Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.
~ Oliver Hereford

When the flowers have died back for the winter months, my backyard looks empty. This is the season I really depend on wild birds to add movement and interest to my garden. On frigid winter mornings, tea or cocoa in hand, I sit by the window and watch them for hours

The first two photos are Downey Woodpeckers. The male and female are very alike except for that spot of red on the head of the male. They announce their arrival at the feeders with a little quacking sound.

These tiny woodpeckers are the most frequently seen at feeders. Although very small, they are not as shy as their larger cousins. Downeys usually find the suet and bird seed quickly and lead the larger woodpeckers to the treats.

If you are trying to attract woodpeckers to your backyard, use one of the premium suet cakes like the Kaytee or the Wild Birds Unltd brand. You can also use real suet from a butcher shop but hang it somewhere the raccoons, cats and opossums can't reach it.


In addition to the Downeys, last weekend my suet feeders were visited by Hairy Woodpeckers, Red Bellied Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees, and a Tufted Titmouse. I have been hoping for a Titmouse for ages and finally one has found the suet and peanut feeders. I'll try for more photos next week if the weather cooperates and provides some sunshine.



The Gold Finches are wearing their olive drab feathers now. Thistle seed served up in a soft 'sock' is one of the best loved treats in my garden. These feeders stay busy all day, every day, with hungry finches squabbling over the tiny seeds. Later when we have snow cover, the Red Polls may visit this feeder. If food is in short supply farther north in the forests of Canada, they arrive in the area in large, hungry flocks.



The Gold Finches are year round visitors at the feeders. They will eat thistle seed, millet and sunflower seeds. I usually hang the thistle socks above the flower borders near the house. The seed is irradiated and will not sprout so you don't have to worry about thistle growing up among your flowers.


There haven't been the usual large numbers of House Finches with me through the summer months. I'm starting to see more of them as the weather gets colder and their natural food supplies decrease.

There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.
~ Robert Lynd



39 comments:

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

They all are adorable! Thank you Marnie for your photographs!

troutbirder said...

Very nice pics Marnie. So far we have had exactly the same winter birds except no titmice (they are very rare here) and my troutfarm eagle plopped down in my garden recently. Not a clue why though.

Rosey Pollen said...

Marnie,
You have attracted a variety of lovely birds to your feeders. This is really the first year that I started getting into this feeding the birds obsessions. I even put more on my deck so we could see them from the sofas. I am still new at id of the birds so I am grateful you posted some I was wondering about! Thanks
Rosey

Gail said...

Marnie, I know it's winter when we get to see your fantastic bird shots!
We are blessed with titmice, chicadeee and nuthatches and beautiful woodpeckers....I wish you could sit here and watch them with me sometime~~gail

Lisa at Greenbow said...

REally good photos of your garden visitors Marnie. I too look forward to seeing them. Our feeders are overan with house sparrows right now. UGH... If we only had a dozen or so I wouldn't mind but when I look out there and see hundreds it makes me think I shouldn't put feed out. Yet, the garden would be quiet without their squabbling and dashing about. I really like the quote too.

sweet bay said...

Beautiful bird shots Marnie! We have so many seeds and even insects during the winter that I don't feed unless we have a real cold snap, but your post reminds me of our bird feeder outside the kitchen window when we lived in PA. We always got goldfinches, and during really cold spells waves of Pine Siskins and Redpolls. They are such beautiful birds.

walk2write said...

Great pics, Marnie, and interesting info about the thistle seed and the suet. I've always shunned thistle seed thinking that it would sprout all over the place. Last year when we were living in Illinois, I bought some suet at the local farm supply store, not really thinking about the quality. Apparently the birds were because they hardly touched the stuff.

Darla said...

Your photos are just beautiful. I love watching birds, as far as the Id I depend on my husband and of course, bloggers!!

Dawn said...

Oh my goodness! I had house finches for the first time last year (I'm on the end of territory) They took my breath away, we never see the blue birds, or brillant colors, just yellow finches. Nice to have any birds in the stark whiteness of the winter.

Msrobin said...

The house finches and goldfinches have been regular feeders here. It always takes me a few minutes to recognize the goldfinches in their winter coats! Still haven't attracted any woodpeckers, but I'll keep trying.

Susie said...

Marnie you captured some beauties here. We don't see near as many varieties of birds in our backyard. Of course, we don't have many trees either. Thanks for sharing your birdies with us.

Rose said...

I was so excited to see my first Downy of the season this past week. So far, none of the birds, except the finches, seem too interested in my bird feeders, but I think that's because there is still plenty of their natural food available. With the corn still in the fields, we've had plenty of crows, too. I'm new to this whole bird-watching experience, and buying a good bird i.d. guide last winter was a great investment. I agree, with the garden asleep for the winter, watching the birds is a great diversion.

ChrisND said...

It is great to see your feathered friends this time of the year. Our family of birds are hiding behind the shed these days. I think we may try to attract more birds to our front yard -- where they won't be bothered by the dogs.

Morning Glories in Round Rock said...

The woodpeckers are so cute--and fun to watch. You are right! The goldfinches really do have olive drab for their coats this time of year. It's always fun to visit your blog to see who has been visiting your feeders.

ShySongbird said...

Such lovely photos of your beautiful birds Marnie. I am very envious of the Woodpeckers, I have never had one visit my garden but I keep hoping! The House Finches are so pretty too.

We do have lots of Goldfinches visiting, they are similar to yours but ours seem more vivid in coloring and have bright red heads which I don't think yours do.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Hi Marnie, I tend to leave a lot of my perennial stalks standing over the winter... it's still empty in comparison to spring, but I think of it as a new, blank canvas all ready and waiting... plants deserve a nap, too! Love all the bird photos. The puffed up finch looks wonderful--I love macro bird shots. I grew up with parakeets and miss seeing the feathers and little faces that close up!

TC said...

Were you scared by Hitchcock's "The Birds?" And what do you think of them as dinosaurs? And how come house sparrows and starlings can't find somewhere else to build their nests? I mean there's hectares available right behind my house and they choose to nest in the eaves my back porch. That is until I blocked off entry points.

Jann said...

Really nice yard bird photos. We get the finches, and now the juncos, but they've been scarce lately.

Kathleen said...

I am in the same boat as you Marnie ~ the birds being the biggest attraction in my garden for months to come. You took some wonderful photos. I usually have the Downey woodpeckers too but haven't seen them yet this season. They are one of my favorites. I wish I had a titmouse too! There have been plenty of house finches, sparrows, chick-a-dees, doves, flickers & goldfinches but that's it so far. I need to restock my seed suppply today ~ ouch, that's going to be expensive! Stay warm and keep those great bird photos coming.

BeadedTail said...

Beautiful photos of the birds! I love watching the birds and our chickadees are really active lately. I haven't seen any finches yet but I'll have to start looking for them.

Gayle @ Mountain Moma said...

Very cool. Where do you get your seed? Do you go to a special shop or order on line? We've just been buying the large bulk seed. Seeing the sock seed makes me want to try and find one.

Sherri said...

I just love birds! Thanks for sharing these wonderful pics!

Carol said...

I too have such a supply of food in the gardens I do not hang the feeders anymore. A big black fury bear came to my window several years ago and that was the last straw... the feeders and suet came down. Now of course I do miss seeing them all so closely but the gardens are lively. Your portraits are great!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Marnie, I love this time of year because I can see the birds UP in the trees MUCH better. I have almost the same birds that you have. I have TONS of Goldfinches this year (no Pine Siskins yet), a few House Finches, Carolina Wrens, a few sparrows, LOTS of Cardinals, Mourning Doves, lots of the "Big Three" (Titmice, nuthatches, and chickadees)--and our various woodpeckers (Red-bellied, Downy mostly) --but Pileated also.

Have a great week, Marnie--and enjoy your birdies.
Hugs,
Betsy

garden girl said...

Wonderful photos Marnie! I'm not a big fan of cold weather but do enjoy being able to see the birds so much better. A couple of days ago I was outside and noticed lots of little wood chunks on the walk behind the house, looked up and saw a red-bellied woodpecker working on one of our maples, moving from branch to branch and pecking at spots where we've had some limbing-up done. Wish I'd thought to get the camera. I was so engrossed watching that I didn't even think of taking pictures. . . duh!

I often hear them during the summer but it's hard to see them when the trees are all leafed out. I'm always glad to see them pecking on the trees, and not the house!

Cheryl said...

Hi Marnie....it is always such a joy to see birds that visit other peoples garden.

Your woodpecker is very similar to our Greater Spotted.....I have never managed to get a photograph.

Thank you for sharing....

Balisha said...

Hi Marnie,
I was at the feed store the other day and was talking about birds. The clerk said the the bird population is up at feeders, because the crops are out of the fields and birds have "come to town."
I love looking at your pictures. You capture "them" at just the right time.
Balisha

Naturegirl said...

Marnie! Adorable sweet photos of your feathered friends. Yes they sure do bring wonderful energy to an otherwise abandoned lifeless garden. Bird tweets always a welcome song!Loved this post. hugs

Patsi 'Garden Endeavors' said...

We must have Goldfinches in the winter...can't remember seeing them last year.
Great shots !
Think maybe I should get the feeders up :)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I like Downy Woodpeckers, but I generally see them only from a distance. I wonder if squirrels would bother a thistle sock? They've attacked and destroyed ever other kind of feeder I've tried, including a suet block feeder last year.

MrBrownthumb @ Chicago Garden said...

I've only seen woodpecker like that a couple of times and now that the tree it visited is cut down, I probably won't for a while.

Goldfinches are my favorites!

oldcrow61 said...

The Downeys and Hairys are always at the feeders here. You are right, they love the suet. Great pictures Marnie.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

I love my birds in the winter. Thanks for the woodpecker male and female identification. I appreciate it. Happy Birding.~~Dee

Michelle said...

I love watching wild birds. Entertainment at it's best.

Nan and =^..^= said...

Oh, that first quote by Oliver Hereford is a favorite of mine, shown to me years ago when we first started our gallery and someone who came in asked if I could illustrate it!
Your bird photos are wonderful! We have to fill the feeders for it is too quiet around here!

*Ulrike* said...

We always keep our feeders full for the birds which are such a joy to watch. However, I do not have any suet so I will need to buy some when I go out tomorrow, and some thistle too, although we do put out a lot of sunflower seeds.
Hopefully I'll be able to take pictures as pretty as yours!!!
Ulrike

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I enjoyed your birds and feeders. We haven't been putting thistle out the last number of years. We should get some now that our neighbor who used to doesn't live there anymore. We just got our other feeders put out Saturday.

leonnybg said...

Have a wonderful blog. Thank you for the beautiful pictures. Will look forward to your next post. :)

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