Carolina on My Mind

In my last post I mentioned how I strive to take photos of our “backyard” birds in their most natural setting. However, it’s been winter and the local birds that stick around have been taking advantage of the food we have provided at feeders. This results in photos of birds in a less than natural setting. That doesn’t detract from the beauty of the birds.

This next group of photos was taken at the feeder. Yes, I do try to crop the unnatural parts away when possible, but it isn’t always an option.

When the photo is taken in a more natural location, it is usually more appealing to me.

Some species, like the Northern Cardinal, House Finch and Goldfinch tend to perch in branches and therefore present themselves as exceptional models for my photographic aspirations. But, other species don’t typically hang out in areas that are easy to access, or are challenging to film. The cute, quick and spunky Carolina Wren is one of those birds. They prefer to zip around in the underbrush. I’ve been able to get some good shots of that bird over the past few months because, well, they like suet. Peanut suet nuggets are their favorite and as long as I offer that supplemental food source, I am able to film the little, brown bird. But, I have very few photos of Carolina Wrens in a truly natural setting, and those that I do have are mostly just well cropped images taken near the feeder.

That changed yesterday when, I was able to film a Chickadee in its natural abode, doing what it does. At first, it was a quick movement in some shrubs that caught my eye. Look dead center in the next photo.

I was able to get a few nice shots of that bird. Then, a few moments later I saw it perched on the gnarly, dead truck near the Ponderosa Pines and got a couple of additional photos there. Of course, the absolute clarity isn’t nearly as good as when I am much closer to the bird, but to me that just isn’t as important as knowing where I saw this bird – just hanging out the way it lives it life.

Natural

We feed wild birds. The goal is to supplement their diet in winter when food is scarce. Additionally, there are times (like the very deep freeze we experienced only a couple of weeks ago) that the energy it might take to secure food exceeds the calories the meal provides. At those times, offering a highly caloric peanut, for example, can be life saving.

The Chickadees are incredibly alert and always know when I’m on my way to fill the feeder. They fly over to within a few yards and wait to see what I might pour onto the platform. Here is a series of photos of a Chickadee that has taken a peanut to a nearby branch. It gingerly holds it between its feet while it chips away to make morsels it can consume. I took these photos just yesterday.

I am always happy to capture a lovely bird, expecially doing something interesting like negotiating the process of eating food we offered. However, I prefer to film them in their more natural state. That isn’t always easy. A Chickadee is a very tiny creature. I know that they love to spend their time in the exceedingly tall Ponderosa Pine Trees. I’ve seen them fly into the depths of those evergreens, but once they pass the outer edge of the boughs, there’s no way that I can spot them in the depths of the massive trees.

That all changed yesterday when, late in the afternoon, I stopped in a location very near the Ponderosas because I spotted a little bird in the thickets nearby. It turned out to be a House Sparrow. The lighting isn’t great, but the artistic element of the shot made me smile.

Then, I saw movement about twenty feet up in the pine trees. Dang. It was gone. No, there it is again! It was quick movement that was very challenging for me to follow. But, I took a chance and focused on a small bunch of dead, rust colored pine needles where I had first seen the zippy movement. Then, I snapped away. It was on a wing (hey, no pun intended) and a prayer that I might catch the bird. When I reviewed the files, there were several blanks – as in lovely photos of the pines and cones, but no birds. I had almost given up doing a one-at-a-time review when I spotted something. Look to the left of the next photo, just under the dry needles.

Yes, it’s great fun to film a Chickadee holding a peanut that we provided. However, I feel incredibly fortunate to capture that same bird eating its natural diet of pine nuts.


With Spring on the horizon, I’m able to travel about the property a bit more – like that spot where I saw the Chickadee in the Ponderosa Pines. A few places are still off limits because the ground is fully saturated and I could sink down and get stuck without warning. That almost happened yesterday when I tried to film an Eastern Meadowlark that was hunting in Jaye’s Pasture. Below are the best shots I was able to capture. I’m pretty sure those are living insects / worms that the bird has in its beak. I find that sort of miraculous since just fourteen days ago, it was below zero F here! Nature is… yeah, beyond words.

SPRING!

Technically, we have a few weeks before the official beginning of Spring. But, ever since I was a small child, seeing an American Robin was always the sign that Spring had arrived. Today March 3, 2021 I saw my first Robin. He flew to the top of a gnarly, dead tree near the Ponderosa Pines and hung out patiently while I captured his iconic image on film.

All The Colors

Although it is often considered just another blackbird, the Common Grackle is far more brilliantly colored than one might first recognize. I suppose this bird is an illustration of the notion that black contains all the colors.

This handsome bird landed in a tree near where I was filming – perhaps to make certain he was included in the photo shoot. He certainly deserved it. Just look at all those shades of pink, and amber and orange – topped with the green and blue hues on his head. Absolutely gorgeous.

BEE-N A Long Winter

I’m not an entomologist, but I know an insect when I see one. In this case, I was certainly not expecting to see one.

Yesterday, I wore glove, my standard two hats and four layers of clothing when I went out to film the resident birds for the first time in a good long while. Why had I not ventured out for so long? First, like nearly everyone else in my country, the deep freeze in February kept me huddled up indoors. Then, with the quick thaw after substantial snow, the ground turned to mud – deep, deep mud. The kind of mud in which one might get their golf cart stuck – and, yes I did! So, even though I was ready to travel outdoors, my accommodations were not available.

Today, for the first time in months, I didn’t wear a hat. I took it just in case – but, then I felt terribly silly because there was no need for such clothing today. In fact, I was overwhelmed with joy at the feeling of wind blowing through my hair. I also didn’t wear gloves. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t remember how cold it was just a few days ago.

Nevertheless, even with such a brilliantly warm and sunny day I didn’t expect to see an insect when I looked through this afternoon’s worth of photos. Yes! I captured honey bee on film…Today! What he was doing out buzzing about so early I can’t say. I suppose it is possible this is a common time for honey bees to break from the hive’s warmth in early March. Like I said, I’m not an entomologist!

PROTOTYPE

We were very fortunate two years ago when we put up a cheap, farm-store Purple Martin house and within days had a small colony forming. I think we had six pairs that fledged chicks that first year. The photos below are from last year – April, May and July.

Last year, we added a gourd tower (manufactured plastic, individual houses hung on a tower.)

Sure enough, some of the Purple Martins chose the gourds over the standard square house and the colony of these cheerful, vocal birds increased in numbers.

June 11, 2020

While they showed they were able to meet the needs of the Purple Martins, I wasn’t terribly pleased with the gourds I acquired. They were not manufactured very well. They came in two pieces with one screw. The two sides were supposed to snap together and the single screw (at the very top) was supposed to hold the unit together. Just manipulating the two plastic pieces to fit into the groove was challenging. The bottom design didn’t hold the sides together as it was specified to do. In the end I ended up placing a long strip of tape down each side of each gourd because I had little faith they would not pop open at some point and little, baby birds would tumble to the ground. I hoped the tape would last the summer breeding season. Fortunately, it did.

After the Purple Martins had fledged their new broods and flown south for the winter, in late autumn we had a heavy wind and a few of the gourds fell to the ground. The tower I purchased had metal clips to secure each gourd and apparently they failed. I realized that if we wanted to continue to provide summer breeding housing to these lovely birds, we would need to make some improvements.

There’s a saying that necessity is the mother of invention. We train dogs and we have a small, therapy pool. Those are unrelated ventures! However, they both require the use of bleach. One day, I noticed a large stash of empty bleach bottles Robert had set aside. It brought forth an idea. Those bleach bottles (BB) looked similar in shape and size of the plastic Purple Martin gourds. I wondered if we could repurpose the empty bottles into the 2021 Purple Martin colony upgrade.

For inspiration, I went to the PurpleMartin.org website to see what sort of products they offered. Of course, they have many versions of manufactured “gourds” as well as the actual, natural gourd options. Some of the plastic options are incredibly fancy – and of course, expensive (we are talking hundreds of dollars!)

The price point for an eight gourd until was hundreds of dollars over what I could spend. However, I did purchase three fairly inexpensive products which I thought could be added to our BB experiment. Then, I waited for them to arrive while I contemplated all of the pros and cons of adding a BB tower to our farm-store basic housing unit and the gourd tower. Finally, I discussed the project with Robert since he was likely to be the man in charge of building the hanging structure and assisting on the individual units, too.

Today I decided to create a prototype in order to have the opportunity to touch and manipulate the new apartments. It was the beginning of this experiment and I was quite excited to get started. Purple Martins send a scout in advance of the rest of the breeding age adults. That bird’s arrival is tracked by the experts. We live in a zone of “March 15” as the time we should expect a scout to arrive. That is when we should have our housing available so that the scout can direct the later arriving colony members to choose our location! I’m feeling a time crunch coming on!

MY BB UNIT PROTOTYPE PROCESS

First, I allowed the BB to hang off my finger to see how it settled. It hung fairly perpendicular to the ground with only a minimal tilt. I decided to put the hole on the downward tilt side (opposite of the handle.) I figured the birds could make that approach and positioning the hole on the “underside” would prevent the elements like rain or wind from entering the interior.

Next, I used one of the prefab gourds I had purchased last year to determine where to place the hole – measuring from the bottom of the bottle. I am aware that the BB have more space above the hole than the gourds provide. I am not certain how much that might affect the birds from finding them suitable. But, I figured that the space from the hole down to the bottom is more critical than the space that is above the hole. That is where the nest will be built and the chicks will be fed. I’m no expert. It’s just an educated guess.

I used a template that I purchased from the PurpleMartin.org site to draw the outline of the hole. This half moon design is referred to as a “Starling Resistant Entrance.” It’s not exactly the same shape as the hole in the gourds we have, but it’s from the Purple Martin experts. So, I chose to use this template rather than to sketch the shape from the plastic gourds. We didn’t have an issue with Starlings in the last two years, so I’m hoping this will still be sufficient to prevent them from attempting to occupying a BB housing unit.

I used a dremmel tool to cut the hole. It was a bit of a fiasco. I couldn’t move along quickly enough for the bit to refrain from zipping a slice in any direction it choose to take my hand. I suspect controlling the bit is just one of those skills one needs to practice. I attempted rectifying the imperfections using an exacto blade and realized that’s a fairly dangerous tool to use on a slippery, curved surface that isn’t secured in one place.

Don’t freak out. The image below isn’t testament to my inability to even get close to the pre-drawn line!!!! I actually realized I had made a measurement error the first time I drew where the opening should be. Then, I drew a new hole and cut along that line.

Another of the goodies I acquired from the PurpleMartin.org site was a preformed, metal “porch.” While the gourds we used last year do not have any sort of “perch” outside the hole, there’s actually a reason for that omission. House Sparrows are said to prefer houses with a front door perch. Leaving it off is considered a method of discouraging HS from moving in. When the Purple Martin chicks fledged from our Red house (which did have some issues with House Sparrow invasion), we were able to see them sitting on their little porches before flying off. That option was lost to the gourd fledged chicks. So, I purchased a few of the metal porches. It’s part of the experiment.

Curiously, when I tried to install the metal porch though the hole I created using the half-moon template, the porch didn’t fit. I had to trim the hole a bit larger.

When I compared the somewhat larger hole in the BB unit to the original gourd, it was clear that the gourd opening was significantly smaller than my premier BB unit opening. I worried about a Starling take over. Perhaps, that’s merely because this recent deep freeze has brought many Starlings to my feeding station on my back patio, and at times it’s a bit like watching the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “The Birds” as I look outside.

Note that the plastic gourd opening is quite a bit smaller than the template opening.

In a second bleach bottle, I cut a hole using the Starling resistant template. When I tried to fit the metal porch through the hole, again it didn’t fit. This time, rather than cutting the hole in the BB larger, I chose to trim the metal porch. I left one side (the exterior porch) the original size. I trimmed the side which would become the interior platform just a bit smaller. That way I didn’t have to enlarge the hole and make it even larger than the original gourd entry port. In the following photo, the pencil is pointing to the side that I trimmed versus the unchanged porch on the right.

The final product that I purchased as a means of exploring options to make our BB units the best they can be, was a “gourd canopy.” Some of the fancy plastic gourds have an “awning” of sorts molded into their design. It is intended to reduce the effects of wind and rain from entering the nest unit. This little piece of shaped and curved metal is offered to people who prefer using the natural gourds, but with the canopy enhancement.

The written instructions suggest that one use a bead of silicone calking to attach it to the gourd. I just used a couple of pieces of tape to see how they might fit the BB units – we can attach it permanently later. The first photo below shows it attached to the BB quite high versus the opening (which is above a horizontal groove line that is designed into the bleach bottle.) The second photo shows the two prototype BB units with the canopy attached closer to the opening.

With two prototypes completed for examination and contemplation, I invited Robert to come add his two cents. We had a good discussion about the entry holes, the canopy placement and the design of a porch. I only purchased a couple of the professionally manufactured items, and we discussed whether to purchase more of the same, or whether to create our own design.

We also discussed how many BB units we should implement into the experiment (Robert said 50!) And we talked about the support poles and placement of the units on the poles. I envision hanging the BB units on a horizontal pole at the same height as the current gourd tower and another pole for a second story of the BB units a bit higher or lower than the first. I don’t think it needs to be as “three dimensional” as the gourd tower. After all, many species that nest in colonies, do so on the side of a hill or mountain where the nesting units are positioned in a far more column/row orientation than a circular format. Robert may have another strategy. We’ll see what we come up with when we are ready to hang the BB units for occupancy. It brings a smile to my face to think about that day.


In the meantime, we must continue to do “real” work and tend to many other projects. But, it didn’t take long to create one BB unit, so once we decide on the best design I can create a unit or two every day just as a way to put my mind and hands to work on something a bit creative and fun!

I will update on this project as we move forward! Comments are always welcome.

I’VE GOT YOUR BACK

The wild birds have been suffering through extreme cold. While they obviously need more calories as they expend to keep warm, they also need fresh water, and a lot of it. The more you eat the more you need to drink!

This American Goldfinch has a serious injury to its leg. I only noticed it once I downloaded the files and reviewed them. It’s hard to say what might have happened, but it looks quite fresh.

I was not aware of the injury when I was filming two Goldfinches as they drank from an opening in the patio pond.

First one bird arrived and took a drink. There was a White-crowned sparrow in the foreground. I wonder if the Goldfinch was using it as an warning signal. If the Sparrow took flight, the Goldfinch could do so, too in order to avoid any threat that the Sparrow detected. After all, it seems quite vulnerable to dip your head so low, especially below the surface of the snow.

Shortly there after, a second Goldfinch arrived. The first bird took another long, slow drinks as it perched on the twig. Facing the opposite direction, the second bird remained next to the first. It reminded of a bit of how horses face head to tail in a summer pasture to take advantage of the other horse’s tail swooshes – which help chase away flies.

I got the sense that the birds were providing “look out” services to each other. Predators could be lurking around any corner or over any snow drift. It can be beneficial to have a buddy that has your back.

It’s hard to see it in these images, but the second bird spent less time drinking than did the first bird, and it changed position on the twig a couple of times, too. He seemed more focused on the first bird, than his own need to drink. I can’t tell for sure, especially because Goldfinches change colors through the seasons, but the second bird may be a male (more yellow) and the first bird a female (more drab colored.) Perhaps, these are mates.

The last image, above, looks so tender. Call me human. I am. But I see concern and care.

As I was reviewing the images, I realized that the first bird was the injured Goldfinch that I had filmed earlier. I wondered if the second bird was aware of the first bird’s plight. If so, is that last image above truly what it seems?

I believe Nature is filled with kind moment like these. We just need to relax and take in what’s happening to see such acts of unity. I am going to allow myself to believe the first bird has a good chance of surviving her injury because she has a mate that has her back.

Rear Window

In the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie, Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart plays a photojournalist who recently broke his leg. To alleviate his boredom while confined to a wheelchair, he takes up peering out of his back window at his neighbors. When we first built our new house, which I designed, creating a large office with french doors with a view of nature was of paramount importance to me. Yes, I love looking at the natural world. But, also it was a goal of mine since I was six years old. As far back as i can remember, I envisioned my future as a writer, sitting at a large desk which faced glass doors that opened to a garden and nature beyond. Fifty years later that dream came to fruition.

Like most parts of the country, this past week has been paralyzingly cold here. I may not have a broken leg like Jimmy Stewart’s character in the movie, but I was beginning to feel the same angst to go outdoors. With the temperature in single digits and dipping below zero at times, it was best to stay indoors. So, I began peering out my rear window at the birds that were coming for the fresh water and food we were offering. When the sun finally began to shine, I wondered if I might be able to film the birds through the doors. I was happy to see that it is possible to focus through glass and get a decent shot.

BLUE JAYS

I love these birds, but they tend to be fairly aloof when I park near the platform feeder in the Pond Meadow. In my office, while sitting behind the door I didn’t seem to affect the Blue Jays. I was able to capture their beauty while remaining comfy indoors.

NORTHERN CARDINALS

The copious amount of food that we provided, and probably the water even more so, attracted many Cardinals to my office patio – more than I had ever seen out in the fields. They are brilliantly beautiful. They also tend to settle for a spell when they perch, which makes them good models.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH

My patio pond (a 400 gallon poly stock tank turned goldfish habitat) is also home to a number of aquatic plants. The Goldfinches love to perch on vertical branches, and the aquatic mint stems were a great landing platform for these lovely creatures.

HOUSE FINCH

This cute, male (red markings) House Finch seemed quite curious about something he saw below him as he perched atop a shepherd’s crook hanger. The female House Finch (plain brown streaked) appears to have been adopted by a nice Northern Cardinal couple! If it’s cold and you need to shield yourself from the wind, best choose to snuggle with bigger birds!

PURPLE FINCH

Wow. I finally captured a male, Purple Finch on film in our backyard. He’s quite handsome. These were taken on 2/17/21, which was overcast with some snow flurries (the day after the shots in the bright, full sun.) I hope he’ll be back when the lighting will illuminate his incredible color.

NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD

One of my favs! In the 40 minutes I was filming out my window, this bird made multiple trips to the pond filter overflow where there’s open, fresh water flowing. These birds love when we toss out dried meal worms, and they have a great affinity to the peanut suet nuggets. This Mockingbird took up a role of chasing off the Starlings (an invasive species) when they tried to land where the seed had been scattered.

MOURNING DOVES

I posted some photos of the doves earlier. Here are some new shots. It’s about 20 degrees warmer on this day (still well below freezing) and they seem a bit less overwhelmed with the cold. I find them quite photogenic – and they enjoy being stationary, which make filming them fairly easy when they are present.

CAROLINA WREN

This quick, tiny bird loves to remain in the “thickets” near the ground, so it isn’t spending too much time out in the open on my patio deck. However, it is taking advantage of the running water in the pond filter overflow, which is where it was when I took these photos. It was sharing the resource with a female Northern cardinal.

COMMON GRACKLE

This guy was in a very bad way. He was hobbling on one leg, but mostly sitting directly on the ground (unable to stand.) I’m hoping he made it through the cold and is recovering. The last photo was taken a couple days after the first few. If its the same bird, I’m happy to see him looking more chipper.

SPARROWS

In an earlier post, I shared images of the numerous Sparrow species I filmed out my rear window. The photos here were taken after I published that post.

FOX SPARROW

WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS

AMERICAN TREE SPARROW

I think the bird sharing a meal with the Fox Sparrow (larger bird in foreground) in these next few photos is an American Tree Sparrow.

DARK-EYED JUNCO

There little birds in their fancy tuxedos have taken to our offerings by showing up in numbers. I posted some photos of them in the SPARROW page earlier. Here are a few new shots.

The weather is supposed to warm up this coming week – getting up to the lower 40’s by mid week. I look forward to getting outdoors and tending to the feeders out in the pastures. However, I must say that picking up my camera and moving six feet to the patio doors has been a very easy endeavor that yielded some images that were fairly good for the effort. Still, there’s nothing like feeling a bit of sun on my cheeks and a little breeze in my hair. Mostly, what I missed was all the chatter. This afternoon, while sitting at my desk, I heard a bird song I was not familiar with – it occurred once, and then I never heard it again. It reminded me that spring is coming which means that birds will begin to sing and being out there with them is much more exciting than watching them through the rear window.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

While filming the wild birds on my patio, one species stuck out as the most demonstrative of the depth of the frigid temperatures. The Mourning Doves seem to present the image of “Hey! It’s damn cold out here!” better than any other of the fluffed up or puffed out birds. With that said, I don’t know why they don’t cuddle a little closer to each other!

This bird seems to say it all! “What am I doing here, and why didn’t I fly south to the Caribbean like those other birds?”

I shot all these photos through my glass doors, and some photos ended up with an interesting sort of lighting. I like the feeling that it brings forth.

Sparrows Under Glass

It’s too cold. Too cold to let the dogs outside for more than a few minutes. Too cold to drive to town without preparing for a serious emergency. Too cold for birds. Oh, the birds. It’s so cold for those tiny little creatures that, while wearing “down underwear” are still struggling to survive in these outrageous conditions.

I shall name this bird….”Dang I’m Cold.”

Mourning Dove snuggled up atop our patio pond.

It’s also too cold to take food out to the platform feeder in the Pond Meadow because, well, the golf cart told us it was too cold to function in these temperatures and we can’t risk taking a vehicle out in the deep drifts of snow if it might get stuck. To discourage the House Sparrow Population and alleviate the bird poop situation, we refrain from routinely filling the feeders up on my office patio. But, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The birds are struggling. It is time to change strategies and put out all the food the birds might need while we all endure this unusual weather. Black sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, shelled peanuts, peanuts in the shell, thistle seed for the goldfinches, and even a bit of cracked corn for the doves were tossed on the patio and poured into feeders. And, the birds came.

It doesn’t hurt that we heat the patio pond (a 400+ gallon poly tub that sustains a school of goldfishes and aquatic plants.) We also leave the filter running throughout winter to provide a constant movement of the water. The birds have seemed quite thrilled at having fresh water alongside their bounty of food. The next two photos are of a female Northern Cardinal (1) and a male Purple Finch (2) tipping their heads back while drinking from a hole Robert made in the top of the pond. The third and forth images are of a Carolina Wren and a Mockingbird drinking from the filter overflow.

I have french doors from my cozy warm office to the outdoor patio, and my desk faces those doors (a design that was the starting point of this home we built in 2016.) I love looking out those glass doors and watching the birds, but this cold weather has made me miss something. My desire to photograph the birds seemed unattainable. I simply didn’t think it was possible to operate a camera through the glass without being disappointed for the effort when nothing was in focus. On Monday it snowed from sun up to sun down and it was coming down heavy. It wasn’t exactly conducive to taking pictures, anyway. But, yesterday the sun came out, the sky was brilliant blue and I couldn’t hold back. It was worth giving it a try.

After tolerating the frigid air on my hands while I attempted to wipe off the dog slime from the outside glass, I got out the camera and started shooting. There were dozens of birds flying in and out of the patio area and I struggled to stay focused on the object of my focus. But, in the end I was actually surprised at the quality of some of the images, and for those that were clearly “not clear” there was still something valuable – almost artistic – in the ethereal ambiance the pane of glass had added to the pictures.

After reviewing the files, I realized that there are several interesting subjects that are worth sharing. Because of the “never seen” element, this first page is about the sparrows that showed up on my office patio.

FOX SPARROW

I’ve only ever heard a Fox Sparrow on our property, once. Luckily I also recorded the song or I might not even believe myself. I have never seen one – hence, I have never filmed one. Even though they aren’t typical visitors to feeders, the frigid conditions yielded a few individuals! This species spends the non-breeding part of its life in my zone, but they aren’t easy to see as they typically don’t perch on the edge of an elevated feeder – preferring to feed on the ground in the cover of thickets. The filming-through-glass condition didn’t permit me to get a great shot – which is too bad – but, the photos that I took were, even for me, recognizable as an authentic Fox Sparrow. Finally! I’ve read that this species is likely to scratch for food. The second photo below shows the snow spraying up as a result of that behavior, which I witnessed over and over as I watched them feed.

WHITE-THROATED SPARROW

I’ve only filmed a White-throated Sparrow once. It was during the fall migration and it was a terrible quality photo. I assumed that sole bird was just passing through. Apparently, some stuck around in my area albeit haven’t seen them until now. I’m happy we could give them a bit of sustenance.

DARK-EYED JUNCO

Dark-eyed Juncos are listed in the Sparrow section of guides. They arrived for the winter, but I only have only seen a couple at a time when I film the birds at the platform feeder. Clearly, there were many more hiding in the brush, because they showed up on numbers to take advantage of the food we offered.

AMERICAN TREE SPARROW

I have filmed a few of these cute, little birds but they are not a common sight when I travel around the property or at the platform feeder in the Pond Meadow. Their markings can confuse me, as they have the copper colored head of the Chipping Sparrow. They have the gray cheek coloring similar to the Field Sparrows, and the side-eye stripe like a Song Sparrow and the Chipping Sparrow. But, I’m pretty sure I got the ID correct on these birds that showed up yesterday and today for the food we offered. These birds have a black spot in the center of their chest, so if I get a view of the front of the bird, I have more confidence in my ID.

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS

The usual White-crowned sparrows were all about. These are cutie-patooties. Identifying them can be a bit challenging because the juveniles do not sport the crisp black-white headdress, but rather have brown in place of the black. I have caught myself misidentifying a Juv. White-crowned Sparrow as an American Tree Sparrow more than once. Then, when the bird turns directly towards me, I realize my mistake.

SONG SPARROWS

Song Sparrows abound here, summer and winter. When Spring arrives, they will begin to live up to their name and sing through the day. Until I finally saw a “real” Fox Sparrow for the first time, yesterday, I frequently thought that a bird I filmed might be a Fox Sparrow, but turned out to be a Song Sparrow. What I find confusing is that the juvenile Song Sparrows (and supposedly per the guides even the adults) sport some gray on their heads. But, not every Song Sparrow I have filmed has gray on the head. They also do not all have the same amount of streaking on their chests.

I rarely see a Song Sparrow atop a feeder, but on occasion, a single bird will show up under the feeder and scratch around for a snack. Yesterday and today I filmed many birds that I figured were Song Sparrows but then, I wondered – is this some version of a juvenile or variant Fox Sparrow? This birding is very confusing at times. Any Sparrow Experts that would like to set me straight, if I have misrepresented a bird are encouraged to share their knowledge in the Comments below, or via email.

HOUSE SPARROW

Of course, there are House Sparrows that make a living here. Here’s a photos of a pretty specimen of this invasive species.

TOGETHER IN ONE SHOT

Here are a few photos that show more than one sparrow in the same frame.

UNKNOWNS (or too uncertain to guess)

There was a time when I lumped all small, brown birds into a single category of “don’t bother” but all that changed when I began to actually look at the different birds and learn about their unique qualities. During this winter torment of cold and snowy weather, I’m happy to be able to offer all of them the chance to make it through until at least next week. The forecast is calling for temperatures in the forties! WhooHoo!