Sunday, August 23, 2015

Nearing the End of August - September update

It's the middle of September, we've had hot spells and just got some unusual September rain!
The orioles are still here, last year they were all gone a week earlier. Although, I have not seen an adult Hooded Oriole for several weeks now. I am pretty confident that the remaining birds are adult females and their young. Have not been able to tell if the young males have left with the adult males.

Quite a dinnertime rush at the feeders this early eve, here are a couple photos.

 Here is a new bird type for me, have not been able to ID it yet, the black rimmed white breast feathers should be a big clue!

It's August 23rd, over due for a new post with what's new birdwatching in the backyard!

Some general thoughts of the summer so far -

Where are the honeybees?? By this time of the summer, I usually worry about the bees running off the hooded orioles by virtue of the bee clogging up the feeders that the orioles prefer. Most feeders designed for the hummingbirds are fairly bee proof. But this summer I have been able to convert a few hummer only feeders to oriole feeders by removing the small opening inserts leaving large openings that the orioles can use. This is good for the orioles, but I worry about the lack of bees and the service they provide to our crops. The photo shows the modified feeder, the darker red areas around the opening are where the 'flower' inserts were removed revealing a large opening. Bees could easily climb in, but no bees.

We have had a generous amount of rain over the summer, reminiscent of years past when we actually got rain (a little, anyway!). And the temps seem to have been a bit more mild, especially in August - though we had a couple of shots of HOT!

I saw pretty good evidence of a 'Brood Parasite' this summer. The phenomenon is most illustrated by the cuckoo, when the female cuckoo seeks out a nest of another bird species with eggs. The mom cuckoo will lay one of her eggs in the nest of the other bird (often removing one of the original eggs). She then leaves the other mom to do all of the raising of the mixed family. Often, the 'adopted' bird is larger than the host birds - to their detriment. In my case, the 'adopted' bird is a brown headed cowbird and was very likely left in a hooded oriole nest. The young cowbird and young orioles (and female adult orioles) are quite similar in coloring and size. The cowbird are seed eaters and so the beaks are more robust than the orioles. You can see the young cowbird begging for food, but the adult male is ignoring it.

I think it has been an above average summer for the orioles, probably average for the hummers, lesser finches, mourning doves. No rabbits this year, a couple of squirrels mooching on the birdseed.

Still having a bit of June Gloom this far into August (morning low clouds/fog keeping temps down around the inland valleys) so this morning as I sat outside checking feeders, photos are a little dull.

There seemed to be quite a morning feeding frenzy going on so I grabbed the cam and took these shots within 30 seconds, all of different feeder positions but there are several of the same kinds.

The lesser finch station

I counted 52 hummers between all photos, a pretty good rush and there were others perched in trees and bushes around. Lots of Anna's, of course, quite a few Blackchins and I think I saw a Roufous.

I believe there is only a couple of weeks before the orioles leave for parts south and east - their winter haunts, oh well , it has been a great summer for them - I'll miss them when they leave!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First Day of Summer or more globally correct - The Solstice!

Happy Solstice everyone! And for those that qualify - Happy Father's Day!

It has been a couple months since the last update from the backyard, here in San Diego county, U.S.

Eventful in the backyard and work, as well - thus no updates recently ;-)

It has been a very big season for the orioles so far, though it seems of late, some of the families may have moved to a less crowded area! At one point, I counted a solid 8 maybe 9 adult male Hooded Orioles at a single time, very hard to keep track.This was after some of the fledglings began to show up, so not a huge leap to imagine 18 to 27 or more birds. At any rate, more adult males than I have seen before. The antics have been very entertaining :-)
Here is a male caught just this afternoon.

From last post, the number of Rufous hummers was at a high, though I think now all I am seeing are Allen's. The Rufous are probably further north, may see them on the way back south the end of summer.

Another first for the backyard - though we have had a pair of Scrub jays hanging around snagging peanuts for a couple years now, this year we have fledglings!
Here is a shot of the pair squabbling at the fence, as siblings do! They are notable for their gray heads, adults have blue head feathers.

Back to the orioles for a moment - another first is seeing 2-3 of them climbing around in a blooming Mallow plant in the yard. They seem to be picking bugs off the branches, clearly not getting near the flowers.
Here is a shot of the mallow, have not managed to catch them while camera was in hand - of course! The mallow is the thin branchy? plant with purplish blooms. The orioles tend to weigh the branches way down almost curving to the ground, if they work their way too close to the ends!

Here is a shot of a few soggy lesser finches enjoying bathtime.

I'll leave with a comment - Ernie Cowen, longtime contributor to our local papers (now San Diego Union-Tribune) wrote a very cool article this weekend about Spotted Towhees, shy, but found in this area. I have not seen them for a little while, but have heard one regularly Saturdays at the Safari Park.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Highlight on Rufous

Last blog spotlighted our visiting Hooded Orioles that are currently putting on quite a show. This afternoon, while bird watching from the backyard, I saw two adult male Rufous hummingbirds - a first for me! I got a few photos showing off their brown plumage.

A nice profile showing lots of brown.
Not super obvious, but both males show here along with another hummer.
 Good shot of the tail fanned out with back lighting and a hint of the red gorget.

 Male rufous and unknown female.
 Here is a cranky old guy, an older Blackchinned male. Most of the time he is on guard near HIS feeder and will chase off all who dare try to snatch some of his food! For an old guy, he uses up a lot of energy chasing the younger hummers that get too close.
 This shows him on the right, one of the two spots he guards from. At this moment, he is allowing a couple other birds to snack on HIS stuff!

 A young male and maybe a young female from this year's visiting orioles. They have been chattering and beeping up a storm lately and chasing each other around.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

April Activity

A lot of activity in the backyard early this month. Definitely seeing the new oriole youngsters showing up with the parents at and around the feeders. Always fun to watch the young ones playing, chasing each other around.
It seems like the number of hummers in on the increase as well. A couple days ago I had the first ID on a Costa's hummingbird - a handsome male with purple gorget.

Here are a few recent photos -

Nice wing detail

 A couple of hooded oriole males having a 'discussion' about who's turf this is ;-)

A bit of a long shot of the Costa's hummer

 The pair of scrub jays that have been keeping us company for a couple years now!

Lesser finch cleaning up :-)

Spotted Easter Sunday - Turkey Trot - a wild turkey strolling through the neighborhood!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Last weekend of March

It still feels like Summer - March 28th and temps have been tickling 90 for the last several days. Should be around 75. No rain lately, of course, still about 50% of what we should have by this date.

We do have orioles, though! And confirmation of the fledglings coming around, I have seen at least one young male. Here are a couple captures from the feedercam today -

This shows the young male to the right. He has his black bib, but is not brightly colored like the adults.

 This one could be 2 young or older females or young males center and right, they are facing away so can't tell ;-)

Plenty of hummers around, though none in these shots! There is at least one Male Rufous hummer hanging around. And I saw a Blackchinned yesterday, first for the year - I think. There should be lots of them later.
It has been a very long time since I've seen a calliope, but we have a couple Allen's helping to keep the many many Anna's company! 

Other birds stopping by lately include -
red winged blackbirds
California towhees
lesser finches
scrub jays
mourning doves
common ground doves (so small!)
dark eyed juncos
and still - sharp shinned hawk - the one I don't want to see!

Birds noted soaring lately
red tail hawks
red shoulder hawks
turkey vultures

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March and the Return of the Hooded Orioles

It's the middle of March and almost Spring.... Well, it's felt like spring or summer all winter long. We have had about 50% of the normal rainfall for the season (July 1 to June 30) and the season really only has two more weeks. That is only slightly better than last year. Does that mean anything as far as migratory patterns of the orioles and hummingbirds that frequent this area?

The first Hooded Oriole returned to the backyard a couple weeks ago, right on par with the last few years. But confirmation of a second oriole did not come for two weeks, usually several show up within days. But that is only a couple weeks, may be not significant. Now I have seen at least four at once - 3 adult males and 1 female. This weekend was the first time they have been chattering up a storm as they come in for a drink. I have seen confirmation in the San Diego newspaper that others have seen the orioles coming in also.

I've seen at least one Rufous hummer over the last couple weeks as well, so the migrating hummers are showing up, too. Time will time if the whole migration season is per usual - I hope so!

The honey bees have really not taken off any time this year, usually they are not around in big numbers over the winter - oh yeah, we didn't really have winter this year.

I installed a new 'Hummercam' recently and am pleased with the image quality.

Here is a late evening photo of the rufous male, a bit grainy in the low light, but his brown back is evident.

The last several days have been unseasonably warm, let's call it hot since it has been in the 90s. Care must he taken to keep the feeders fresh - meaning cleaned every few days to keep the sugar water from going bad. I don't use commercial mixes that may contain anti spoilage ingredients for two reasons - I am not sure the hummers/orioles need anti spoilage ingredients and at 1-2 gallons a day it is too expensive.

A couple photos of male Anna's I have taken over the last few weeks. The Anna's have stayed in pretty large numbers of the winter - they are generally not migratory but some must shift their range around a bit judging by the summer/winter numbers of them.

Here is a fun evening photo of hummers at dinnertime.

Here are a couple of regulars around here, at least there are Red Tail Hawks to be seen here all year long. I have seen a couple doing close flying quite often lately.
None of the smaller birds (doves, hummers, orioles, juncos, red wing blackbirds) seem to be concerned at all when the big hawks are flying overhead. But the small Sharp Shinned Hawk sends them all heading for cover!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year

January is here and with it the new year. 2015 started out with very clear skies and a cold snap. Still fairly clear skies and now a warm up - mid 70s for the coming three days.

I have not see anything but Anna's hummers lately (that I could be sure of). I would expect to see an Allen's or maybe Blackchin every once and a while. Not sure which these are! Most likely female Anna's.
Here is a male Anna's at an angle showing off a little gorget color that makes them easy to ID.
This photo shows the full over the head color that Anna's males have - the light angle has to be right!

I caught one male Anna's doing a couple display gestures while sitting at a feeder, usually the displays are while aerial and hard to catch.
 Not very impressive from this angle, but the male (center in photo) is fanning out his gorget (colorful neck feathers) for the female (lower right of photo).

Below, the same male fans out his tail feathers - not sure she is taking note ;-)

I took a quick survey of birds noted during lunch today - house finches, lesser finches, spotted towhee, California towhees, mourning doves, hummingbirds, red tail hawk, red shoulder hawk, scrub jay, dark eyed juncos, common ground dove. Unexpectedly missing - crow, raven, turkey vulture.

A first time sighting from a couple days ago - two Acorn woodpeckers! I think they close to a nearby park that has several old large oak trees. The one near the top of the photo is either playing or lost his grip - he hanging upside down!

 A different angle to help in my IDing of bird online.

Somewhere in the water is a lesser finch taking a swim!

Here's one of the two scrub jays making regular visits to the backyard. They have stashed over five pounds of peanuts somewhere around the neighborhood!