Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last Year's Cardinals

While searching through some of my photo files, I came across these images which were taken last Spring/Summer.  I was fortunate to have numerous opportunities to photograph these lovely Cardinals last year.  Hopefully, I'll have the same opportunities this year!    

I hope your week has been a good one thus far...
thanks for dropping in!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sneaky Squirrel

Early one morning...

Let's see what's available for breakfast...
Looks like the coast is clear...
I get the feeling I'm being watched.
Pecans on the menu today? Mmmmm, pretty darn tasty!
I think I'll have another one!
Num Num Num!!!
I still have the feeling I'm being watched!
Wonder where those pecans came from.  There's gotta be more somewhere!
Looks like someone beat me to the pecans here!  
Guess I'll relax and have some peanuts...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Simple Pleasures

 Weather-wise, the past two January afternoons couldn't have been more perfect.
Warm sunlight, bright blue skies, an occasional light breeze-
certainly an afternoon worthy of my time and attention.

Like the Robin, I sat still and quiet for a spell.
I tilted my head toward the sky and soaked in the sights and sounds of
my peaceful surroundings- birds singing, leaves rustling, sunlight through the trees.
Simple pleasures bring the greatest joy.

Wishing everyone a great week!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers

During late fall, this tree in our back yard began producing small golden brown colored fruit and dropping its leaves.  Soon after, flocks of birds were often seen consuming the fruit- in particular, Cedar Waxwings and Robins.  The squirrels that I had often seen in trees across the road became regular morning and evening visitors to the fruit bearing tree.  I was unfamiliar with this variety of tree and often wondered what kind it was.  I think I found my answer this evening- I believe this is an Aristocrat Flowering Pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Aristocrat').  Are you familiar with this type of tree?

The tree also attracts a pair of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers.  These small, colorful woodpeckers usually alight midway on the tree trunk then scoot backwards until they find a suitable spot to probe. They usually hang around for several minutes, pecking away at the bark as they slowly make their way back up the tree trunk. They'll also scoot along one of the branches, snatch up a fruit and return to the tree trunk where they consume it.  They don't mingle with the other birds and, as of yet, they haven't been seen at the bird feeders or suet cage.  

The Female:

The Male:

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black and white with boldly patterned faces. Both sexes have red foreheads, and males also have red throats. Look for a long white stripe along the folded wing. Bold black-and-white stripes curve from the face toward a black chest shield and white or yellowish underparts.

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is the only woodpecker in eastern North America that is completely migratory. Although a few individuals remain throughout much of the winter in the southern part of the breeding range, most head farther south, going as far south as Panama. Females tend to migrate farther south than do males.  Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers depart their breeding range in September and early October for wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Mexico, West Indies, and Central America. They arrive back north in May. Females tend to migrate farther south than males, with a ratio of more than three females to one male having been counted in Central America.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers behave much like other woodpeckers, hitching up and down trees along the bark and leaning away from the trunk, using their stiff tail feathers for support. They fly in a woodpecker’s typical up-and-down, bouncing or swooping manner. They spend most of their time at their sapwells, either drilling them, licking sap and any insects caught in it, or chasing off other birds (such as hummingbirds) that may be attracted to the sap. They also perch at the tips of tree branches when hunting for flying insects, and hop on the ground to forage for ants. In early spring, before mating, sapsucker pairs engage in playful pre-courtship behavior, with one sapsucker chasing the other around tree trunks and branches. Courting birds will land on a tree and face each other with bills and tails raised, throat feathers fluffed out and crest feathers raised, swinging their heads from side to side. This is the same behavior they use when aggressively facing off with sapsuckers of the same sex. Sapsucker mating pairs stay together through the nesting season and raising of young, and often (but not always) reunite for subsequent breeding seasons, though it seems their fidelity may not be to their mate so much as the nesting area or even the particular nest tree.

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers aren’t regular bird feeder visitors, although they may visit suet feeders. And if you have young birch or maple trees in your yard and you live in the sapsucker’s range, you just might get to see one drilling its sapwells firsthand.  (Information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Purple Finches

Purple Finches have finally arrived in southern Mississippi for their winter stay.   I read a few articles about these lovely birds a couple weeks ago and I've been anticipating their arrival.  I first noticed them on the 16th, while they foraged for seeds in my back yard.  Their shades of raspberry stood out among the crowd of brown and gray birds, so they immediately captured my attention.  I hope they'll hang around a while- I'd love to observe them more.  This year has been my first to observe and photograph these beauties.

Male Purple Finches are delicate pink-red on the head and breast, mixing with brown on the back and cloudy white on the belly. Female Purple Finches have no red. They are coarsely streaked below, with strong facial markings including a whitish eyestripe and a dark line down the side of the throat. Purple Finches are large and chunky. Their powerful, conical beaks are larger than any sparrow’s. The tail seems short and is clearly notched at the tip.  

The Males:

Aggressive Purple Finches show their agitation by leaning toward their opponent, neck stretched out and bill pointed at the other bird. This can intensify to standing upright, opening the beak or pointing it downward at opponent, and sometimes results in actual pecking attacks. During disputes at food sources and in flocks, females usually win out over males. Courting males sing softly while hopping and fluffing feathers in front of the female, often holding a twig or grass stem in the beak. If things go well, the next step is a short flight about one foot straight up, followed by drooping the wings and pointing his beak to the sky. Mating may follow.

Purple Finches are erratic migrants that follow cone crops. Typically they leave Canadian breeding grounds to winter widely across central and southeastern U.S, returning to specific regions roughly every other year. Birds that breed in northeastern U.S. and along the Pacific Coast may not migrate.

Purple Finches eat mainly seeds of coniferous trees and elms, tulip poplars, maples, and others. They also eat soft buds, nectar (extracted by biting the bases off flowers), and many berries and fruit, including blackberries, honeysuckle, poison ivy, crabapples, juniper berries, cherries, and apricots. In winter you may see Purple Finches eating seeds of low plants like dandelions, ragweed, and cocklebur. They eat some insects, including aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles.

The Females:

Purple Finches have large, seed-cracking beaks, and they seem to like black oil sunflower seeds best. Your backyard sunflower seed feeder is probably a great place to look for Purple Finches if you live within their winter range. This species moves very erratically from year to year, so if you don’t have them this year, there’s always a chance they’ll arrive next year.

I hope you enjoyed my photos and information on Purple Finches (which came directly from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site).  As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts and comment.  It's a pleasure to share my love of nature with you and to receive your feedback.  Have a wonderful day :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Friday was a beautiful, sunny day- much different than the chilly, wet day before.  It was the kind of day that draws me outdoors with my coffee in one hand and my camera in the other.   The birds seemed pleased with the sunshine as well- they flocked around the feeders, foraged through leaves and pine straw on the ground and sang gaily from the tree tops.  I couldn't resist watching them...

A large crowd of Chipping Sparrows and a few Goldfinches 
hung out together in puddles of bird seed...

while others were happy at the feeders.

After their appetite was temporarily satisfied, some took a few moments to bathe in 
the gentle I was doing.

This little one needed a short nap...

A few Pine Siskins decided to visit...
(this is the first time I've ever seen Pine Siskins)

At the edge of the woods, a Carolina Wren and Northern Cardinal
picked through their favorite seeds.

A Carolina Chickadee hopped along the concrete bench 
under a favorite tree.

A Tufted Titmouse is slowly hopping toward the feeder

This is the first Downy Woodpecker I've seen since we moved here.
(I THINK this is a Downy- please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Yet another first- a Purple Finch!  There were actually several of them
in my back yard yesterday- my first time ever seeing this species of finch.  They're gorgeous!

I wish you all a Happy Weekend!  
Thank you, as always, for visiting my blog and leaving comments!!!

Linked with Eileen at Saturday's Critters