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Posts Tagged ‘band tailed pigeons’

I am so jazzed tonight: new bird in the bird feeder – and a rare one for a bird feeder, at that.

It was actually a pretty slow day for the bird feeder. It started frosty and cold, but once the sun was up, it warmed wonderfully. The birds tend to forage on their own when it is nice out.

Still, I had a couple Eurasian Starlings come in.

I was raised to hate starlings. They’re an invasive species, introduced from Europe, noisy and rather obnoxious. I have known a birder or two (or three or four) to take drastic measures to keep starlings out of the feeder. In fact, I have been known to quit feeding birds until the starlings move on.

This winter I decided to watch them. I am beginning to see them in a different light (my dad would roll over in his grave if he was in a grave – probably a good thing we cremated him). They’re a rather showy bird with an interesting repertoire of songs. I don’t think I will ever actually like starlings, but I think I can get used to their presence. They are, after all, here and here  to stay.

Two Band-tailed Pigeons dropped in. They didn’t stay long: my house is on a corner lot and people sometimes top at the stop sign for long minutes. Today someone got out and readjusted the load in the back of their pick-up and the pigeons decided not to hang out. They’re very shy birds, not at all like the rock doves you see congregating on public statues, under overpasses and on power lines. They are also native birds, unlike rock doves. And cleaner, I might add.

I don’t like rock doves much.

But that was it for birds until around 4:15 this afternoon, just before the sun went down. Then all the chickadees and usual little birds started filtering in. Or is that flitting in? They’re a nervous lot.

My friendly Townsend’s Warbler always takes time to pose for my camera.

But then there was the Stranger. At first I thought I had a lone Bushtit, but that would be unusual and this bird was considerably larger and slightly more yellow. It was too gray for a Goldfinch, but maybe a Lesser Goldfinch?

I snapped a photo and hoped that it would come out.

This was the best photo of the ones I took. The bird would never turn sideways to me and was entirely too nervous out in the open. I didn’t have the tripod set up to stabilize the camera (with the 75-300mm lens on it, the auto stabilization is not guaranteed to work). But the photo  is adequate.

I thought it might be a vireo because of the eye, but seeing a vireo in the feeder would be entirely unusual: they eat insects. Still… that is insect suet, full of tiny bug parts for the bug-lovers.

I usually check my birds against a couple different field guides when I am unsure about what I am looking at. Our old Peterson’s Guide that sits in the kitchen is reasonably reliable but I wasn’t satisfied with the choices. So I turned to the computer and the Cornell All About Birds web site.

Ta da! I have a definite ID on this fellow: Cassin’s Vireo (used to be Solitary Vireo, which is what Peterson’s Guide called it).

I’m jazzed.

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Our Thanksgiving Day was pretty quiet. The babies were up too early and the men slept in. Arwen fed children and prepared yams. I got up and poured myself a cup of coffee. Walking across the kitchen, WHAM! – my back went out. Just like that. Major spasms in the upper left quadrant that abated slightly when Arwen massaged it, but which have not yet left.

The kids were not planning on eating here today. They have friends (imagine that!) who do not have family nearby and they wanted to hang out with young people who share similar goals and who have small children as well. So by 11:00AM, we were left alone with the dog. Or the dog was left alone with us.

I muddled through getting the bread dough ready, the turkey stuffed and into the oven (missed my brother’s call but he talked to Don) and then I came down with an ocular migraine. I rarely have the headache (although sometimes I get a rebound one within 48 hours of the ocular migraine), but the little halo lights are disconcerting and blinding. This one was a particularly bad one (brought on, I think, by the spasms in my back).

I’ve talked to a lot of people who experience ocular migraines and everyone describes the halo differently, so I wonder if it isn’t different for everyone? For me, they lights start as a pinprick, then slowly become a semi-circle of lights that blink like the neon lights on a ferris wheel at night, seeming to move. I lose about a third of my vision and have to stop whatever I am doing if it requires reading, typing, or driving. A dark room helps, but it doesn’t make the lights go away. In fact, they can be more intense when I close my eyes and am forced to focus on them. Such was the case today.

I was beginning to think the day was a bust all around! But the migraine finally abated and I was able to relax a little and dinner came together as planned, on time.

When the meat thermometer reached 160-degrees (F), I set the table. Out with the fine china and crystal dishes. I opted out of digging out the fine silver flat ware because of my shoulder/back issue, so we used the Oneida flatware. That also meant I did not dig out the Thanksgiving cloth napkins, and paper was the order of the day.

There’s something very relaxing about tradition and even if it was going to be just the two of us, we both wanted some trappings of traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with fine china, crystal and my mother’s antique turkey platter.

When the thermometer beeped at 180-degrees (F), the turkey came out of the oven, the sourdough bread and home-made candied yams went in. I’m really not much into cooking at any time of the year, so I confess that Thanksgiving staples around here have to be simple to make.

The stuffing comes out of a box (I sauteé onions and add them, but the giblets go to the dog. Can’t stand the giblets). The yams are amazingly simple to make: boil whole for 15-20 minutes and they just pop out of their skins. A little brown sugar and butter and bake at 375 for 30 minutes (or so). The marshmallows go on top  for the last 5-10 minutes. The jellied cranberry sauce comes out of a can as do the olives.

The sourdough probably takes the most preparation. I have to feed the started the night before and mix the dough in the morning so it will rise at least once before I form the rounds.

This year I bought a handful of brussels sprouts and nuked them in a covered container with just a little bit of water, then drizzled a mixture of butter, basil leaves, salt & pepper over them. Yummy.

We added a bottle of 2007 Bogle petite sirah to the table and dinner was ready. The turkey was yummy.

We even had company.

The band-tailed pigeons showed up right as we sat down to dine. There are about six of them in the feeder (you can see five) and one sentry in the limb above, and five or more that are not in the photo because they were on other limbs, waiting their turn at the feeder. We’ve seen as many as nine on the feeder at once, with another ten or so hovering n the branches of the lodgepole pine and the trees across the street, or sitting on our eaves. I had to shoot the photo through the window because they fly off the moment the front door is opened a crack. They are very shy dinner guests.

When I started ProjectFeeder Watch, I wondered if I would get feedback when I entered the number of pigeons at our feeder at one time. I did: “That’s an unusually high number of band-tailed pigeons at once. Are you certain?” Oh, yes, I am certain. These beautiful game birds have been coming to our feeder for about three years now. Sometimes cars stop on the street out front and people stare in amazement. I’ve seen pedestrians pause.

We are the only people in the area that I know feed birds and I think our feeder is easy to get to. The band-tailed pigeons love the forest-like feel of the neighborhood where we live and nest here during the summer. In the winter, they flock up and we see them once a day or so. They come in, take over the feeder, fill their craws and fly away to roost and “chew” the bird seed (pigeons peck small bits of gravel which passes through their system, chewing up the seeds in the craw since birds do not have teeth). (Jaci’s Simplified Explanation.)

So we dined with the flock of pigeons outside the window, Murphy curled up on my feet (why my feet?) and no children to share our day with.

Clean-up was simple and the dishes are now done, the turkey carves and refrigerated, and everything put away.

All we need is for the kids to bring us home one of the pies they baked and took over to their friends’ house. In my pie pans.

I’ve called my son and wished him Happy Thanksgiving; Don has called his parents and his brother; my brother called and talked to Don. I need to call my dad in a few. I talked to Chrystal yesterday (she had other plans today as well). So we’re good in the family department.

Thankful for a quiet day since my shoulder still hurts like a son-of-a-gun and I’m a little more than crabby. Hopefully whatever I did to put it out will resolve itself over night. Because tomorrow is Christmas Tree Day.

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