Monday, December 19, 2011

End of Another Year

It's mid December, another year gone. This fall has been cooler than most, about average for rain. The Hummingbird population feeding in the backyard has taken a drop over the last month. Feeder drainage has almost cut if half, from 2-3 gallons per day to around 1 gallon per day. I thought all the migrating birds had left by October, but maybe there were more waiting until late November to move on. That or a few regulars have become very territorial and are chasing a lot of birds away. I do not see a lot of evidence for the latter.

There are still a fair number of bees around, especially when the weather warms up and there is an abundance of sun.

On other small bird news, for the last few months, a House Wren has taken up overnight quarters on top of one of the 'birdcams' in the back corner of the backyard. His own personal heater on the chilly fall/winter nights. This may or may not be the same Guy who helped raise a family in the Western Bluebird box in the same corner as the hummingbird 'feeder trees'. I decided to clean out the mass of twigs and debris inside of the box about a month ago in prep for the new season. I have not looked to see if there is new activity in there, but for sure, the same Western Fence Lizard that has been sunning on the box for a year or so is still there on warm sunny days. Wrens and lizards in the Bluebird box, but no Bluebirds!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall 2011

It is the end of October, temps are falling and the migrating hummingbirds are gone to the south. There are still plenty of Anna's and some Blackchins buzzing around. I have decided to more closely track the quantity of sugar used over the next year. This should give a better picture of population changes during the year.

The next two weeks will be an opportunity for our neighbors to enjoy the birds as much as we do as we head out  for a trip to Italia and they take over feeder duties.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day With the Hummers

Just back from a weekend in Napa, Haley next door did a nice job keeping feeders up - lots of hummers  buzzing around to greet the holiday morning. A bit unusual, weatherwise, it is more common to have an east wind and be hot than to get rain on Labor Day. But that is just what we got, not a lot, but 3 separate waves have gone by.

Here are a few photos of the hummers having labor Day breakfast in the rain! (clicking a photo brings up a large view)

 Not raining hard at this point, more like drizzle.

 Hard to see the 2 here. Deer grass, evening primrose, aloe, monkeyflower, desert willow in scene.

 Favorite feeder type on left, oriole feeder on right. Have only seen one hooded oriole today, most are back wintering in Az or Mex.

 Another oriole feeder, 2 hummers are hard to see. These feeders are a last resort usually, bees get in the way.

 A little more action here.

How many feeders do you count?  There are 8 more not shown that are up, 3 or 4 broken ones awaiting the recycle can.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

First of September

Summer has arrived over the last couple weeks, 80s to mid 90s are the norm now and by the middle of next week some reports expect high 90s.

The hummers are in high form, 2-3 gallons a day and much activity. Seeing more Allen's, not sure if any Rufus are in town. Morning and evening are quite a show!

I looked back to last year's blogs and see that the Hooded Orioles were still here (though in low numbers) on Sept 11 - but by the 16th they were gone for the year. I have seen 3 females this morning, we shall see how long before they leave. As last year, the females are the last to go.

We will be gone for 4 days and are trying out having someone keep up the feeders while we are away. Hopefully this works out, otherwise the feeders will all be empty tomorrow and maybe all the bids will move on! Maybe I need to work on 1 or 2 gallon feeders instead of using these tiny 16-48 ounce feeders!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bird Days of Summer

Our unusual (unusually nice) summer is continuing with many days being cooler than normal, which is nice for August! A Catalina Eddie is spinning off the coast of Southern California, so our mornings are more like June than august - fog and even some drizzle giving way to low to mid 80s in the afternoon.
The hummingbirds and orioles seem to be enjoying the cooler weather as well. The activity is high and the feeders are draining fast, so much so that I am re-checking the rate. I started Tuesday AM with 9 gallons worth of sugar pre-measured and will see what is left by Thursday PM (3 days). As of Thursday AM, less than 2 gallons jugs are left - so between 2 and 3 gallons a day. That is close to all time high.
Update Thursday night:   All 9 gallons are gone in 3 days - yikes! Off to get sugar tomorrow.

The bees are somewhat in check, most of the feeders are open to the birds without clouds of bees competing for drink.

There are still several family groups of orioles hanging around, unfortunately - by September they will probably be gone for the year, back to Arizona and Mexico.

  I have seen several videos of fellow hummingbird enthusiasts getting up close and personal with the little birds (nectar in the hand and birds drinking from and landing on the hand). I have never had the time to attempt this yet. However, a couple days ago, I noticed a hummer at a feeder that was hovering and frantically  trying to get a foot hold on the side of the feeder (no perch near).
   This is the same feeder that was a favorite for a couple years of 'the old guy' hummer, male Anna's. He was quite the character and his beak was getting a bit gnarly. I did not think more of that until I noticed the beak of this other bird who I will call 'the old gal' since she is showing signs of age as I have determined - rounded physique, reduced speed, somewhat deformed beak. Her's does not close well at the end and I imagine she has a harder time with the smaller openings of the standard hummingbird feeders.
   The feeder she was struggling with has much larger openings that her beak fits in just fine. I now imagine that 'the old guy' was so protective of this feeder because it was one he could easily feed from and if he guarded it well, it would always have fluid (not emptied by hoards of other hummers). I am not sure I have seen him this summer, but I think  I spotted him on the side yard guarding a different feeder, also with larger holes. Back to where I was leading,  'the old gal' was seemingly struggling and perhaps tired but hungry, so I decided to see if I could lend a 'perching hand'. I slowly reached out toward her with a finger out, when my finger was just under her, she lit on my finger and continued to feed for 10-20 seconds. I could barely feel her weight, but it was very cool (exciting)! That feeder has movable perches and they had rotated to an in between position so they were too far away to use while feeding. I will make sure that does not happen again, poor 'old gal'!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rainy Sunday!

A rare and short summer rain was a nice change of weather around most of San Diego county today. It was an early morning event and seemed to boost the hummingbird activity during the showers. It also lead to a couple of unusual activities by the hummers. One perched on a widow surround that was sheltered by the roof overhang.

I am fairly sure it was  a different hummer flying a serpentine pattern right under the eves, either staying out of the rain or chasing flying bugs that were staying out of the rain.

Most of the birds were just out in the rain swarming around the feeders, some seemed to be getting a bit soggy! Careful examination of the image shows the falling drops.

No gully washer, but a nice shower.

Late addition:
August 6, Saturday afternoon.. A nice morning working at the Park and came across some wildlife of the snakey kind. It is good to keep a lookout!

It's a rattler, so Park security is called for relocation away from the visitors.
Here he is about to go off to the 'BOX' and a short ride to the back country.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mid Summer Activity

It's almost the end of July, the weather in North San Diego County has been very nice - save for a couple days earlier this month when it was around 90 F. Certainly, compared to much of the rest of the USA, we are sitting pretty. The birds seem to be enjoying the low to mid 80s. Our Desert Willows (Chilopsis linearis) are beginning to bloom in earnest and the hummingbirds are checking the flowers for nectar along with the feeders. Where as most of the trees have a reddish maroon bloom, one of the 2 trees we have has white blooms.
Remember, all photos are clickable to enlarge for viewing!

Hummingbird activity is quite high now, well recovered from the first of the month when we were gone for 4 days and the feeders ran dry. Have seen several female Rufus or Allen's but not males. They must be around somewhere. Blackchinned and of course lots of Anna's.

The Honey Bees are a bit of a problem still, more so for the Orioles since their feeders are harder to 'bee proof' and still give access to the Orioles. A work in progress... Speaking of Orioles, at least a couple families are visiting the backyard, based on adult males and juvenile males. Click click - as they launch from the spring loaded Perky feeders, and the 'R2D2 beeps, clicks, and whirs' when several meet up at or near a feeder to play continues to crack me up!

A little off topic, but it seems to be the time for baby lizards to hatch. Starting to see the tiniest little guys running around, maybe an inch long - tail included. Pictures later if one will stay still long enough.

Update: New photos July 28th
Here are a couple baby Side Splotch lizards making their home around the back patio.
Grrr, I'm big and fierce! This little guy is up and posing.

Ouch, my tail. This guy is missing a bit of his tail. They both are about an inch long.

 The birds and the Bees. Dinner time in the neighborhood, a few females of undetermined spicies and a Blackchinned (and honey bees)

 A couple waiting turns in a holding pattern

 Our little bit of 'haven'!

Thirsty female hooded oriole, can't tell if adult or youngster, though not so svelte as the fledglings might be, so my guess is adult.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Back from a short vacation

Just back from a great trip to Cabo San Lucas, seems like we brought some hot muggy weather with us. Actually, it got here while we were gone - not our fault!

I tried to load up the feeders to last but most emptied out and seems like around half the birds (hummers and orioles) left for greener (nectary?) pastures. Even the honey bees are fewer. Since Tuesday, I have seen a slight up tick in population.

Still seeing a good variety of hummingbirds, possibly a Rufus, though I did not get a good look at the backside to be sure. And a couple families of orioles are still coming 'round. Speaking of visitors - just before we left (while the weather was still cool) I got a couple pics of a red shoulder hawk that has been (still is) hanging out.

I missed, by a couple of seconds, getting a fun photo of a hummer circling the hawk while he was he was sitting on the fence.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Must bee Summer Cuz lots of Bees!

June is wrapping up and although I have not gone back through the blog to see what time of year the honey bees show up and commit suicide in the oriole feeders, it is probably about the same time as years before. I dread having to bee-proof the oriole feeders because most of them become oriole unfriendly. I will try, again this year,to find a way to exclude bees while feeding orioles.

A couple of photos to illustrate the problem..

Death by sugar water!

Goin' in. I had tried drilling out the openings to convert feeder to oriole friendly - too big!

Bee guards partially working, bees are not inside feeder - but bees are keeping away birds. 

On a more pleasant note, oriole population seems as high as last year. This includes what are likely several batches of youngsters, fledgling male for sure - so most likely females as well.

Also, continuing to see at least one pair of Allen's hummingbirds. Have not id'd a Rufus male yet. Of course, lots of Anna's, and a good quantity of Blackchinned and Costa's.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June Already!

It's June already, the birds all seem to be enjoying the cooler than typical weather this year. Have seen several juvenile male Hooded Orioles lately, so I imagine there are about as many young females. The adults must be doing a good job on the nest! Sad day a couple weeks ago - one of the very colorful adult males succumbed to something, seemingly not cat related. May have been a high speed crash, they often chase each other around the backyard at high speed just to land and begin chattering like crazy.

Just a week ago while filling the many feeders, I spotted a female hummer with lots of brown plumage. Since it was a female, I am not sure if it was a Rufus or Allens. I have not made a sighting of a male of either type yet. I don't usually expect to see either near the middle of the season since they are migratory and we somewhat in the middle of the route. I hope to see some this fall, did not see any this spring.

Other birds of note: LBB (wren from last year) is trying to lure a female back to the birdhouse but I don't think he has had much luck yet. He pops in and out of the house tidying up but no family yet.

This year, for some reason, the house finches are taking to the oriole feeders, but at least not in an overbearing fashion.

Monday, April 11, 2011

1st Offspring of the Season

Sunday was a good day for watching the backyard birds. Oriole activity is way up (easy if it goes from none to 5 or 6). I am a bit shocked to see the 1st juvenile of the season since I just saw the 1st female a couple weeks ago. But those birds may have been hanging out somewhere else and stopped by here only now. The lower shoot shows the males bib a little more clearly. The youngsters are much more skiddish than the adults, hard to get good photos yet. Reminder - click on images for larger view!

Here is a photo of Mr. and Mrs. based on a short observation. They are definitely adult female and male, at any rate. There are a couple of on lookers as well.
This shows the coloration difference between male and female a little better.

A couple of adult males playing in the 'jungle gym' or briar patch depending on your age maybe.

2 males, one at feeder - the other in plum tree, another favorite hangout - especially when the plums ripen, oh well.

Lots of activity during the day and odds of catching orioles on the 'live' cam are getting better.

Here is a photo of a couple orioles perched - with a bonus 3 hummers caught in flight. They are a bit hard to see (click to get the larger view). The webcam can just be seen on the right side of the photo.

Bonus, if off topic, photo from front porch of tent that we stayed in overnight at San Diego Zoo's Safari Park during Roar and Snore event. Excellent time was had by all. A couple clicks to enlarge reveals rhinos resting across the way and giraffes strolling.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First Female Oriole This Spring

It's a gray start to the first Sunday of April and the first sighting of a female Hooded Oriole has  been made - no photo yet. Yesterday I saw 4 males for the first time, slowly, the birds are returning. I suppose 'returning' is the proper term, could be first timers - I wouldn't know. Most are returning, I would guess.
A couple photos of males playing/hanging out in the dead ceanothus.
Zoomed out a bit for this one, the guy on the left is hanging down.
May be seeing the first batch of youngsters in a month or so.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Orioles Are Beginning to Show Up

Quick note - The 'time lapse' is new and though it goes fast, you can see the orioles at the feeders. You can also signup for email notice when an update is added to the blog.

Today is the first day I have seen more than one hooded oriole at the same time, so I know there is more than one and not just seeing the same one repeatedly. The best non-visual clue is the chatter they make when more than one are in close proximity. There are at least 3 males in the area now, should soon be seeing the females. The first photo shows the 3rd male, the next photo is two in the dead 'hummingbird bush'.

It is a bit hard to see the second one, he is left and down a bit from the easy one to see. Below is an (and maybe the) old guy guarding his feeder (just below him out of the photo).

Still have not identified any other hummers besides Anna's yet - soon, I suspect.

I will get better photos of orioles later, had to zoom in a lot and camera shake is blurring the shots a bit.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The First Orioles of Spring

A couple new gadgets added to blog, time lapse of the last 24 hours is most significant.

Spring must be here! Its been 365 days since the first sighting last year, it was Saturday 13th of March 2010. That is pretty good timing! No photo yet, when there is only one - opportunities are fewer. No new sighting of hummer as they pass through yet. Judging by the amount of sugar usage, the population is pretty stable right now.

Update 3/21 - Okay, first photo of Hooded oriole this year, a capture off of webcam - poor quality, but there he is.

Some other signs of spring -

Blue Eyed Grass beginning to bloom

A couple of male Anna's sharing some lunch.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring is on the Way

February went out with a blast of cold and rain. Seems to have left the Hummers with a big appetite. I came home to a backyard of hungry and maybe annoyed birds, all of there feeders were empty. By the time I mixed up 3 gallons of fresh drink (required to refill all the feeders), it was dark and the birds were gone. At least this morning breakfast was ready to go!

We should just be a week or two away from the first Hooded Orioles showing up, unless the unusually cold and rainy weather affects their timing. They are a sure sign of spring here. Have not seen any migrating hummers either, yet.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chilly Saturday

The hummers have been putting up with some wet weather for the last 4 days. It should be getting sunnier for the next 4-5 days although it should stay cool. Plenty of hummers around and still thirsty! They even had some hail to dodge today.

Saw an interesting news report today - first the military is recruiting dolphins, now hummingbirds! Actually, remote control drones in the form of a hummingbird. 6.5" wingspan, flies by flapping its wings. 2 cameras built in, 1 forward - 1 rearward. Not sure I am on board with military hummers of the avian kind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mild Winter for the Hummingbirds So Far

Most of January and now half of February has been pretty mild - weatherwise. This may change a little this week as rain and a cool down are supposed to be on the way. But this morning the weather is fine, 77 degrees out by the main feeder area.

One of the elder guys, if not the old guy, is hanging out next to his feeder chasing off anyone that might have thoughts of pilfering from his territory.

Here is a photo of one of the hummers with backlighting and wings a blur.

This is a manzanita in full bloom, as small as the flowers are, the hummers like them for a treat.

The orioles should be a month or so away - they were here March last year.

Thanks for commenting Garrett, hope you saw my response.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In The Throws of Winter

It's the middle of January - 76 degrees outside with  light winds from the northeast and very clear blue skies. I have only seen Anna's hummers today, males and females. Even though it seems like spring (or summer), not much of the local flora is blooming. And half of what is blooming is not helpful to the hummers.

The micro flowers on the miners lettuce are not very attractive to hummers. As well the colorful but diminutive Red Maids is not a favorite.

However, the Aloe and Monkeyflower and Manzanita are blooming and the hummers do like them.

The hummer who took over the new feeder 'tree' has relinquished ownership for now and the others are taking advantage.

An 'Old Guy' (not 'the old guy) hanging out in coyote bush - and a younger male Anna's showing some color.

A view looking up at a hovering hummer.

More from the new tree.

Lots of birds over the winter - probably all are the non-migrating Anna's who make North County San Diego home. Still using about 1.5 to 2 gallons of sugar water per day.

This winter has seen a new pest at the feeders, hoards of small gnats - probably fungus gnats (Greenomyia sp.) as best as I can tell. I think maybe the excess rain during December has caused this population spurt. The hummers probably snack on them outside of the feeders, but they can spoil the feeder if too many climb inside and croak. They are about .1" (2.5mm) long.