and there were some green feathers.  By the time I returned with a camera it was gone.

Last evening there was another visitor that did hang around long enough to get a photo.
It was a 2-3 inch Pepsis or tarantula hawk wasp, known for their hunting tarantulas as food for their young. When I first saw her (as judged by the curly antennae) she was sharing the feeder with a hummingbird.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

September 11, 2010

A good day to look back and remember those gone...

It's almost the middle of September and the hooded orioles that stop by for the spring and summer are mostly gone now. I thought maybe they were all gone, but this afternoon I saw a female on the fence next to a feeder. Could not tell youngster or Mom. Update: Sunday morning - 2 females at feeder.

We are still having a cooler than normal summer, much to my pleasure, but this does not seem to be impacting the hummingbirds in any way I can see. There are plenty around, 2 gallons a day worth anyway!

The 2 feeders below hold 1/3 gallon each, they are emptied every day.

Just when I think the 'old guy' Anna's is not around, the feeder he guards starts draining very slowly and a male Anna's is chasing off all comers. But I can not tell if it is him, older for certain, but less bold toward me so I can not get too close.
This is the 'hummingbird tree' next to several feeders and behind the webcams. It's hard to see, but if you click on photo to enlarge, there are 30 or so hummers in the dead Ramona lilac bush. I would take it out but the hummers really like perching there.

I am waiting to see a few Rufus hummers as they make their way back south, none identified yet.

We have always had a few black phoebes flitting around, lately one has taken up bug patrol along a fence below several hummingbird feeders and flies back and forth between a coyote bush and a small Tacoma Stans (Yellow Bells) shrub. The coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis) is blooming, such as they do, and there are extra bugs attracted to it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer Heat

It's day 2 of our 100 degree weather, the hummingbirds seem to be holding up fine. The feeders are draining fast - 2 to 3 gallons per day now. I am not sure about the 'old guy', have not positively id him lately but 'his feeder' seems to be slowly emptying which is a good sign he may still be around.

The orioles are thinning out but there are still four or five coming to feed in the evening. They seem to be more skittish now so it is harder to tell if I am looking at adult females or this years young. It seems like I am just seeing adult or fledgling females now (no fledgling males) so maybe the second or last batch of eggs is mostly female? I have only seen one or two adult males (much easier to determine with their bright yellow and black).

I will miss the orioles but at least I will be able to more aggressively bee proof the feeders so the hummers will not have to fight off the bees as much. I have put out another large feeder to accommodate the increased number of hummers lately. Nice to see that neighbors on both sides have put up feeders as well, hope they get lots of activity too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mid Summer Update

It's almost the middle of August and the weather is still generally cool for this time of year. Every day, it seems, somewhere in the county is recording a record low. Sometimes it is low overnight temps, sometimes low afternoon maximums. The birds seem to be enjoying the cooler than usual temps as much as most people, the activity is high and feeding level is up about as high as I can recall - around 2 gallons per day. And this is with neighbors on one side also putting up feeders giving the birds an alternative location for snacking.

I am concerned that 'the old guy' may have met his end, as I have not seen him in a few days now. Here is a photo from this spring.
He has been a regular for a couple years and lately has been fiercely guarding his feeder against all other hummers. I hope he just found a spot he likes better, I am not optimistic.

Seems like all the orioles are still here, bees as well. This morning was very foggy and cool (55 degrees) and all feeders were pretty much loaded with hummers and the air was thick with the thrumming of wings.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

1st of August

We made it to August and the weather is still below average for high temperature but slowly creeping up. It will be close to normal (85 degrees) for several days near the middle of the week but then it should cool again for the next weekend. The hummingbirds and orioles are still in high gear. I am still waiting for the Rufus hummers to show up.This may be the last month for the orioles here before they head back to Arizona and Mexico. Plenty of bees still, I suppose it is good that the local colonies have not crashed as is the case elsewhere. Speaking of bees and possible repellent schemes, I tried a hearsay technique which at first glance seems a total bust. Dryer sheets are supposed to keep bees away (what the heck, we had some collecting dust).
I will let you decide the effectiveness, but I see lots of bees! (They are all alive and buzzing, believe me!) Maybe the desire for grape jelly out weighs the repelling effect.

Here is a shot of a couple male blackchinned hummers at the top feeder (you'll have to take my word on it for the one with wings up) and a couple female (who knows which kind) hummers at the lower feeder.

To get a little off topic, a few weeks ago a fresh batch? of baby lizards hatched and have been running around the back yard. They are a bit hard to see since they are about an inch or 2.5 cm long. Here is a photo of a baby western fence lizard catching some morning sun on a garden hose.

As long as I am off topic - here is a photo a something I came cross while volunteering yesterday at the Wild Animal Park - I mean, Safari Park, as it is now officially called. Anyway, the visitors are warned to stay on the paths and be wary, although a sighting is rare. This was up in the native gardens (NativeScapes on your Park map and an excellent hike for those with the extra time), which is up past the Condor Ridge exhibit if you are familiar with the Park, not near the main section of the Park where most visitors explore. This guy was about 4 feet long.
He was just cruzin' along slowly and not in a bad mood as he went into some thick bushes not to be seen again. The Park security will catch and relocate these guys to the way-back acreage when they can, this one  avoided that for now. He is a red diamondback and has a  distinctive black and white ringing at the base of the tail near the rattles.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Delightfully Cool Again!

After 3-4 days of blazing hot weather, we are back to below normal (substantially) weather. The day after the last post, we hit 100 F for daytime highs for 3 days. Bird activity seemed to slow a bit during that time. Now we have had a week of below average temps, Nice! 
Both the orioles and hummers are in high gear. There appears to be an influx of blackchin hummingbirds all of a sudden. The males are distinctive with their tidy iridescent deep blue collars.  They are slightly smaller than the more common Anna's but just as friendly.
This season's oriole youngsters are showing up at the feeders in good numbers and catch on very fast to the feeder routine, although they are more timid than the adults. Chatter, chatter - especially around dinner time!
Anyone interested in a nice collection of hummingbird photos should check out this link - http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=hummingbirds&w=9486153%40N03

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not Delightfully Cool!

What a difference in just one week. We are getting a big shot of summer, today through Saturday we will be flirting with 100 degrees. I stocked up the feeders for the hummers and orioles and will flush them out daily until the high heat is done. Mold and fermentation are more aggressive in hot weather.

Have not seen recent action in the bluebird box from the house wrens. Maybe one clutch is all for this year. The bees are somewhat under control for the moment. Recent TV news blurbs have made a big deal about Africanized honey bees being well established in the county and a few people have been stung repeatedly lately. I can not tell which type of bees are clogging the feeders but they are not showing any aggressive behavior, but some caution is due nonetheless. Hive protection seems to be the major dangerous behavior.

There are two hummingbirds exhibiting over the top protectionism regarding their feeders. The 'old guy', as photoed in early June blog, and another Anna's at the opposite end of the backyard. Orioles pay little regard to the behavior but other hummers are driven off post haste!

Hello to all friends and family who stop by and visitors from Europe and Japan!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Delightfully Cool Week

It has been a nice week, if you like cool cloudy weather. Hummingbird and oriole activity is high - although the amount of nectar used seems a little less than last year still.
Here is a photo of a hooded oriole nest out at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Seems like an unusual spot, they often prefer stitching their nests onto the underside of a fan palm frond that is angled about 45 degrees above horizontal. This gives protection and allows sag of the frond.

The threads that they use to weave the nest are clearly seen, these are stripped off of the palm fronds in the surrounding area. Seems like it would be tough getting a hold on the wood to begin the nest. The male and female hooded orioles were seen making trips to and from on the last two Saturdays. The photo is of the underside of a shade ramada covering a picnic table and the top 'shingling' is a thatch of fan palm fronds and may be why it seemed appealing to the orioles! A couple fingers of palm frond can be seen to the right of the nest sticking out past the edge of the roof.

Bee control techniques are having some limited positive results. The best implementation has been to the exclusion of the orioles. More work to be done.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lots of Bees

The honey bees are really going after the feeders now, I'm continuing  to work on bee discouraging while still accommodating the orioles. Speaking of which, although the hooded orioles prefer building their hanging basket nests (photo to come) on the underside of fan palm fronds, at least one female is nesting up in the avocado grove. I watched her make runs between our queen palms (stripping threads off of the fronds) and an avocado tree at the edge of the grove. 
Finally, a photo of one of this year's oriole offspring - a young male. Bib is clear if a bit small, and his wings are more gray than black and yellow is not as bright as an adult.

 A new backyard bird - brown headed cowbird. They have an interesting courtship dance. The male fluffs up his feathers while standing up tall in front of the female. Then he makes a bow while spreading his wings in a forward manner as if to scoop up the female as he takes a few steps forward. She just sits and watches. Ho Hum! The second photo shows the brown head more clearly. Also, a second suitor can be seen giving a little competition! She flew off a minute or two later with males in pursuit. On a negative note - These birds do not make nests, instead they are parasitic. Which is to say they lay an egg in the nest of another bird species, especially orioles. Apparrently, they sometime remove one of the host eggs to make room. The eggs hatch sooner and the chicks are bigger. In some cases, this distresses the host population. I hope this is not happening in my area.

No further brown hummingbird sightings, will keep an eye out. Little Brown Bird (aka house wrens in the bluebird box) update - a day or two ago I saw a wren around the box. It was a quick sighting, could not tell if it came out of the box but may indicate a second clutch on the way. Will watch for indicators. Update Sunday 13th, Spent some time this morning enjoying the birds in the backyard. I think the male house wren is house cleaning in advance of attempting to woo a female into the box. He would go in the vent at the stop side of the box and exit the front door with debris. This repeated 4-5 times.
A bit off topic, but tonight we felt an earthquake. One of a long string of aftershocks from the big Easter quake. This one was not big (4.4)  (update Sunday, there were two quakes - the first 4.9 which we felt, the second a minute later - 4.4) but was notable in as much as it was mostly one big short jolt that caused quite a bit of noise in the house but no signs afterward. They seem to working their way north from the original location in Baja toward Palm Springs where the San Andreas fault hangs out. Lets hope it just seems that way and not really whats going on!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Summer is Almost Here

We are well into the summer pattern, no rain until late fall unless we are lucky and get a summer thunderstorm.
Update on the house wrens in the western bluebird box - no wrens in the box. It seems I have missed the fledging of the baby wrens. The smaller they are, I think, the faster they fledge. We will see if the adults try a second batch. 
Here is a photo of inside the box, that's a nest? I don't know which kind of bird put all those sticks in there, but wrens are small and the sticks are kind of big. That's about a 5"x5"x6" wad of sticks. And there is no soft 'bowl' of an egg holder to be seen. I am not sure how the eggs stayed on top!

The hummingbirds and orioles are status quo except - yesterday I caught a glimpse of either a rufus or Allen's hummingbird. Unfortunately, short as glimpses are, I could not tell rufus or Allen's, male or female. There was just enough brown on the tail to know it was not an Anna's or blackchin. Naturally, the several times I have sat down to solve the mystery, he/she has not shown up.
The honey bees are beginning to be a problem. I have started to convert to 'bee proofing' some of the feeders. This is a little tricky, most bee exclusion tactics tend to make the feeders oriole un-friendly. I am open to suggestions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesday evening at the Feeders

It's the 1st day of June, sunny but slightly cooler than normal (73f for high temps). Relaxing out back and trying to get a few photos of the fledgling orioles. I am not sure I did, but here are a few of the day's images.

 2 adult males at a large feeder

 Nice shot of adult male hooded oriole - Icterus cucullatus

 Nice profile of adult male, bright yellow with black chin and bib and black and white wings. The adult females and young of both sexes are difficult to tell apart except that the young males have a faint gray to black chin and bib.

One of the adult house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) actually coming out the front door! Usually, they zip in and out the vent slot at the top of the box.

 Either an adult or juvenile female hooded oriole, very hard to tell. No black under beak - so not young male.

 Adult male, keeping a eye on me while getting a drink.

This is the same old guy (Anna's hummingbird - Calypte anna ) from last month. This desert willow is his outpost from where he defends 'his' feeder. 

 A different adult male hooded oriole.

Three adult Anna's having evening drink. The hummingbird population seems a bit down this year (at least so far) based on the rate of feeder mix usage. I think the oriole count is about the same as last year.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Almost June

Update on the 'lbb' or little brown birds raising a brood in the bluebird box. The breakthrough came while browsing our local native plant nursery website (www.laspilitas.com). Since they cater to creating natural settings in landscaping, their site suggests plant types to lure birds and butterflies and has a nice section on local birds. There near the bottom - a photo matching the squatters, House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). Just about the same size as most of the hummingbirds and about as energetic. With just a quick glance, they could be mistaken for a mouse as a frequent behavior is running along the ground and hopping between low branches of shrubs in search of insects. Here is one of the parents coming out after dropping off a bug.
Incoming food! one less bug in the yard or garden.

I am only seeing Anna's and Blackchin hummingbirds at the moment, they seem to be more resident. The Rufus and Caliope hummers are more migratory and thus have passed through heading north. They should be back toward the end of summer on their way south.

The orioles still the loud ones on the block, flying between the tops of the avocado trees next door and the pepper trees and the feeders. They are, as expected, very fond of the grape jelly in the converted feeder. Last year the orioles were few and far between by September so they should be hanging around for 3-4 more months before heading south and east.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Middle of May

The amount of territorial behavior from the hummingbirds seems to ebb and flow.Over the winter it was quite high, then as the population increased early spring it went away. Now there is one old guy running rough shod over three feeders in one corner.
Here he is in one of his two favored lookouts. If any other hummer gets close to 'his feeders' he will buzz over and run them off. He is a little slow but very persistent.

The oriole count is around 4-5 families judging by the adult males. I recently switched one of the  feeders to grape jelly to see how they like it.

There has been a 'western bluebird' house up in a back corner of the yard for 4 to 5 years with nary a bluebird moving in. Several years ago it was filled with small twigs, a very hap-hazard collection but no evidence of family life. I cleaned it out a couple years ago and noticed a couple days ago that small sticks were jammed in the opening again. I have been keeping an occasional eye out for visitors and yesterday saw a small brown bird squeezing inside through the top vent slot. Identification to follow.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another New arrival

The weather has cooled a bit and just as last Sunday - we are awaiting a storm. Last Monday we got .12" from what I expected to be the last of our rainy season.
The hummingbirds are getting a little treat from some of the native plants beginning to bloom. Penstemons and Monkeyflowers are really producing blooms and the hummers are checking them out. 
I spotted the first Costa's hummingbird this morning as I filled up some of the feeders. They look a little like Anna's except that their iridescent head feathers are a vibrant purple. That puts the type count to 4 - Anna's (year round), Rufus, Blackchin, and Costa's. There is a chance we may get a few Calliope hummers.
The Orioles are doing well and a few days ago I saw the first immature male - probably one of this years offspring. The immature females look just like the mature females so they would be hard to detect.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A New Arrival

Today was another sunny clear day in Escondido (storm on the way?) and the hummingbirds and orioles are putting on quite the show. This morning I saw the first blackchinned hummer while filling one of the feeders -  which puts my count to 3 types - Anna's, Rufus, and Blackchin.
While we were coming back from brunch in Oceanside with family, including favorite Uncle,  there was quite an earthquake in northern Mexico that was felt in San Diego county (unless you happened to be driving). Did not seem to bother the birds any and no damage or effects here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

April is Almost Here

A couple more female orioles have arrived, I have seen 3 at once now and there are four or five males. The males are getting quite animated now chasing each other around, chattering up a storm. It is fun to watch one or two land on the top of the fence - chatter and then raise their bill to the sky and hold that pose for a few seconds. Quite the display.

I have not seen a Rufus hummingbird for a while now, there are lots of Anna's. There are a couple of old timers, at least judging by the bills and energy level. I've seen a couple with only one good eye, no telling if that is from the high speed runs they make or dueling with each other.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Orioles Are Begining to Show Up

The visiting birds birds are beginning to show up in increasing numbers. I have seen 3 male orioles and 1 female so far. They should be coming in from Mexico and Arizona. 
Just this afternoon I have seen the first Rufus hummingbird, more can't be too far off. I expect a good crowd this spring and the hummers that are used to not sharing will need to probably have a rude awakening.

On a separate note: many kudos to Carlos and Donna in San Marcos for their online post TheOwlBox. Molly and McGee are great and one of the eggs has hatched - it's Max!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Feeding Video

This will be a practice entry to play with embedding video. 
It looks like it is pretty straight forward.
Here is another, the feeders hold 1/3 of a gallon. The hummers will drain 3 of these a day now. And the migrating birds are not here yet!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

First Hooded Oriole This Year

It's been awhile since the last post but over winter the action is a bit slow. Spring is here (OK, in another week, but it's going to be 84 degrees in a couple days) an a sure sign is a return of the Hooded Orioles. the first backyard sighting was yesterday (Saturday).

Quite the handsome male.
While doing some volunteer gardening at the San Diego Wild Animal Park yesterday (about four miles as the oriole flies!) I thought I heard the distinctive chatter of an oriole but thought it was a little early still. Sure enough, later as I was cleaning and filling the hummingbird feeders, I spotted this guy. Now it's watching for more of the returning group.

I have yet to spot any new visiting hummingbirds, but am looking forward to seeing some Rufus, Blackchin soon. The local Anna's population is increasing as judged by the increase in feeder draining. It is close to 1.5 gallons a day now.