Thursday, June 27, 2013

Backs, Baths and Baby Birds

Well, I can't say June was an uninteresting month.

Late in May I somehow managed to twist, strain, jamb or otherwise cause a problem in my lower back. The result was that if I sat down for more than three or four minutes, the pain when standing was excruciating. Birding trips, needless to say, were out of the question.

I found I could be reasonably productive by putting the laptop on the kitchen counter, and typing while standing up. The downside to this, of course, was the kitchen window that looks out on the bird feeders and the back yard. Productivity wavered.

Immediately I noticed there were still large numbers of Red Crossbills out there. Last winter was the first time these birds had appeared at my feeders, and they should have been away north to the boreal forest weeks before.  We are right on the eastern edge of their Alberta range, but some breeding was noted in the city this spring.
Then I noticed an unusual number of Cedar Waxwings. They were in all the trees, on the ground and at the birdbaths. Oddly enough I never saw them actually in the water. I watched many of them walk all the way around the bird bath, dipping a foot or wing tip in the water, but no bath. Normally I get a couple of them stopping in for a quick visit, but this month they were here for weeks, chattering up the yard.
I also discovered why my peanuts were disappearing so quickly. I had been blaming greedy squirrels, not clever Black-billed Magpies.
Day after day after day of incessant rain provided some interesting views of one of my Mourning Doves, Bruiser.
Early June also provided a yard full of tufty House Finch young 'uns.
The real productivity-killers though, were the American Robins. I've no idea how many hours I spent watching their antics.

After a very soggy, flood-filled month the weather is finally turning into summer. My back is on the mend, and it won't be too long before we're out and about to see what's birdy in other areas.

For sheer appeal though, it will be hard to top this photo of a wee House Sparrow chancing the odds of a meal.


  1. Sorry to hear that your back is out, but "wow" - what great shots. Wonderful close up of the Red Crossbill and the last photo is priceless!

  2. You've got a lot of great action shots. Nice that you didn't have to leave the house though it sucks about the back.

  3. Wow, those photo's are incredible!! My friend is a keen bird blogger and photographer too, see below an example of his work :)

    "We have a small flock of Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) visiting our garden at between 5am and 6am each day. They do not stay long, and those who say that they never see Jackdaws nowadays may not be early risers.

    I have been always been fascinated by the members of the crow family – having had a pet jackdaw as a child. “Jackie” (yes I know it is not the most original name) lived with me for about four years in the late 1940’s. He/she was a clever creature learning to say “ello” and “Jackie” – at least to my young ears. An old countryman neighbour told me that by slitting the bird’s tongue his/her language skills would improve amazingly - even being able to recite whole nursery rhymes. I am pleased to report that I never tried it…

    Their nests can be a real problem as they think that chimneys of fires unlit in the late spring and summer can be great places to lay their 4-5 eggs – and I can remember a rough nest of sticks complete with bird and eggs clattering down the old chimney in the house where I lived in Kent.

    ‘Clattering’. And that is the collective name for Jackdaws – very appropriate.

    The DO love bright things as the old stories tell, in my early youth that nest that came down the chimney contained silver milk bottle tops – but though I searched carefully I never found the Gold Ring that rumour had was in every nest.

    Jackdaws pair bond for life – and even in the flocks it is easy to guess the ‘Mr and Mrs’s’ – they can often be seen riding on the backs of sheep seeking those nasty creatures – ticks. However, they mainly feed on the ground taking small invertebrates from the soil, but they are omnivores, and will take what is available.

    In appearance they are about the size of a pigeon, black, with a grey neck, and piercing blue eyes when adult, (brown as juveniles). Handsome, but like all corvids wary of man, the old game keeping habit of raising a shotgun to any ‘black’ bird may well account for this as they seem less concerned in urban areas – even our well stocked feeding stations empty with a flurry – no, ‘clatter’ is a better word, when they catch sight of my wife or me. An early coffee in the kitchen, with a slit in the blinds, lets me ‘spy’ on them – but any movement is noticed and they are off."

  4. Wow, these are awesome shots! Love all the birds, especially the last one!

  5. Great post, Pat! Loved the robin in the birdbath shots, also the young one being fed; looks like his cheeks are stuffed full. Good to hear that your back is better.

  6. Do very sorry to hear that you are having back problems. I hope you are on the mend. Wonderful post filled with beautiful photographs! No matter what window I pass, I must peer outside and look for bird activity. Looks like you had some great subjects to distract you. Terrific photographs! I especially love the chubby-checked young robin and the sprout head House Finch ... they all are terrific, though.