It’s been very busy here around my yard and in my nest. With the holidays here I am trying to keep up with all my birding, blogging, and holiday preparations. I try to go out and count the birds in my own yard everyday and I submit that data to eBird. I have only lived here since the very end of August but already I am getting a picture of the bird species to be seen in my neighborhood. I know what is regular and what is unexpected and a surprise! House Finches and Lesser Goldfinches are regular yard birds for me. The Lessers out number the House finches and it is not unusual for me to see upwards of 30 Lesser Goldfinches in the yard at one time!
When I lived in Andover I put out many bird feeders with all kinds of seed, but living here in town and living in a neighborhood has caused me to change my bird feeding habits. Since pigeons are one of the species I see on a daily basis I do not put out any seed that could possibly attract them. Therefore, I have restricted my bird feeding to thistle or nyjar seed and hummingbird feeders. I got tired of refilling the sock type nyjar feeders, so I bought a new finch feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited on East Tanque Verde Street in Tucson. I love this new feeder (top photo) because it holds a lot of seed, the birds love it, and it is very easy to fill and clean!
One of the first things I did when I moved into this house was to buy a bird bath. Living here in the desert makes having available water even more essential.
I first purchased a decorative iron bird bath which I loved but which started to rust within 24 hours of filling it with water. I was concerned this would be bad for the birds, so I bought some Rustoleum spray paint and spray painted the thing. When it too started to rust I decided to get even more creative.
I took out my acrylic paints and started painting. I created a wonderful design. It looked so pretty! When I was done the whole birdbath was painted like a beautiful autumn leaf! Then, I sprayed it with a paint sealer that was suppose to be waterproof. I even asked the man at the hardware store if it was appropriate for this use. He said yes. I should have never listened to him, because after letting the clear sealer dry I set the bird bath out and filled it with water. I saw the birds fly to the bird bath, then fly away. When I went out to check on it I could smell the chemical smell before I even dipped my fingers in the water! I was horrified! This was exactly what I wanted to avoid! So, I emptied the bird bath and removed it from the yard. It is now sitting empty on my patio while I decide what to do with it. In the meantime, I bought a new bird bath the same day I bought the new feeder. It was on clearance, sitting by the window just waiting for me! I brought it home, rinsed it out and filled it up! Now my birds are happily drinking and bathing. However, because the bird bath is a bit deep I did have to put a couple of rocks in the bottom for the smaller birds to land on and drink.
In the weeks since my last report on yard birds I have had a few new species to add to my yard list. Beside the warblers that have recently shown up, I have also had a Vermillion Flycatcher come to the yard on November 13th. Last week a Sharp-shinned Hawk patrolled my yard for two days in a row and this morning I had a new surprise! While sitting in my chair on the balcony sipping tea and eating a pumpkin muffin I suddenly saw a bird flying swiftly out of the northeast. It was shaped differently and flying differently than any other species of bird that I have seen around here. Suddenly it turned and dived, then came back up again and continued to head straight towards me and my yard! I had to put down my tea and grab my binoculars and by then it was passing immediately to my west but I got a good enough look at it to see the dark hood and barred wings of a peregrine falcon! I jumped up from my chair and ran to the edge of the balcony and watched as it flew swiftly away. What a sight it was! You can see a complete list of my yard birds in the side bar. This is the fun of birding for me!
It’s been very hard to get to my blogging lately since I have been out on so many birding adventures. Gus and I went to the Salton Sea over thanksgiving, then, upon my return, I have been chasing the Groove-billed Ani with Chris Rohrer that was spotted at Sweetwater Wetlands. He and I went twice together and he went a few times by himself. Chris was successful in seeing and photographing the bird. I was not. On the Sunday after our return from the Salton Sea I got up early in the morning to join Chris at Sweetwater. He arrived before I did and had the bird in sight. I was literally 5 minutes away when a Cooper’s Hawk flew in and scattered all the birds. Though we stayed and walked around Sweetwater for another two hours we never saw the bird again. Then, on Friday, November 30th I spent at least six hours at Sweetwater with my good friend, Celeste. She had never been to Sweetwater before and I was thrilled to show it to her. We saw 45 species of birds there that day, but again, no Ani. Oh well, another day another bird. I will see it one of these days, but perhaps not in Tucson.
After a full day of birding with Celeste, I got up early on Saturday morning to join Chris at Reid Park where we both attended a Christmas Bird Count Workshop led by Rich Hoyer. I have never done CBC, so this will be my first year. Chris and I learned a lot that morning. Rich is an excellent teacher. The Tucson Valley CBC will take place on December 16th. You can read more about it on Rich’s CBC blog.
We have been experiencing wonderfully warm weather here in Tucson with temps running above normal for the past 20 days. Today will be our last above normal day with the temperature expected to rise to the low 80’s! However, the mornings are chilly and I sat outside with a sweater on and a warm blanket on my lap as I counted birds this morning. I have only had to have the heat on one day since autumn came. So far I have been able to leave the windows open all day and night. We have not been using heat or air conditioning but that will soon change!
So, that is the latest update from my nest. I am slowly getting Christmas decorations up and I am hoping to have time to paint and create a Christmas Card for this year. I hope to start posting the Salton Sea Stories tomorrow. I’d better get them all done because then the kids all start to arrive and well, there will be little time for blogging then!