Pheathers & Pages – The Life of Birds and Bird Cams

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I can’t remember where I found this book on ‘The Life of Birds,’ written by David Attenborough, most likely on a library, thrift shop or yard sale treasure hunt. I’ve read through the first chapter, and have found the accompanying BBC/PBS series available on Amazon. This weekend I’ll watch the coinciding show of the series and then read another chapter in the book.

One of the joys in my life is the birds that I see and hear throughout the day. This week I took my camera with me on a walk around the block. The trees were filled with red-wing blackbirds, grackles, starlings, and other birds that flock with them.

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I have included the Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird cams in my posts many times, and will probably point the way to them in the future also. They are amazing, and just about now some of the birds might be ‘feathering’ their nests in preparation for new life.

Take a look at the Sapsucker Woods Bird Feeder. I enjoy the sounds as much as the sights of these live cams.

All the bird cams can be found here: Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cams. Some aren’t online now, but will probably be back soon.

Pheathers – Screech Owls

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“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” ~ Psalm 104:24

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On our travels around the Delaware Bay yesterday we stopped at the 2017 Cumberland County Winter Eagle Festival. These two screech owls were breathtaking in their beauty. They were so perfect, at first glance they didn’t seem to be real; I actually thought they were mechanical toys. God’s world is amazing!

Photograph & Pheathers – Marsh Ice & Buzzards

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It’s never too cold to take a day trip to the Delaware Bay. The scenery definitely has a chilly appeal, the salty marsh areas freeze in the cold temperatures.

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The gathering of ice around the stems of the Phragmites was beautiful.

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As we drove we saw a buzzard sunning himself with wings outstretched, I missed a photo of that amazing sight, but was able to get a close-up of his strange features. These birds make up for their lack of loveliness by their ability to soar on the wind. The buzzard is a scavenger, and does his job well.

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We spotted this large nest of twigs in a tree on the way to East Point Lighthouse. It appears to be in good shape, it will be interesting to check on it again and see if it is revisited in the Spring.

Pheathers – Bird Biscuits

I’ve been wanting to create a ‘bird biscuit’ of some kind to feed the birds this winter. Our snowy weather is the perfect time to try; the ground and many other food sources are covered under six inches of the snow.

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I searched through some recipes, and found a few I liked, but didn’t have the exact ingredients on hand. I fiddled around and came up with my own mix of ingredients. The biscuits baked up nicely. Give this recipe a try, adapting it to your own easily available ingredients.

1 1/2 Cups White Cornmeal (Yellow is called for in most bird recipes, but I had white on hand.)
1 Cup bird seed, dried fruits, etc. (I used dried cranberries, hulled sunflower seeds and mixed bird seed.)
1/3 Cup Vegetable Shortening. (Other recipes use bacon fat.)
1 Cup Water

Mix cornmeal, seeds, fruits with shortening.

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Add the water and mix well. Dough will be very stiff.

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I used an ice cream scoop to place dough on silicon pans. A cookie sheet would work also.

Bake in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 20 minutes. While the biscuits were still hot I punched a hole in the center with a plastic straw. Most held up fine to this…a few crumbled.

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I strung the most intact biscuit with a string. I gathered up a broken biscuit, a piece with good form, and the strung biscuit and took them outside to the bird and suet feeders.

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I put the firm biscuit in the suet feeder. Before I even went indoors a woodpecker visited the feeder. I don’t know if he touched the bird biscuit, but I think not.

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Within minutes a small flock of grackles found the biscuit, they pecked away, and the crumbles fell to the ground…to the delight of the grackles waiting below. The fallen crumbs were quickly eaten.

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I placed the crumbles on the bird swing, and tied the strung biscuit to the rope. An hour later all the crumbles are gone, but the biscuit on a string seems untouched. I predict this treat will disappear in a few hours when evening draws near.

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This dove quickly made use of the fresh water I placed outdoors. A reminder to change it daily, maybe even twice, while the freeze continues.

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This bear of a dog is one of the reasons I tried to place all the biscuits off the ground. Yesterday I threw some stale English Muffins out for the birds only to see this smart beast hunting and scooping them out with his snout. He’s visited the yard on other occasions when I’ve thrown bread out. I don’t mind, but he is definitely well-fed and the birds need all the sustenance they can get in this weather. I’m hoping the birds eat the biscuits before the hungry dog is tempted to visit our yard again.

Pheathers – Bird-Watching Cams

I enjoy the many bird cams Cornell Lab of Ornithology offers on its website and Youtube Channel. Even now, as I write this post, I have another window open on my computer and I’m listening to the live chirping of the birds feeding at the Ithaca New York bird feeders.

“This FeederWatch cam is located in the Treman Bird Feeding Garden at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Perched on the edge of both Sapsucker Woods and its 10-acre pond, these feeders attract both forest species like chickadees and woodpeckers as well as some species that prefer open environments near water like Red-winged Blackbirds.”

Watching birds outside your window, or on one of these cams, is guaranteed to brighten the dreariest winter day.

Pheathers – Water

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The backyard birds need water as well as food at this time of year. You can see from my photos how barren the landscape is in the Mid-Atlantic states by December. I put out a bit of food every day, and keep this stand-in birdbath refilled at least once per day.

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A flexible plastic bowl from the dollar store works very well in place of my summer birdbaths. I’ve seen birds drinking and bathing in the water during this frigid weather.

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Even though the water freezes solid overnight, the plastic has some give, and so far has not cracked. A concrete birdbath would likely crack and be ruined by the melt and thaw of wintertime water.

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I accidentally created a birdbath by leaving a plastic bucket of gravel outdoors. This collects rainwater, giving small birds another place to drink.

Here’s an article form the Chicago Tribune with some good ideas for feeding/watering/sheltering backyard birds in the winter. Helping Birds Survive Winter in Your Backyard ~ Chicago Tribune

Pheathers & Project – Feeding Station

After visiting Rocklands Bird Sanctuary/Feeding Station,  I was inspired to create a few new feeding stations of my own.

I found this comment by Tulani from an old post.

“Years ago, I had made a frame (picture frame if you will) & put legs on it 30 inches long….
then I stapled window screening to the frame….
this was my winter time bird feeder.
It’s very easy to make, & it does not have to impress anyone(except you maybe).
the birds will not care a bit what it looks like, they just want to eat their seed to stay healthy & alive.
I never bought the wood I used to make it….I scrounged around town, to find pallets & such, till I had enough wood for what I need….I still scrounge around town for any & all wood projects(woodworking is more of a hobby for me than anything else).
What you can do with this bird feeder after you build it, is limited only by your imagination. Paint it, stain it, leave it unfinished….or decorate it in any fashion you so desire…
Just thought I’d share…. 8 )” ~ Tulani

I followed Tulani’s instructions and scrounged around for some ‘found’ items, and created a frame for larger birds to feed upon.

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I also made use of an old swing with ropes still attached, and hammered a few small nails into the length to anchor down raisins, bread and fruits.

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I soon had my first visitor.

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Phun & Pheathers – Funny Fowls

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my back yard, minding my own business, when lo and behold two chickens strolled into the yard as if they owned it. I was instantly IN LOVE with them, grabbed my camera and documented their visit. (Their home is on the street behind mine.) Their visit provided me with quite a giggle.

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I’ve wanted chickens or ducks of my own for ages. Town ordinances have changed in many areas and it’s now permissible to have “pet” chickens or ducks in the backyard. On the other hand I am thinking of the feistiness of Blue Eyes the goose. Maybe a pair of geese would be a better idea. I wonder if it’s true that geese can be good “watchdogs?”

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“Police in rural parts of China’s Xinjiang Province are no longer turning to dogs to stand guard at police stations at night. They’re using geese instead. And it works.” ~ Honk if You Think Geese are Good Guard Dogs – National Geographic

I’ve had most of my gardens devastated this year by a horrible groundhog who invades my yard weekly to eat my foliage and garden plants. Would a big white goose honking like mad and chasing him do the trick? The key word might be big. Should I get a goose now and coddle it all through winter, and have a big, big bird come Spring? Hmmm….I’ll have to think on it a bit and let you know!

“Chinese geese, like Africans, are a more talkative breed of geese. Due to this characteristic, they are the best breed if you want to be alerted to intruders or other strange occurrences. They love to talk back to you – especially if you have raised them from babies.” ~Metzer Farms

Pheathers – Hummingbird

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I plant nectar-producing flowers each year in hopes of attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. This has been a banner year for both. Our gardens are visited daily by dozens of butterflies and at least three to four hummingbirds.

We’ve noticed the tiny hummingbirds are the bravest birds in the yard. One hummer seems to know our habits, and when the feeder is removed for cleaning and refilling, he/she will hover near the kitchen window doing its best to prompt us to hurry and bring out the nectar.

I have mixed feelings about hummingbird feeders. If they are not cleaned and maintained daily, they can be lethal to hummingbirds. “Top-10 Hummingbird Nectar Mistakes”

I’ve been concerned over whether I should leave my feeder up through the Autumn months. I was glad to come upon this bit of information on the web:

Some people may be concerned that leaving a feeder up will prevent hummingbirds from migrating in the fall. This is a myth. Hummingbirds (and all migratory birds) have an internal “clock” that tells them when to migrate. No healthy hummingbird would ever stick around just because you’ve left your feeder up in the fall. ~Bird Watcher’s Digest

When the hummingbirds in my yard migrate, I know I will immediately begin to stream the Cornell Lab Hummingbird Cam, and find my hummingbird joy from their amazing live cameras.  Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy = Hummingbirds

Pheathers & Problem-Solving – Cutting Back on Success

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I love feeding the birds. I have suet and seed feeders spaced out across my back yard. Standing at the kitchen window, or sitting on the porch, watching the feeding birds brings me joy…until this past month. Within a matter of a week my yard was overtaken with “bully” birds. Large grackles, still feeding their adult-sized babies, descended upon my feeders. Now at times, I must admit, I did enjoy the exuberant cackling chatter of the grackles, but as the days progressed, more grackles arrived, and soon my beautiful songbirds moved on to areas less consumed by the flocks of big birds.

I remedied the situation by removing all feeders for a few days. I’ve recently put up a very small, squirrel proof feeder again, and it has been visited by the birds I desire. Yesterday, I once again saw a goldfinch, and even a hummingbird felt safe to visit my gardens. Grackles can be fun for a few moments, a bit like a wild and raucous party, but for my yard, I choose the soft soothing sounds of the songbirds.

Pheathers – Color My World in Goldfinches

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An American Goldfinch changes colors with the seasons. In autumn the male molts from summer’s gold to winter’s tan. In the spring, another change begins and the male goldfinch becomes bright yellow.

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Today was the first day I noticed the goldfinches sporting their summer feathers. I had two pairs visiting my yard and photographed this sweet couple having a snack at my feeder. These beautiful birds are the perfect choice for today’s Color Your World – 120 Days of Crayola Challenge – Yellow.

Pheathers & Phavorites – Barn Owl/Live Cam

I came upon this year’s nesting Barn Owl and realized it was time to repost the information for Cornell Bird Labs.

Take a look at the live-streamed “Bird Cams.” If you love birds you will love this site. To start the live cam click on the arrow. If it appears to be a still shot, look closely, you will see the soft movement of the owl’s breath. Thanks again to JaneM who shared this site with me.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cam

Pheathers – Old Blue Eyes

Near my home is a park I have visited since I was seven years old. I take my grandchildren to the same park, although now the “dangerous” playground equipment we adored has been replaced by a one-piece plastic structure. Yesterday, I took a bike ride, with a bag of old cereal strung across my handlebars. My destination was the park and the goose who rules there, the white goose with the blue eyes.

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I call her Old Blue Eyes, but she responds to anyone carrying a bag that might be filled with goodies for geese and ducks. The moment I scattered the stale Rice Krispies on the ground a feeding frenzy began. Some of the wild geese/mallard ducks in the park have become domesticated because of injury. At this time of year, when food is scarce, a little grain in the form of cereal might help them survive.

Old Blue Eyes Collage

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Pheathers & Quick Tip – Winter Bird Bath Solutions

“Bathing is especially important in cold weather in order to keep feathers in top condition. Research has shown that a chickadee with well-maintained feathers can sustain a 70 degree layer of insulation between the outside air and its skin”. Wild Birds Unlimited

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I have a bird bath that is over fifty years old. It once sat in the yard of my grandparents in McDonald, Pennsylvania. I remember peering into it, so small that my eyes were level with the rim, fascinated by the mirrored bottom. Leaving this heirloom outdoors in the cold is not an option. The constant freeze and thaw of winter weather would likely crack it. Still, birds need water in the winter as much as they do in summertime. I decided a solution would be to replace the bird bath with a Rubbermaid trashcan lid. The plastic should expand and contract during freezing weather without cracking. The lid is also very light and will be easy to empty out and change. When the water in the lid freezes, I can pour on a bit of hot water for thawing, without worrying about cracking.

The birds accepted the lid as a substitute for the fancier bird bath. Within a hour or two of setting up the bath  a little sparrow took a quick dip. Oh Happy Day

Pheathers & Product – White-Throated Sparrow

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I heard loud rustling as I strolled a wooded path in the park yesterday. I was surprised to see a  fountain of leaves  exploding from the mossy ground. A couple of peeps alerted me to the presence of a bird beneath the cascade. He created quite a crackling ruckus as he foraged for insects. Aha, he was exactly my purpose for walking the path. I raised my camera, the new Canon with the super zoom feature, and clicked several shots.

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I have just replaced my old Canon Camera with a newer model. I wouldn’t have chosen any other brand. My old camera has taken thousands of photographs. It has traveled with me everywhere I have gone in the past few years. It has chronicled parties and family gatherings, holiday dinners and the goings-on in my gardens. Over the years, the camera has been dropped, been left outdoors, weathered drizzle and dew, and still…through it all has continued taking photographs.

After one of the more recent drops, the battery and SF card compartment stopped shutting correctly. No worries, and no replacing it right away, duct tape held it together for a time. Recently though, even the strongest tape, the addition of a rubber band, and the hardest grip of my thumb would not keep the batteries connected. It was time for a new camera. The brand  has performed for me so well, I knew another Canon was only choice. I replaced the old camera with a  PowerShot SX400 IS.

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Eye-Spy a White-Throated Sparrow.

Oh the joy of it. On my first outing I zoomed in on the foraging sparrow. Imagine my surprise when I downloaded the photographs and found that the sparrow was quite a fancy fellow. The yellow streaks and white ruff under his chin soon had me goggling, and I was able to identify him as a White-Throated Sparrow.

I have probably seen these birds over the years, but until I was able to zoom in close, I had no idea such beautiful little sparrows visited our area in the winter. Final thought: if you are in the market for a new camera check out Canon brand. They are reasonably priced,  set up easily, take amazing photographs, and best of all…last and last and last.