Saturday, January 6, 2007

A day with the birds

Front Feeders
Originally uploaded by egret's nest.
Because it was a count day for Project FeederWatch, I was careful to make sure the feeders were full and ready this morning. I had just great birds yesterday at my feeders that I wanted to be ready (of course, I should have known that having great birds the day BEFORE a count day guaranteed little activity on the count day). So, I got out my container of suet dough and loaded up the back and front yard stations. When I was doing the back yard, I heard and saw some birds in the woods behind my house, across the creek. I got my bins and headed to the fence -- Varied Thrushes. Yum. I've seen them in my yard before but not this year. Still they were happy and active in the back forty which was fun!

Back Feeders
Back Feeders
(Note the little Chickadee butt poking around the feeder)

However, it wasn't a great birdwatching day. My neighbor was working on a home improvement project that had him set up a table saw in his front yard and he brought his dog out for company. Well-behaved dog but between the dog and the table saw, my front feeders were quiet. Only chickadees and a couple of juncos. The backyard was also quiet. Oh well.

We went to my in-laws' for dinner last night as we do most weekend. They live in a senior community. It is all mobile homes but you can't tell that's what most of them are -- some of them are two stories with garages underneath. Lots of gardens and landscaping. They have two ponds with a spillway/creek between them. It's really lovely. I took a walk to see what I could see and had a real treat and learned something new.

Look at this tree and tell me if you see anything special in it. . .

Black-Crowned Night-Herons roosting in tree

I didn't see them at first and I was scanning the trees looking for them. I was almost past them and then looked back and boom, I saw them. At first I thought they might be owls but then realized that they were a pair of Black-crowned Night-Herons. Beautiful critters. I couldn't believe my luck. Last year, I saw a juvenile and then later an adult at this pond and even got two awful pictures of it/them [juvenile] [adult]. But, these are very shy birds and getting close to them is hard. These guys were asleep and I walked as close as I dared and got a few shots.

"Moooooooooom!" I turn in horror and see my 7 year old racing up to me on his scooter. Now, thankfully, he's a good birder (Susan, how hard are you laughing right now?) and I told him to whisper, put his scooter down, and I'd show him something cool. He complied, whispering very loudly. I showed him the birds and he said, "Is that why I'm whispering? Why are they shy, Mom?" Hilarious! I sent him back to my in-laws and took more pictures. The good thing about his visit was that the Herons woke up -- and didn't leave!!!
Black-Crowned Night-Heron Black-Crowned Night-Heron
Don't they look grumpy that they got woken up?

Then a little old couple who live right next to the pond stopped and told me that these are George and Georgina and they have been here for years. I don't know how I've missed them both as I come to the ponds regularly but I have. It explains their calmness though. They are used to the activity level here and like it. I took a few more shots and then kept going on my walk to the upper lake.

I saw:

American Robin
American Robin

Acorn Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker

Acorn Woodpeckers are amazing critters. You can see all the holes in the tree and perhaps see that some of them are filled with acorns. This is what they do. The live near oak trees and pine or redwood trees (in our area). They make acorn-sized holes in the trees and stuff an acorn in them. Then they leave the acorns there. A little worm develops in the acorn and they come back and eat it. They are amazing critters and very easy to identify as they are always found on these very recognizable trees. More info on them {click}.

It was a fun birding day and I got to share a bit of it with my son. He talked about the Herons on the way home so I know it stuck a little bit. Very cool. And, in other news, most of Christmas has been packed up in our house. Only the tree to do now. Darling husband has to bring in the HUGE ladder so I can do the top ornaments and the light string. Oh joy! Sad to see it go but it will be nice to get the house back to normal, too! School starts again Monday. Sigh. It's been a great vacation!

[Camera Useage Report -- only took 120 pictures and consider about 15 of them to be useful! I think I'm getting better!]


Mary said...

Liza Lee,

Wow you have a great blog. Your photos of the herons and your personal descriptions and stories really add to the fun. I really appreciate your link to Project Feeder Watch. I read a lot about the House Finch conjunctitivis as I saw one at my feeder yesterday. Also, it was cool to see Julie Z's drawings on those pages :)

Good luck back to work and school tomorrow! We had a short week past, but tomorrow will be the 5-day long haul...

LauraHinNJ said...

I love night herons - bet they nest in the area - you should check back!

Acorn woodpecker is awesome, too.

Your feeder set-up is pretty spectacular!

Liza Lee Miller said...

I'm sure they do -- which would explain the juvenile I saw last winter. I'm just so surprised that I've never seen this pair before. Gorgeous things!

Liza Lee Miller said...

Oh, and thanks on the feeder setup compliments. It's still a work in progress. The squirrels really do me in. I have four that are in the area and spend all day trying to get my feed. My husband calls them the squirrel feeders! :) Dratted things. I'm ready to try cayenne pepper in my suet but they'll still come for the sunflower seeds.