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.