Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Backyard Birds Provide Summer Entertainment
June 16, 2018
By Steve Grinley

     With spring migration coming to an end, we find the resident birds dominating the birding scene. Those of us who have nesting boxes on our property may be monitoring those for activity. Some may be viewing chickadees, tree swallows, house wrens, or bluebirds. Others may be watching robins, cardinals, orioles, or mourning doves attending to nests in the branches of the trees and shrubs in their yard.

     For those of us who offer food and water for our birds throughout the summer, we are enjoying the array of colorful breeding plumages that are gracing our bird feeders. In our yard, the rose-breasted grosbeaks, cardinals, house finches and even a purple finch are enjoying our sunflower seeds. The Baltimore orioles are still visiting our grape jelly and a pair of hummingbirds occasionally visit the nectar feeder, adding to the array colors. Even the occasional blue jay adds special hues of blue to our landscape.

     We also enjoy the entertainment of some of the birds with muted colors. One of our first visitors was the white-breasted nuthatch (a.k.a. Nut Job). He enjoys both our sunflower seeds as well as our suet. A female nuthatch has joined him and they are both regular visitors.

     Our titmice and chickadees always seem cheerful, announcing their presence with a song or chatter. Lately, one of the titmice has been followed by a youngster. The young titmouse will rapidly flutter its wings as it begs for food from its parent. One or two chipping sparrows stop by, sometimes feeding from the mixed seed feeder, but lately filling their tiny bills with scraps of suet that have fallen to the floor of the deck. They fly off to, presumably, feed their young at their nest.

     None are cuter than the pair of Carolina wrens, dubbed “Meghan and Harry” by Margo, that come for our mealworms. We have a feeder with a cup that is accessible only by small birds though a wire cage. The wrens are on their second brood now. We can tell by their feeding pattern. First they will come one at a time as they are building a nest or if they are incubating eggs.

     Once the eggs are hatched, the two will come together, always having a cheerful chattering sound, fill their long curved bills with as many worms as they can fit securely, and then fly off to feed their young. Their chatter turns to a “scold” whenever we don’t get mealworms out in time, or whenever they run out.

     The greatest activity comes from the woodpeckers. We have a variety of suet feeders to accommodate all of them. Our downy woodpeckers now number at least six, some likely this year’s offspring. We have one hairy woodpecker that I call “Dirty Hairy” because his overall coloration is rather dingy yellowish instead of crisp white against black like most hairy woodpeckers.

     The larger red-bellied woodpeckers always seem to dominate. First came the male, who was quite bold, and he was later followed to the yard by a female. She was shy at first, just hanging around and seemingly too timid to come to the feeders. Eventually she lost her fear and now does some dominating of her own. Then a male with disheveled feathers on the back of its head showed up. We thought, perhaps, he was offspring. But the adults still visit and fill their bills with suet, flying off to, likely, feed young birds elsewhere.

     We have had our share of challenges, as any feeder situation does. We have a couple of grackles that scare off the cardinals, grosbeaks and smaller birds to dominate the seed feeders and an occasional suet feeder as well. We have a starling that was devouring all our peanut butter suet from one of our suet feeder. We changed to plain suet in one of our feeders and the bird seems less interested in that. We also went to an “upside-down” style suet feeder for the peanut butter suet, but the starling still flutters up to it like a hummingbird bird and fills its bill with the softer suet.

     We have the usual problems with squirrels that baffles and a squirt gun help with, but our real challenge has been a raccoon. He likes all of our suet feeders, has taken some of our seed feeders apart, and has drunk all the nectar from our hummingbird feeder. Bringing the feeders in at night has been the only solution that has worked against him so far.

     But the challenges are far outweighed by the pleasures of watching all the resident birds feeding, nesting and providing for their families.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 23 years of service to the birding community!
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