Big day.

Today I saw the most bird species in my back yard since I have started paying attention.  I was treated to a few surprise visitors, due to the migration that is in-progress right now, and all the good old locals.

An adorable pair of black-crested titmice have decided to make a hollowed out mimosa tree in the way back their home.  I got a few pictures of them:  venturing out of the nest, bringing material to build the nest,  and chowing down on bark butter conveniently hanging nearby.

Seeing if the coast is clear:

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Mid-exit:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bringing back a MOUTHFUL of nest material:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And taking a break for some bark butter:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Practice makes perfect.

I am still working on improving my manual focus skill with my Olympus camera.   In this picture, I was trying to focus on the butterfly, but turns out I got an absolutely crisp image of the opening zinnia that is just above and to the right of where I was trying to focus.   I’ll keep trying…

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Again!

Yesterday, our resident mom & dad Bewick’s wrens started building a second nest!    In a different house than this season’s first brood.  I’m pretty sure this is the same mom & dad, since I’ve been watching them tending to and feeding their babies at the same time that they are building the new nest.  I’m just amazed at how hard this pair of birds have been working over the last 6 weeks or so.  I was surprised to see this behavior, but found this website whose explanation of their nesting behavior helped me learn a bit more about this lovely bird.

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I can’t wait to watch the next round of babies make their way into our backyard.

So proud!

A few weeks back I posted about a Bewick’s wren couple building a nest in the birdhouse that I hung under the eaves of my house.  Since then, I have been watching the birdhouse closely.  For the last two weeks or so, I have seen the wrens flying back and forth, to and from the house, feeding babies.  Those wren parents were delivering bugs every few minutes from sunrise to sunset!   Amazing.  I listened to the baby wrens chirp each time the parents brought food.  I watched them feed the babies.  I watched the parents take away the fecal sacs each time.  I watched as the babies started looking out the hole of the birdhouse.  It was like an episode of PBS Nature show right outside my window.  🙂

Today I sat 10 feet from the birdhouse outside and watched the baby wrens fledge!   I saw four of them fly out, there may have been more.  I hope they come back to nest next spring under the eaves, too.   I thought I recorded a video of it, but apparently I don’t know how to use the video mode of my camera yet.  Oh well, it was very cool to see it happen.  I’m so excited that I was able to watch them, especially since we spent the entire weekend on the lake.  And Monte and I had just returned to the house after running an errand.  Five minutes later they were all out of the birdhouse.

So cute!

From earlier this morning:

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Seconds before the first one flew out:

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One of the babies, right after his first flight:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Little golden headed birdie.

I had an unexpected morning free, so I headed to the Bull Creek Preserve again to go explore the trails.  Note that entrance to the the Preserve is restricted between March and July each year.   You’ll need to apply for an entry permit to enter during those months.  Today my goal was to catch a glimpse of the endangered golden-cheek warbler that nests in the preserve after migrating here in early March from Central America.   I went out on Monday and had a great 3 hour hike, and heard their calls everywhere, but I didn’t see the little bird – they were very elusive.

Today, I tried some different trails in the Preserve, and I finally saw several of them!  Next, I pulled out my camera to try to get a decent shot.  I took many more than these few photos, but together they might give you an idea of how hard it is to get a good shot.   Most of these won’t look like much unless you can zoom in on them…

I saw one sitting on the power line.  Right. Above. My. Head.  But, by the time I got the camera up and focused, zoooom, he was gone.   See the little bullet-shaped bird with a yellow head exiting the frame on the right?

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A while later… I saw one in a shrub about 30 feet away!  See him in the center of the frame?  But, darnit, he wasn’t facing me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then… zoooom, he took flight.  See the little yellow headed torpedo coming toward the camera? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then several miles and about 2 hours later…. one popped out of a cedar branch at eye level about 10 feet away!   He even posed for a minute.   I got several shots.  This is the clearest.  Success!  I’ll be back for more, though.  🙂OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spring!

I visited Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park today.   There are some short trails that go down by Lake Austin, through a bit of woods, and around a beautiful, recently re-established prairie with native grasses and flowers.  I saw about 10 different species of birds, including my first Eastern Bluebird.  The bluebonnets are everywhere.

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Bird thingie.

The backyard is getting quite crowded with bird-thingies.  The latest one is a bark butter feeder that I hung up a couple of weeks ago.   Bark butter is a spreadable kind of bird food that you can mush onto the bark of a tree,  or onto a hanging feeder.   You can buy both bark butter and bark butter feeders.   But, I decided to try my hand at making both myself.  Long story short, the birdies like it!  This is a Bewick’s wren snacking on it.  I have also seen black crested titmice and woodpeckers try it out.

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To make the feeder, I  grabbed a couple of pieces of cedar scrap from the shop, drilled shallow holes in each side with a forstner bit.  I staggered the holes on each side so they were not directly opposite each other, so that I wouldn’t accidentally drill all the way through the board.  Then I glued and nailed a piece of wood on top as an awning.   I didn’t measure, but I’d say that my board is about 16″ long and 6″ wide.

There are recipes on the web for bark butter that contain lard and corn meal and peanut butter and bird seed.  I simply got some all-natural peanut butter and mixed it with my current bird seed mix (mine is a mix of peanuts and whole sunflower seeds and millet) until it was spreadable.  Then I stirred in some cayenne pepper to dissuade the squirrels.   I spread some into each of the holes on the feeder and hung it up.  Within a week I saw some birds feeding off of it; which made me smile.

 

 

In the yard.

Today is the 7 year anniversary of starting this Sheila365 photoblog!  I’ve enjoyed it.  I hope you have too.

Big day at the ranch today.  I saw so many different species of birds.   Even so, I missed a few of the regulars, but, hey, I can’t stand in front of that window ALL DAY.  🙂

  • House Finch male (M) & female (F)
  • Orange Crowned Warbler
  • Northern Cardinal M&F
  • Downy Woodpecker M
  • House Sparrow M&F
  • Red Winged Blackbird M&F
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • White Winged Dove
  • Blue Jay
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Yellow Rumped Warbler
  • Carolina Wren
  • Red Bellied Woodpecker M&F
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • European Starling M
  • American Robin
  • Lesser Goldfinch M&F
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Black Crested Titmouse

I got some ok bird photos, but I’ll share a few of the garden, instead.

About 8 or 9 years ago, a neighbor gave me a dozen or so purple iris cuttings when she was thinning out her beds.   I’ve had them in the ground since then but rarely have they bloomed.   A year or so ago I moved them to a few different beds that get much more direct sunlight.  This year I’m thrilled to see them in bloom!  I love these short-lived flowers.

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We have bluebonnets coming up in the front and back yards.   Nothing says central texas like these beautiful wildflowers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Monte’s got baby salad greens planted.  Fresh lettuce every night!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I simply love spring.  Oh, wait, we have 2 weeks to go before spring.   I can’t wait!

I ♥ Bewick’s.

I’ve been observing my backyard especially carefully over the past several months.  I love that I was able to observe several Bewick’s wrens among the frequent visitors.  I recently hung a couple of new birdhouses up under the eaves, hoping to get some takers this year.  We also have a number of older birdhouses that have been hanging out there for several years, including one that I made and hung in the backyard over six years ago.   As I have been stalking my backyard birds more carefully, I’ve watched two pairs of Bewick’s wrens pick out houses in which they have built nests.

Rest assured, I will keep an eye on them and report back.  🙂  This is one of the residents of a new house that I hung a few weeks ago.  I bought it at Joann’s – it had the desirable-to-bewicks dimensions.  I drilled holes in the bottom for airflow, and I also cut off the perch.   So cute!

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This is the one of the new residents of the seasoned peek-a-boo bird house I made in December of 2011.  Happy to see it in use.

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I’ll be watching to see what develops.

Hiking Bull Creek.

Last weekend, I went for a 3-hour group hike with one of the biologists that does research for the City-of-Austin-managed Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  It was really interesting.   We hiked a short loop along the preserve at Bull Creek.  Along the way, I learned much about the native Ashe junipers throughout the hill country that I had previously come to detest, due to my annual cedar fever allergy symptoms.   But I came away with a new appreciation for the tree and the role it plays in the ecosystem of the Balcones Canyonlands.   I also learned about the other native grasses and shrubs that make up the understory of the woodland.  And about the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that will soon make its annual trek from Central America in early March to nest in the woodlands of the preserve until returning south in July.   I’m looking forward to more hikes out there.  Stay tuned.

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Bull Creek  is flowing nicely since the drought has broken.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, I caught a tiger swallowtail butterfly taking a break along the creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very nice!

A busy two weeks.

I have been away for a bit.  Since I last posted…

On Valentine’s Day we stopped by Cypress Creek Park while on a winding drive through the hill country.  As we walked down to the water, I spied a male belted kingfisher – the first I had ever seen in person.  I’m kinda getting into this birding thing, so I was very excited.  But, I didn’t have my camera with me.  So, being the budding-but-persistent-bird-photographer, I drove out there again the next day with my camera and spotted him again; holding court in a tree on the bank of the creek.  I couldn’t get very close, but I did come away with a photo of him.  Success!  A tad fuzzy, but my first, for the archive.  🙂

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The next day, I flew to Seattle to meet my sisters.   We went together to eastern Washington to visit our aunt; one of the last living siblings of my parents’ generation.  It was a nice weekend.  We shared laughs and memories and a few tears.   I enjoyed it.  I also snapped way too many pictures.   This one was of the ice crystals on the plane window next to my seat.

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Spokane has gotten much snow this year.  The nearby rivers are flooding and raging.  This is a picture of upper the Spokane River falls on our last night there.

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I’m back in Austin, now, and will try to keep the posts a tad more frequent.  Have a good week!