Showing posts with label backyard birds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label backyard birds. Show all posts

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review of Facts and Photos of the American Robin

Robin after a Bath

To celebrate the start of spring, I thought I'd share a bit of information and some photos on one of my favorite birds, the Robin.  Here is a poem that I found that celebrates the Robin and the start of spring.


Robin Poem by William Warner Caldwell


From the elm-tree's topmost bough, Hark! the Robin's early song! Telling one and all that now Merry spring-time hastes along; Welcome tidings dost thou bring, Little harbinger of spring: Robin's come!

 Of the winter we are weary, Weary of the frost and snow; Longing for the sunshine cheery, And the brooklet's gurgling flow; Gladly then we hear thee sing The reveille of spring: Robin's come!

 Ring it out o er hill and plain, Through the garden's lonely bowers, Till the green leaves dance again, Till the air is sweet with flowers! Wake the cowslips by the rill, Wake the yellow daffodil; Robin's come! 

Then, as thou wert wont of yore, Build thy nest and rear thy young, Close beside our cottage door, In the woodbine leaves among; Hurt or harm thou need'st not fear, Nothing rude shall venture near: Robin's come! 

Swinging still o'er yonder lane Robin answers merrily; Ravished by the sweet refrain, Alice claps her hands in glee, Calling from the open door, With her soft voice, o'er and o'er, Robin's come!


Robins and Bird Bath


I have found that Robins love to take baths in our bird bath.  Other birds will stop for a drink, but a Robin will plunge right in for a bath.

In the photo below the Robin has just finished his bath and I caught him sitting on the edge of the birdbath, shaking his tail feathers.  They are so much fun to watch.


Robins Features




  • Pot Bellied look
  • Brick Red Underparts
  • Yellow Bill
  • White Chin
  • White Eye Arcs
  • Male has darker head and deeper red underparts than female
The Robin's song is very cheerful.  I often see a lone Robin sitting on the peak of our neighbors roof just singing away for hours on end.  It is always a joy to hear.


I have found the National Geographic book Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America to be a wonderful guide for information on the birds I find in my backyard. I know I can find all kinds of information about birds online, but sometimes it is just good to hold a book in my hands and look up information on the birds I find in my backyard.



Robins in our area Year-round



Robins are migratory birds, but although we seem to have more in the spring and summer, we do have Robins in our area in the Midwest all year round.  The photo above shows a Robin in the snow.

My Photos on Zazzle Products









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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Review of Bird Photography in the Snow


I love photographing birds and in the winter a snowy day can give a wonderful backdrop for my bird photographs.


Female Cardinal


As I reviewed articles online in preparation for writing this article, I found many tips on photographing in the snow.  Most of these talked about protecting your camera, wearing gloves with the fingers cut out and that type of tips.  I have a different setup for photographing birds right from the comfort of my own home and that is what I will be sharing in this article.

Photographing through Glass



The photograph above, as well as all of the photos on this page were taken through glass.  I have tripods set up in my home that I use to photograph the birds in our yard.  The photograph above was taken through our sliding glass doors in the kitchen.  I often get a surprised reaction when people hear that I photograph through glass, but it has worked well for me.

               When photographing through glass
                be sure to keep the glass clean.

I keep a cloth handy to quickly wipe away any smudges on the glass.  On a snowy day I will frequently open the door to wipe away sleet or drops that have formed on the glass outside.

                Set up the camera as close to the
                glass as possible.

I have my cameras set up on a tripod just inches away from the glass.

My Setup


I have two cameras that I use to take my bird photography.  Both are set up on tripods.  
  • Sony A57 DSLR set up with a Tamron 200-600 zoom lens.  This camera is perfect for getting the birds that are at a bit of a distance.  I use these when the birds are at my far feeders, up in the branches of the trees along the back of our property or in the bushes.
  • Sony a6300 mirrorless camera.  This camera set up with a 70-210 zoom lens is perfect for the birds on the deck and in the closer feeders.  I use it in connection with a wireless remote so that I can sit at the kitchen table and trigger the shutter release when I see a bird.  I used this setup in photographing the BlueJays pictured below.













Bright Colored Birds on a Snowy Day


I love to photograph all birds but catching some of these brightly colored birds against the snowy backdrop are my favorites.




















Dark-eyed Junco or Snowbird


Another favorite of mine is the Junco which is commonly called the snowbird.  It has a dark top and white underside which looks great on a snowy day.


Zazzle Products from my Photographs





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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review of Mockingbird Information


Mockingbirds have long been the subjects of songs, literature and even movies.  When an early December snowstorm brought the first Mockingbird I had seen to my backyard feeders, I was curious to find more information about these popular birds.

Some Facts about the Mockingbird

From Miriam Webster dictionary I learned that Mockbirds are" a common grayish North American bird (Mimus polyglottos) related to the thrashers that is remarkable for its exact imitations of the notes of other birds."

I did some more research using Wikipedia and All About Birds online and the National Geographic book "Backyard Guide to the Birds".  Here are some additional facts I discovered.

  • Mockingbirds are a New World group of passerine birds. (Passerines are distinguished from other birds by the arrangement of their toes-three forward and one back-which helps them in perching)
  • They are best known for their habit of mimicking other birds, insects and amphibians.
  • There are actually 17 different species of Mockingbirds.
  • Only the Northern Mockingbird is normally found in North America.
  • Mockingbirds are well known for their fun personalities of mimicking other birds songs.

 Mockingbird in Music


As I was researching Mockingbirds, I kept coming up with song lyrics and music with references to the bird.  Here is one of the most popular ones, a lullaby sung by many top musical artists.  Here is the first line.

Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird And if that mockingbird won't sing, Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring.

Does that sound familiar to you?  I found this cute child's book that features that song.




Mockingbird in Literature

I found several references to the Mockingbird in books.  The most famous is a Pulitzer-prize winner by Harper Lee.



Another book I found with a reference to Mockingbird in the title, is this fun sounding book on cocktails.  The books teams up various classic books with a cocktail.


I took the three photos of the Mockingbird about a month ago and I have not seen the birds since.  I'm hoping they come to visit my backyard again soon.


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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Review of Attracting Birds to My Backyard

                                                    

Black-capped Chickadee


I have often been asked how I attract the large variety of birds to our backyard.  In the past  several years I have documented 31 different types of birds.  I believe that the wide variety of food that I put out for the birds helps to attract different types of birds.  These birds provide hours of entertainment for my husband and me.  In this post I will share with you the different types of bird food.

Mixed Variety Bird Seed

In several of my bird feeders, I use a mixed variety of bird seed. This type of mixture includes sunflower seeds along with other mixed seeds.  I have not found any one brand that seems to be better in attracting birds, so I usually buy whatever is on sale.  Here is the type that I purchased last.

                                                   



In the photos below you will see the variety of birds that enjoy the mixed bird seed that I keep in several different feeders in our backyard.





Nyjer Bird Seed

I have a finch feeder that I keep filled with Nyjer seed.  These seeds are small black seeds that don't fall through the small mesh of the feeder.  This feeder attracts many different birds, but it is particularly popular with finches.  In the photo below you will see Goldfinch enjoying the Nyjer seed.


The birds in this photo look like they have spotty or dirty looking feathers.  That is due to the fact that this photo was taken in early spring and they were still molting.

                                              


Suet Nuggets

This year I have started to put suet nuggets in a feeder.  This food has become very popular with woodpeckers.  Downy woodpeckers are frequent visitors of the nugget feeder.




I sometimes put whole peanuts in this feeder.  They last longer than the nuggets but I find it hard to tell when the feeder is empty because the empty peanut shells are left behind.  Here is a Red-bellied Woodpecker enjoying the peanuts.




                                                            


Suet Cakes

Another popular bird food is suet cakes.  I keep one hanging in my backyard feeding area year round.  They are frequented by a wide variety of birds.  In the photo below you see a Grosbeak that visited the suet cake this spring.


Hummingbird Feeder

Each spring I look forward to seeing my first Hummingbird of the year.  I hang out the feeder starting in early  April.  I make my own food for the feeder boiling 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of sugar in my microwave.  After cooling the mixture I add it to the feeder.  It is important to change the mixture every week to ten days and more often in very hot weather.



Bird Bath

In addition to the various bird feeders I provide a bird bath on our back deck.  This gives the birds a place to get a drink and in the case of Robins to take a bath. This spring I looked out one day to see a whole group of Bluebirds lined up on the edge of the bird bath.

 I love to see the Robins splashing in the bird bath.








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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Best Ever Backyard Birding Tips Reviewed

Want more birds in your backyard?

backyard jay
Backyard Blue-jay image courtesy of pixabay.com
When I first retired one of my first goals was to attract more birds to my backyard. I purchased the book Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips to help me in that process. I would like to review it for you today.

The book is written by Deborah L. Martin who specializes in gardening and nature topics. I particularly like her easy to understand writing style. She filled 339 pages with tips and illustrations of tips to attract more birds. An additional 17 pages are dedicated to resource pages, an index and a hardiness map. 

One of the tips that I found interesting pertained to water for birds. Now, I knew that birds like a birdbath to drink from and wash their little bodies in but I didn't know about mud puddles. Have you ever noticed after a significant rainfall that leaves puddles and mud in the yard that there are more birds? I always thought they were foraging for worms in the softer ground. Well, that might be but they are also eating the mud. Birds need certain minerals in their diet which they find in the mud. 

Have you ever been tempted to try to knock a wasp nest out of a tree? I am not that brave because I don't want to get stung! I found in the book that it is better to leave it alone and not just because of the stinging factor. If you look closely around that wasp nest, you might just see a bird's nest too. Those stinging insects are actually help to defend against predators that might try to get into a nest with baby birds in it. Now, isn't that cool? 

Did you know that you can place pieces of fruit in your backyard to attract birds? Many varieties of our winged friends love fruit. Try it with a piece of melon or a ripe peach and sit back and observe which birds swoop in for a treat. Butterflies will flutter in, too.

There are 11 chapters covering all sorts of tips on backyard birding. The last chapter even covers some of those lesser appreciated guests that will come to your feeders and yards. Some bird species are more pests than they are welcomed guests and this chapter gives tips about how to deal with them. It also talks about squirrels that although some may think are cute will rob more than their fair share of the food you want the birds to enjoy. Raccoons and other wildlife might also visit, the author gives suggestions on how to let them know that they aren't really on your guest list.

I have learned a lot from the book and still refer to it once in a while. If you love birding in your backyard, I think that you will find it helpful, too.



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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What You Need to Know about Basic Birdhouse Construction

birdhouses, building birdhouses, learning about birds

Basic Birdhouse Construction, What you Need to Know.


For years I have built birdhouses for friends and family and for myself.  Why?  Well let's just put it this way, I love my garden and I love nature.  When I'm working outdoors there is nothing more special than being able to watch the birds and the bees while taking a short break.

To say that I enjoy their antics would be an understatement.  You will find me out in the garden at almost any hour of the day, just to see what there is to see.  Most of the time it is the birds and the insects that I purposely attract to my garden that give me the thrills of the day.  And because I love them so much, I want my friends to enjoy them that much too!

I want to focus on birdhouses in this review, because, while everyone loves birds, enticing them into your garden is a special thrill!   Seeing them rear their babies is even more fun.  If you have children or grandchildren, it is also a wonderful time to teach them some nature lessons and life lessons too.


Birdhouse Basics

If you have a yard, you have a great place to start.  Flowers, shrubs and a tree or two would be ideal as well.  A water source or a bird bath will surely entice some lovely feathered friends to come for a visit.  After that, if you want to build some birdhouses, that will help them to target you for their next place to live!

It is said that if you build it, they will come! (Taken from the movie ............The Field of Dreams.)  This may be true for birdhouses and it may not be true.  Some birds really don't care what their homes look like, but they are particular about the size and the placement.  Other birds will readily nest in any dry and sheltered spot, Robins in particular will nest in a dry space and not really need or want a birdhouse.

If you are hoping to attract certain kinds of birds to your yard, you need to build a house that they will really like.

Placement of that birdhouse will also be important.  Some birds require homes set at a certain height and proximity to other essentials  for their welfare.  Water and food sources being the most important ones.

Some birds are solitary nesters and others need to live in community.  So again depending on the birds you want to attract, you will need to take these things into consideration as well.

I have found this book on Amazon will help you build birdhouses, but also takes into account each different species likes and dislikes.  Working with an ornithologist, these plans have been made for specific birds.  It doesn't help you to build a house that no one wants to occupy.  So build something that you know they will appreciate and you will be rewarded with the lovely sounds of birds thanking you.


Here you will find plans to make up to 19 different types of birdhouses. Each one can be executed by the novice as well as the expert woodworker. These are great projects for Moms and Dads to make with their children.  The basic houses are wooden and can be left plain or dressed up with colors.

Three things that you should never do!

While we are on the subject of attracting birds to your garden, I want to make absolutely sure that you don't do these things:
  1. DO NOT put out lengths of yarn for birds to use as nesting material.  
  2. DO NOT put out dryer lint for the birds
  3. DO NOT put out pet hair for their use either.
You may ask WHY NOT!
Here are the reasons,  yarn, unless it is cut up into tiny (less than an inch long) pieces, can actually act as a noose that works it's way around baby birds necks.  When they try to fly out of the nest, they strangle.  Birds are used to  scavenging for nesting materials and they know what they want in there.  If you feel inclined to help them, rake up your grass and leave little piles of dried grass for them to find.  

Dryer lint is also a definite no-no.  Most people use fabric softeners of some sort with  their dryers and the chemicals in those sheets or liquids also ends up in the lint.  These chemicals may harm the babies either by contact, or by ingestion.  Don't do it!

Pet Fur is also a no-no.  If your pet is taking medications, or you use flea powders or flea shampoos on them, their fur is also "contaminated".  Baby birds are naked (just like human babies) when they are born.  Anything that cause a reaction to their tender little bodies should be avoided at all costs.
birdhouses, building birdhouses, watching nature
Naked baby birds!


It would be much better for you to spend your time reading a little about what they would appreciate and then building a nice house for them to enjoy.  The most perfect part of this whole idea is that you will build one house, but that two families will get to enjoy it.  The bird family and your family too!

More about Birds from the writers at Review This Reviews:


You can read more about the life cycle of a Robin at Tracey's Review of that incredible sight at her home.
Birdwatching and Photography go hand in hand.  One of Review This Reviews writers, Mary Beth Granger, has shown and taught us how to capture some beautiful pictures of the birds in her area. If you love Bluebirds you can read up right here!  Or if Woodpeckers tickle your fancy, you can check out some great pictures and facts Review of Woodpecker Facts and Photography 





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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review of Woodpecker Facts and Photography

                                                                         Downy Woodpecker

I have been fascinated by woodpeckers for a long time, but I didn't realize there were so many different types of woodpeckers.  This year I purchased a peanut feeder for my backyard.  When I started to see different types of woodpeckers using the feeder I checked out information about woodpeckers  both online and in my Backyard Birds guide.  In this post I will show you photos and facts about the four types of woodpeckers that have visited my backyard.


Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a very handsome bird.  It has a brown back with black bars and a very distinct crescent of black on the chest. In flight the white rump is very conspicuous.  

These woodpeckers usually forage on the ground for food, but I have also seen them at my suet feeders.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpeckers are the most common ones that I see in my backyard.  They visit year round and are fairly small birds.  These small tubular looking woodpeckers are very delicate looking.  They have crisp black and white plumage and the males have a red patch toward the back of the head.  They have a larger look-alike cousin the Hairy Woodpecker.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker is a large bird with zebra type stripes across the back.  The red belly is really just a pink tinge across the white chest.  The really red part is on the head.  The male has a bright red cap that extends from the bill all the way down the nape.  The female is similar to the male except that the red cap is only in the  nape area.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

I have only seen this bird one day in my yard.  I was able to capture photos from several angles and posted it on birding sites.  The consensus was that it is a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  My bird book says that I probably caught it on its' migration south.

These birds are rather large woodpeckers with a striped face pattern and a long white slash on the wing.  The male has a red throat and forecrown.  The female has white throat and red fore crown, so I would say the photo above is a male Yellow-bellied woodpecker.


Feeders for  Woodpeckers

I have two types of feeders that I use to attract woodpeckers.  The first is a cage like feeder that I fill with suet cakes.  You can see a Northern Flicker enjoying a suet cake in the photo below.
This type of feeder is also visited by several other types of birds.

This year I purchased a peanut feeder and it has been very popular with both woodpeckers and nuthatches.  This feeder is filled with unshelled peanuts and it is fun to watch the birds peck away till they get the nut out of the shell.  This keeps them at the feeder longer and helps me to capture them with my camera.  Below is a Red Breasted Nuthatch that visited the peanut feeder.

I purchased my peanut feeder on Amazon.  You can get your own by following the link below.
                                                           




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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reviewing Tips on Backyard Perch for Bird Photography

Goldfinch on Perch
Backyard bird photography can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby.  There are many books to give you ideas on getting the most of backyard bird photography and they contain tips on everything from feeders, to lighting, to setting up an ideal setting for the birds. 

Setting up a Natural Looking Perch

On this page I would like to concentrate on one aspect of backyard bird photography, setting up a natural looking perch.  I have been photographing birds for a few years now, but I always felt I was fighting the background and surrounding features in my backyard. I would photograph birds on the feeders and sitting on the shepherds hooks but just never quite got that photo I was trying to get. When our photography club announced that our speaker would be talking on backyard bird photography I was really excited to be going and getting some tips.  

When the speaker first started he showed us lots of photographs he had taken of birds on natural looking perches.  I thought they looked great and figured he had to be out in parks or the woods to capture the birds sitting on those perches.  Then he told us his secret.  He creates his own perches in his back yard and trains the birds to come and sit there.  He does this by watching the birds habits when feeding and then setting up a natural perch nearby.  In his example he showed a feeding box he had made that he sat on the ground and then mounted a branch, using an old tripod,  to hang just above the feeding area.

I liked his idea, but I have a small backyard and wanted to keep my backyard attractive and yet still use the natural perch idea.  The next day I was wondering around my backyard thinking about the lecture and I came across a big tree limb that had fallen in the storm the night before.  I took the limb and buried it in an old flower pot and then moved it near the bird feeders.
Perch Limb
I set up the perch and now I had to wait for some birds to come.  I had my camera set up on a tripod just inside our patio doors and I would sit and watch all the birds but they never landed on the perch when I was watching.  

Backyard Bird Books



Moving Perch for Birds Convenience

I next decided to move the perch between my finch feeder and my songbird feeder to give a better landing place for birds waiting to get their turn at the feeders.  In just a few minutes I captured a photo of the first bird landing on the perch.  Since then I have captured many birds sitting on the perch.  I have added some green plants to the container to make it more attractive and I am quite pleased with my first attempt at setting up a perch.

Photos of Birds Landing on Perch

Here are some of the photos I have taken in the last week.  I have my camera set up just inside our glass patio doors and the photos are taken through the glass.  I have the camera on a tripod and I have a remote shutter that I have close by when I am sitting at the table in front of the doors.  This way if a bird catches my eye I can grab the shutter and click away.  The camera is set at aperture priority with a f5.6 setting and is focused at the very top of the perch.  








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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Review of Guide for Bird Watchers

Blue Jay in the Snow

Favorite Bird Guide

I have always loved to photograph birds, but only recently have I gotten really interested in identifying the birds in my backyard.  I have looked up birds online to try to find out what species of bird I have captured in my photos, but was never completely satisfied with my searches.  So my next step was to look for a paperback book that would fit my needs.  I found just what I needed in a delightful book by Jonathan Adererfer and Paul Hess National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America.

 


Bird Identification

This delightful book has a detailed guide to 150 species of birds of North America.  The photo below is one example of a bird I identified from the book.  I knew the bird was some type of sparrow so I first looked up sparrows in the index of the book. This brought me to a series of pages with over ten different types of sparrows. As I looked through the photos  I narrowed it down to several that looked similar.  When I looked closer only one was exactly like my sparrow.  The white throat and small yellow spot above the eye were my biggest clues. Besides looking at the photos I read the identification section and checked the range to make sure this sparrow came to my area.  All of these things agreed so I concluded that this was a White-throated Sparrow.  The page on this sparrow also gave information on the food and nesting habits of the bird.


Here are two more birds I identified using the same general steps that I used above.  The first is a Tufted Tit Mouse, which I learned is native to my area of the country (mid-west).  I also learned it is a very vocal bird and that its' song is a loud peter-peter-peter, repeated over and over.
The next bird is a Carolina Wren. It is common in my area and I found out that it is the only wren that commonly feeds at feeders and suet feeders.  I have seen this bird often at our feeders.  I also learned that it is a year round resident.

Additional Features of the Book

In addition to the bird identification features I found several other sections of the book that were very interesting and helpful.
  • Basics of Bird Watching- this section gives you hints on where and when to watch for birds.  It talks about migratory birds and those that are year round residents.
  • Feeding Birds- this section gives hints on the types of feeders to use, where to place them and what food to put in the feeders to attract different birds.
  • Birdhouses- If you are wanting to place a bird house for your birds this section is a must read.
  • Bird-Friendly Yards-This is a great section that gives you hints on planting your yard to attract birds.
  • Birding Skills-If you want to increase your skills at watching and identifying birds this is the section for you.
  • Citizen Science- This section talks about the birding community and ways that you can help.  It also talks about keeping a birding journal.

Bird Journal

Here is a journal I have created using my photographs.  You can order it on Zazzle by clicking on the link below the photo.




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