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Posts Tagged ‘Bird Bath’

Crow Feathers

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I moved the concrete bird bath from the front yard to the back yard last fall. I was tired of the crows using it as a place to rinse their food: fried chicken left-overs, hamburger buns, dog poop, hatchling birds, half-eaten worms. It was a daily battle: spray out the bowl, refill with fresh water, and watch as the crows returned to place some treasure in the water to soften. <Sigh>

We feed the bird out front: the old lodge pole pine that came with the house has a long, sturdy, limb from which to hang a large feeder full of black-oil sunflower seeds, convenient nails in the trunk from which to hang suet feeders, all within the easy view of the dining room picture window. I’ve taken countless photos of birds and squirrels through the glass over the years, and the bird bath could be set just atop the retaining wall, within view of the window also.

The lodge pole has its own story: it has been slowly dying over the span of our 15 years in this house. Two Springs ago, the Arbor Society stopped by to offer us information on planting a new tree (so poor did our pine look, then!). The woman actually suggested a cedar (one of those nasty things you cannot see under or through) to replace the open branches of the lodge pole. I told her, as nicely as possible, that we wouldn’t soon be replacing “Westley”.

“Westley?” she wondered.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s only ‘mostly dead’.”

Sadly, two years later, the joke is on us: no Miracle Max came through for Westley, and the lodge pole is quite dead. What we will replace it with that is both tall and sturdy enough to invite our birds to continue to come here is, as yet, undetermined.

Meanwhile, I had to move the bird bath to the back yard where we spend much of the summer months. Last year, we still had two very large bird dogs that patrolled the perimeter of the fenced-in back. Their presence had a two-fold effect on the bird-bath: no crows, and fewer small birds daring to take the plunge. They’d stop and sneak a drink, but no bird let down its guard to bathe while we were in the yard with the dogs.

Fate, and age, deprived us of those dogs last summer. The back yard is unpatrolled, and the wee birds are braver. The hummingbirds come closer, the wrens nested in the garage, the towhees are attempting a nest in the yard (my dog disturbed their previous attempt, some four years ago), and the bird bath has been a hub for evening ablutions by robin and towhee.

The crows have been watching from their perches top the tall Doug firs that surround us. The crows have sneaked into the yard, testing to see if the big grey dog will come charging and barking, as usual. The crows have perched atop the roof peak and cocked their curious eyes at us as we sit around our little fire pit.

The crows have started washing their food in the bird bath.

It started with half a worm floating in the bottom of the bowl. The next day, the water was soiled and gray, and my husband cleaned it. Yet another morning, and half a worm floated there.

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I flipped the frame of an old hanging basket over the bird bath.

Fortunately, it has been cooler, and threatening rain (even raining, at times). My wicked crow-deterrent plan is to eventually only do this on evenings or days when we will not be out in the yard, or at least in and out of the house. The framework will be removed when the bath can be guarded.

I hope it will work. So far, it has managed to keep the crows out, but it is also preventing all other birds from using the bird bath.

None of the birds have expressed interest in my other bird baths for bathing (or food washing).

I don’t know if it is the slick feeling of the porcelain bowls or the placement of the rocks that keep the birds out of these. (The rocks are there for the bees to climb up on, and therefore escape drowning. The bees cannot find footing on the porcelain and drown; they can easily get out of the concrete bath with its rough-textured bowl. I thought the rocks would help this year – I hate drowning wasps, bees, and other innocent insects.)

Much as I love crows – and crows love me – I cannot have them washing their food in water that others use for cleansing…specially if that food is sometimes the nestlings of the other birds. Wish me luck.

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A little bird came to visit.

My husband and I leaned back in the lawn chairs as the sun dipped below the trees and houses to the west of us and the shadows stretched across the yard. This is the time of evening when the backyard birds return to the fold. The song sparrow will fly from rhododendron to Hawthorne and over the the filbert. The robins will chirp noisily from the giant old tree in the neighbor’s yard, asking us to move so they can come down and take their evening baths.

Tonight, the spotted towhee hopped along under the espalier apple trees, then over to the Spanish lavender, hunting small insects. Some evenings, he will hop up onto the bird bath and take a dip, but perhaps we were too close this evening. He worked his way trough the day lilies and into the Hawthorne before flitting over to the rhododendron. He back-tracked the same way.

The Bewick’s wrens have set up housekeeping inside the garage, and must have little peepers hatched now. We are very quiet when we have to go into the garage to remove or replace garden tools, careful not to disturb the hidden nest on the shelves just above the tools. The wrens hop in and out through the gap in the side door of the garage, safe from marauding cats. They work their way along the ground around the garbage dumpster, then the yard debris bins and the recycle bin, coming out behind us (Oh! So clever! Humans didn’t see us!). They then flit to the top of the fence before dropping back to the ground or flitting over to the Hawthorne to hunt for insects. The Hawthorne is every bird’s favorite refuge.

A little brown bird flew into the yard and landed first on the glass patio table, then on the grass beneath it. Don said, “Hello, little pine siskin.”

It suddenly made a short flight to just under his chair, then up onto his feet and sandals. There, it looked surprised: we weren’t just another set of bushes, but we were flesh and blood, and human! Startled, it flew away to the Hawthorne: a little bird that came to visit.

 

 

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Warning: Gross Factor

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This. I came home to this. Bread floating in the bird feeder, murky water, and a chicken bone with the marrow pecked out.

Pretty darn sure that wasn’t a raccoon’s work. Not that we don’t have raccoons, but…

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This. The culprit. But this is an After photo. I didn’t see it bring the chicken sandwich in. I just cleaned up after it.

And a good thing I did, too.

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Mr. Spotted Towhee was waiting for a clean bath.

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Mr. Towhee apparently walks on water.

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He also falls sideways into the water. He was sober.

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He got very, very wet.

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Then the crow came back with more food to wash.

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I get the “why” when the crow is washing off undigested almonds it found inside a dog turd.

But if it’s going to carry the dog turd that far… couldn’t it just eat it out of my sight? Leave the bird bath for other birds?

And what was it with the chicken bone and the bread?

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Do crows drool?

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This has nothing to do with the post, I just thought it was a funny photo of a crow’s – well, er, um – bum.

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I woke up this morning at 7:00, er- 8:00, AM. I hate Daylight Savings Time. I’ll spend the next six months trying to get my body to adjust to it, and then we’ll go back to regular time, and for what? So those darn farmers can have enough light in the day to grow crops. They can’t just get up with the sun, you know. The clocks have to change, too.

It was a beautiful day out. Another beautiful day. This is going down as one of those winters that wasn’t.

Why, just yesterday, I talked to my oldest in Alaska and she told me that they were having to truck in snow for the ceremonial start to the Iditarod. This is the second time in the history of the race that the real start has been moved further north from Anchorage, to Fairbanks.

Last year, Juneau was snowed in for months. This year, they truck in snow for the biggest race in Alaska.

By the way, the Iditarod is huge in Alaska. It’s largely ignored here in the Lower 48 (except by people like me, which is why my daughter thought to even mention it. She knows I am a fan of the endurance mushing race).

All that to say this: she ended our conversation with, “I think it is Spring here. We never had Winter.”

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I did not take this photo today. But I summoned it out of the archives because today was Bird Bath Day. I didn’t have my camera handy for all the birds who claimed a turn at the bath. There were at least four Dark-Eyed Juncos.

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(Obviously this photo wasn’t from today, either. The sun was out and not a rain cloud in the sky, much less a rain drop). I saw a robin in the bath and a Spotted Towhee and a Brewer’s Blackbird.

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The Brewers Blackbirds were sitting in the neighbor’s tree, singing. They sound so pretty. I think one of these birds (the lower one) is actually a European Starling.

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I love this photo of the Fox Sparrow in the Hawthorne, in part because the Camellia in the background looks like an Easter Egg tree.

I didn’t do much in the yard today. There’s not much to do in March when the weeds are slow and the established perennials are just poking up through the soil. We haven’t passed the Last Frost date, so I don’t want to plant anything. Actually, TRUTHFULLY, I didn’t WANT to do much today.

Harvey, on the other hand, was a very busy bee.

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He went hunting.

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He went digging.

Yes, our dogs dig holes in our back yard. But so does the Mole.

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“Dey’s moles in dere. I can hear dem walkin'”

That’s a paraphrase of a quote my toddler son made one morning when we were commuting down the freeway. We were passed by a van with penguins painted on the side. My son said, “Dey’s penguins in dere.” I asked, “So how do you know that?” “I can hear dem walkin’.”

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This is pure, unfiltered joy.

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Determination.

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Sadly, this sort of enthusiasm leads to this (and this is the CLEANED UP version).

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Yes, I have resorted to Dog Shaming after a day of Hole Digging.

Why? Why?

Because this is how it really looks:

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Just click on that baby and take a look. Or cue Kenny Loggins. There’s not a dog in our life that is gonna catch that Mole.

 

Burr hurr aye.

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I decided this year to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. I have no idea what drove this insanity – oh, yes I do: my new camera and lens. I figured I could count birds and take photos of them through the picture window.

I also figured the Pileated Woodpeckers would make an appearance, but I figured wrong. They stayed absent, as if sensing my desire to include them in my count. So did that elusive female Ruby-crowned Kinglet and the Evening Grosbeaks that I could hear, but never could see.

Still, I had a great time watching the birds in the suet and sunflower seeds. Usually, I have very few birds in the feeder for this event (one of the reasons I have never participated before), but this year my front yard was a Destination Resort or Bird B&B. That’s Bird Bistro & Bath. I served three kinds of suet: an inexpensive grocery store generic peanut-butter suet, a lard-and-meal worm suet that is heavy on meal worms, and a suet laced with meal worms, sunflower seeds and corn kernels. I also have the Niger thistle feeder out and the main feeder is full of un-shelled black-oil sunflower seeds.

The bird bath is filled with rain water and continually refilled naturally over the weekend.

I won’t count the weekend as a disappointment despite the no-shows to my party. I counted a flock of 19 pine siskins in a nearby tree; only one came to the feeder. A Stellar’s jay hung out in the same tree, but also did not come around to the feeder. His cousin, the western Scrub Jay, made a delightful appearance.

The usual party-goers were here: Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, a few Starlings, a pair of English House Sparrows, the House Finches.

The Song Sparrow always makes a showing this time of year, too.

Dark-eyed Juncos, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers (the female one day and the male the next – neither one posed for photos), and a Northern Flicker also came to the party.

A very Fat Cat American Robin invited his country cousin, the Varied Thrush in. We don’t see Varied Thrush unless there’s a storm moving in and the mountains are snowed in. It is the same size as a robin (the one in the bird bath had just taken a bath and had his feathers all fluffed out), but is a much showier bird.

I was not surprised to see the Varied Thrush hop up into the bird bath. This love for bathing seems to run in the Thrush family (Robins are Thrushes). Little did I know the Varied Thrush would be infinitely more entertaining than the robins.

Nose dive!

Up for air!

Looking as casual as if he’d never done that.

So – yeah. I didn’t expect that photo. I thought only owls could whip their heads around like that. Maybe it is that owls can do it so quickly that they look like they are rotating their head in 360-degrees. But I still did not know that thrushes could twist their heads 180-almost-degrees.

Aside from the acrobatics of the Varied Thrush and the variety of birds in my yard, the weekend was Birding As Usual…

…Which means Captain Jack came by to pirate some of the booty. Captain Jack has been around for several years now and I am still amazed at his ability to navigate with only one good eye. He must have some vision in his left eye because he has his good eye on the feeder, not on the house.

Have a great week – and watch out for birds! (And one-eyed squirrels.)

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