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!

 

One birdie, two birdie, three birdie, four…

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Today took me to Westcave Preserve with my friend, Doray, to participate in the annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count.   I’m still learning how to identify the many bird species beyond those that frequent my own backyard.   There’s much to learn, but I am enjoying the time spent out in the beautiful hill country of central Texas immensely.

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We counted birds that we saw or heard.   The counts get rolled up for each locality and are used to monitor bird populations from year to year.   A very nice day spent in a place that I love.

 

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.

Today I went birding with my friend, Doray, to Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.   I’m a novice.  I was able to get a lot of amazing photos of tree branches.  🙂   If I ever get an amazing photo of a bird, I may share here.  But for now, I won’t bore you with it.   We did see several kinds of birdies, so I’m calling it a success.

Here are two non-bird shots from the morning:

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Birdies above. 

At home I am feeling the absence of the little birdies and squirrels lately.  They started making themselves scarce about the same time a hawk was spotted swooping around the trees in our yard.   Hopefully this won’t last long. 

In the mean time, I was thrilled to see a flock of 20 or more Monk Parakeets flying around the Lamar & 51st street area as we headed home from dinner tonight.  We stalked them for a while but didn’t get a great shot. 

This is a picture of them near one of their nests.   I count 16 or so in this shot.  Kind of reminds me of a musical scale with the birds as the notes.