Friday, December 7, 2012

Birds of a Feather

Now that things are starting to settle down here, I've been able to focus on something that I've been wanting to do for a long time...set up our bird feeders.  I've always been interested in birds and bird identification, but living close to downtown Indianapolis, we didn't get much "bird variety".  Sure, we got lots of chickadees, sparrows, and house martins, and occasionally a European starling to liven things up.  For the most part, though, the vibrant birds that we saw on posters at local state parks never seemed to make it to our back yard. 

When we moved to South Carolina, I was thrilled that our property was wooded, and bordered by trees on two sides.  Surely this would be a birding paradise!  The previous owners had left some dilapidated bird houses on posts in the back yard.  I set up a group of bird feeders there...

...and a trough-style feeder nearby.

I hung a large feeder from our deck, too, and filled them all with local seed.  I sat back and waited for the bird extravaganza...and nothing happened.  Days went by without a single bird.  I couldn't figure it out!  The feeders were all new or recently cleaned.  I chose a bird seed mix that was heavy on the sunflower seeds.  The feeders were a good distance from the house and sheltered by trees.  Where was my bird paradise?  I read online articles and consulted birding guides.  Every resource said the same thing:  BE PATIENT.

Sure enough, after several days, little flitting birds cautiously started to visit the feeders.  Their numbers have increased by the day.  I have been delighted by these little visitors.  So has Tabitha, who watches them with the intensity and confidence of a born hunter.

My favorite, by far, has been the charmingly-named Tufted Titmouse.

With his dove-grey feathers, large black eyes, and a flash of orange under each wing, he's definitely a beauty.  Tufted Titmice have been described as "eager" and "earnest" in various birding guides, with a piercing peter-peter-peter call. 

Tufted Titmice have to be careful, though.  We have a Red-Tailed Hawk that lives in the woods and we've seen him several times, swooping low between the feeders and scattering the song birds.

Interestingly, a group of Red-Tailed Hawks is called a "boil"!  I saw a boil of seven just today, wheeling far above the trees, riding the updrafts and searching for prey.  They are so beautiful...I could watch them all day.  

Also living in the woods is a Pileated Woodpecker, once of the largest birds that we have here in North America.  Some weigh in at close to a pound!

Pileated Woodpeckers have a loud, piercing call that I've heard echoed here many times:

In particular, they search out carpenter ants and other grubs.  They're non-migratory, so hopefully I'll be seeing them all year long!

Besides the herons and geese that I've seen occasionally in the water, and the flock of wild turkeys nearby, we've also got ducks that live on our pond.  I will confess to a certain anxiousness when I first noticed the two mallards (male) swimming lazily, but I was relieved to later see a female join the band, and then another male.

The females, of course, have dull coloring and are easily overlooked.  The males are the stars, with their iridescent heads and bright white bodies, with cheerful flashes of blue on their wings.  I can't wait for the chicks!

I haven't been baking, since our oven has been broken for 3 weeks, but it should be repaired this afternoon...and then I can get down to business!  Hopefully, too, I'll have time to start knitting again soon.

Have a great week!

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