Friday, October 7, 2011

For the birds

Through the window - Northern cardinals, 
lesser goldfinch and house finch.

I spent a very entertaining 15 minutes outside yesterday. As I returned from walking, I heard a rustling noise. Rain? Of course, that would be exciting – but no drops dotted the rock sidewalk. I stepped out from under a tree to see if I felt drops . . .

. . . and realized that birds were making the rustling sounds.

I paused about 10 feet from a bird feeder, arms akimbo, and just listened. The birds were everywhere, wings flapping as they flew from tree to tree, chirping, singing, pecking at branches. So cool!

After a few minutes, a few birds bravely ventured onto the feeder, followed by some of their more timid brethren. I watched as goldfinches, cardinals, chickadees, tufted titmouse and a house finch picked up some breakfast sunflower seeds.

When I slowly crossed my arms, they abandoned the feeder, but continued flying about the yard, along with white-winged doves and wrens.

My in-laws have a friend who is a nut for birds. He told them they were “birdwatchers” and not “birders;” a birder is someone who travels specifically to see a bird. Last year they traveled to New England and saw puffins; they informed him they were indeed “birders.”

Carolina chickadee.
We, on the other hand, are birdwatchers.  My husband has actually studied our bird book and knows quite a lot; my interest is more – observational, I guess. They are a beautiful addition to my yard. I like to watch them, but I don’t spend a lot of time learning about them.

Earlier this year, marauding house sparrows were gorging themselves on the mixed birdseed we put in our three feeders. They emptied those feeders in a matter of hours. These sparrows are not lovely. Like Wal-mart shoppers on Black Friday, they are rowdy, greedy and pushy.

One day it dawned on me that serious birders (like my in-laws) use specific kinds of seeds to attract more desirable birds. I did some online research, and then went shopping for black oil sunflower seeds and thistle.

To my amazement, it worked! The sparrows skedaddled. Even better, the bird population on the hill has diversified. We have seen a few new species, perhaps also due to drought conditions. Because of this, my interest in them is keener.

Carolina wren.
Here’s our bird list:

Regular visitors (to our property):  Northern cardinal, white-winged and mourning doves, Carolina chickadee, tufted titmouse, lesser goldfinch, house finch, Bewick’s and Carolina wrens, black-chinned hummingbird, greater roadrunner, scrub jay, black and turkey vultures, red-shouldered hawk, Eastern screech owl, chuck-will’s-widow, painted bunting,

Occasional visitors: golden-fronted and ladder-backed woodpeckers, oriole, summer tanager, mockingbird, golden-cheeked warbler, yellow-billed cuckoo, American crow, common ground-dove, blue-gray gnatcatcher, American goldflinch, cedar waxwing, Nashville warbler, dark-eyed junko, tree sparrow, great-tailed grackle, brown-headed cowbird, Eastern starling, Eastern phoebe.

Flyovers:  snow geese, sandhill cranes, Mississippi kites, white pelicans, crested caracara.

Now if I could just find my binoculars, I could go see if something new has stopped by.

Favorite spot in the garden:

When we moved to this place, I transplanted very few things, as I knew it would be awhile before I could plant. This shrub, however, made the cut. I think this is a shrubby blue sage (Salvia ballotiflora), native to my part of the state. 

At our old place it was out by the fence line. Its bloom is so very discreet, you must be standing right beside it to enjoy its loveliness. Here, I planted it at the edge of the porch, so I can enjoy its quiet beauty.

It stressed this summer, but with the recent ½” rain and resultant roof run-off, it has begun blooming. Love it!


  1. I love to watch birds, and have even traveled to see the whooping cranes once. But now we have too many cats so we don't feed the birds anymore. :( I miss them. Love your blue sage!

  2. Always interesting to see what aspect of the outdoors you'll write about!
    I love it when birds pull me out whatever reverie I'm in and put me right back into the moment. Lovely salvia!

  3. I've never seen a cardinal outside of photographs-- it must be startling in your garden! We have red headed woodpeckers and even that much red is remarkable. I enjoy birds like you do, and Mr. O enjoys birds like your husband does. We probably can't extrapolate from that...

  4. @HG - sounds like you count as a birder!

    @Lona - Thanks, lona! Oh, and it's probably a different sparrow besides tree . . .

    @linnie - Cardinals are so cheerful against winter-browned brush. They are one of my favorites here.