An Amateur Birdwatcher's tally
Gang wars occurred daily outside my window in my side yard throughout the month of June 2020. I enjoyed them. They were as good as a play. If they got too loud or violent, I simply strolled out and the members of the warring factors fled.
One group was of about 5 scrub jays. Beautiful, brown and blue, brassy, and very bossy. The other group consisted of about 12 starlings. Smaller, but just as noisy, they didn’t back down to the jays. There was free suet for all, by golly. They wanted some, they would have it!
"Aack! Ack, ack, ack, ack. Hiss. Hiss. Hiss." My cats would leap into the window to watch. My dogs sometimes got involved, barking in aggravation. How was an animal suppose to get a nap with that ruckus?
Few other birds ventured into the frays. I saw a few juncos one early morning, a pair of sparrows on a couple of evenings. A hummer dropped by one afternoon. But in the day my yard was a war zone. I finally limited the food and that reduced the wars. It’s summer. Birds can find food all over – including my cherry tree. So, I cut out the suet and cut down on food in the feeders. The jays stayed. The starlings only visited occasionally after that.
The sapsucker tree continued to be of interest. I visited about three times a week. Sapsuckers remained at the tree. They folded themselves into the littlest crack I could imagine. How did they fit? I also saw their cousin the Flicker. Red Wing blackbirds called cheerfully, and barn swallows enlivened the place. We saw some common yellowthroats and also sparrows. Two goslings seem to thrive well. They stuck close to mom and dad, who watched them as carefully as any human parents. It was fun to watch them grow.
Kingfishers and blue herons seem to be rare and random in this season. But on my weekend jaunts I did get to see some – 4 kingfishers one Sunday morning. Ducks must still be off molting – I saw a few flying but none in the little bit of water left as summer drags on. The only geese I saw were the young family near the sapsucker tree.
This month was one of the noisiest birding periods I remember. It will be interesting to see how July turns out!
It started with a swing through the post office. On the way home I diverted a few blocks off route to see one of my favorite birding spots. To my delight, I saw a sapsucker. Then I saw a second sapsucker. They were both on the same tree. One of them what's pecking away at a hole. After a signal from the first sapsucker the second sapsucker flew away. The first one pecked a few more times at the tree and then popped into the hole.
She stuck her head out looking very pleased with herself. The second sapsucker flew back with what appeared to be a small twig. I got sidetracked by an incoming Canadian goose, so I missed what happened with that twig. Both sapsuckers pecked and pottered for a while. Meanwhile, I observed them and the surroundings.
This was a small, city block sized stand of trees with a marshy pond area. Tree swallows swooped around as well as starlings. It appeared that the starlings had a hole on the other side of that tree. Mallard ducks and Canada geese serenely bobbed in the water to the right of the sapsucker tree. Red winged blackbirds called from out of visual range. Then some appeared and showed off their beautiful red wings.
Despite my fascination I did not stay in my spot long. It’s neither a park nor a private property – it’s a city or locally owned small wooded spot near a conservation area. There is a pull off but also a no trespassing sign. I try to obey signs, so I never stay more than a few minutes.
With the gradual lifting of stay at home orders I’ve ventured back to the sapsucker tree a few times a week. I’ve seen them and also a cousin – a flicker. No babies as of May 10, 2010.
But on May 10 was another exciting event – revisiting one of my favorite weekend spots – Flaming Geyser State Park. It was busy and we didn’t stay long. But the dogs and I greatly enjoyed a brisk walk. The daisies are out – an annual sign of summer for me. Blackberries are blooming. Buttercups are rampant. So are swallows and redwing blackbirds. I also saw an eagle on the way and a kingfisher at the park. So, it was a fun birding venture.
The next Saturday was a day I had promised my dogs a long walk – a 3.5k strut sponsored by my local city which had to be done under the social distancing guidelines of the time and published virtually. In other words, we walked, then took selfies and submitted them. I wasn’t sure how far 3.5k was so we went 5,600 steps and called it happy – very happy for the dogs. On the walk I saw an egret – my first, a blue heron, Canada geese, mallard and pintail ducks, robins, swamp wrens, a song sparrow and we heard a woodpecker. Knock, knock, knock. He was in some beech trees, but he wouldn’t appear. Although I was beat by the time we got back to the car I was elated as well. I think I’ll be trying that again now that I know we can do it!
I kept monitoring the sapsucker tree, as I grew to call it. They aren’t always visible when I go by. The redwings, the swallows, and the starlings are more common. Sometimes ducks bob around. I usually see the Canada geese, and I found out why at the end of May. Three goslings! The parents were proud of themselves and the babies stuck with their parents. Canada geese are very family oriented. Parents raise the children, then stick around to be grandparents. They mate for life.
I’ve also witnessed 2 separate duck families – moms with 8 -12 babies swimming along with them. One was at the Hylebos wildlife refuge. The other was on a trip to Flaming Geyser park. So, it’s been a good baby season for bird, it appears. I’m still hoping the sapsuckers will have a family. Maybe that will happen in June.
May was a good birding at home month. Most of the finches and royal sparrows have moved on. I occasionally see them at my feeders. Hummers have also popped up occasionally. Scrub jays have been predominant, quarrelling with the starlings and the squirrels. Song and house sparrows are still about. I see bushtits and pine siskins. The doves and flickers like the suet. I don’t put food out daily in the summer. I believe we are responsible to not let the wild birds get dependent on us. Though the stay at home orders are lifting I truly believe the best place to be IS home, where my animals are and where I can watch pretty birds all day long.
Staying at home is not bad when the crowned heads of the US visit for dining and a walk in the yard to view the gardens. That's what happened to me in this last month. White crowned and golden crowned sparrows visited my yard with enthusiasm. They strolled and dined and visited each other. I got to watch and that was good. The sparrows were smaller than the dandelions.
Also visiting my yard were other regular birds like house finches, goldfinches, house sparrows, song sparrows, chickadees, juncos, a pair of doves, starlings, and a pair of flickers. It was a good month at home bird wise. I never get tired of my little pretties. They don't know that I call them that. They don't know that I think proprietarily of them. Some of them, like the chickadees, seemed to think proprietarily of me. They know I got food. They expect me to put it out. Then I need to go away so they can enjoy their food. . The weather's been so nice that I've sat out a couple of times and they chattered complaints, but they ate anyway.
Oh, I didn't mention the darling little bushtits that showed up in my Camilla bush. Just so precious, so itty bitty. They're practically impossible to photograph. Still, I adore them.
Although I obeyed the stay at home orders I did have to go out and get some essentials. On my weekly trips I confess at diverting just a small way past some of my favorite birding haunts. On one of those visits I watched a woodpecker expand a hole in a tree. She stuck her head in the hole a couple of times and pulled it back out to continue chipping at the hole. Then I saw her mate come along up the tree. She sent him up for something that she thought she needed, and she finished up her pecking, then popped inside. I hope next time I go by there that I'll get to see the nesting pair.
On another drive by I noticed that the heronry is gone for the year. Last month it was thriving. Now there seem to be no residents. I swung by Boeing pond and saw a surf scoter, a hummingbird, and a pair of mallards. It was rainy and there were no other people out at the pond, so I didn’t have to worry about social distancing. It was very relaxing.
In one last drive by birding, on a rural road I love to traverse, I saw a greater yellowleg amongst a bunch of ducks and Canada geese. He was a busy guy, rushing around the ankle high pool of water in a field. My bird guide tells me if the bill is bigger than the head it’s a greater yellowleg. If the bill is smaller than the head it’s a lesser yellowleg.
All in all, I feel I had a great month, mostly at home with my wild birdies who do not know how much I adore them but appreciate all the food I want to set out. Great and small I enjoy watching them all!
March took an interesting turn in my birdwatching. Midmonth came the orders to stay home. Only leave for work or essential activities. Birding was not on the list of essential activities.
As I’ve stated before, drive by birding is a normal process for me. For 2 weeks I went the park and walked the dogs but practiced social distancing. That wasn’t good enough, though. So, I have been birding at home, and a few quick drivebys to and from my essential errands.
Swallows and red winged blackbirds are coming back, but they don’t visit my yard. All I have is a tiny bird bath for water. So, ducks and geese don’t come by often, either. I did get to see mallards, mergansers, buffleheads, pintails, wigeons, northern shovelers, and green teal ducks in the beginning part of the month. I got a picture of a tree swallow. Canada geese dotted some fields. Blue herons were abundant. Eagles were gone, and hawks not very common this month. But it was good to get out and go see what was there.
At my last visit to Flaming Geyser Park Katie and I strolled around searching for a sapsucker or woodpecker that kept clanking against metal signposts. We never found him. A batch of stellar jays were defending their fir trees from the robins. Later, the swallows will most likely win the battle and the jays will move away for a while. Three ducks bobbed along the Green River. Red wing blackbirds, swallows, and wrens occupied the marsh. It was a nice place and time. Katie enjoyed sniffing every tree and pole around. She’s not too interested in birds. I have known her to try to race a crow before. But she disapproves of my birdwatching hobby. I should only walk her.
Also, before the stay at home push my sister and I drove up to the blue heronry. I told that to a new birder and he wanted to know the address. I had to explain the herons didn’t register with the post office or city officials. They have a group of nests in a conservation here in King county near the animal shelter. Every year they return to communally raise their young. This is that time of year. We counted about 18 nests. There was even an upstairs and a downstairs in one tree! I got a picture of that.
After driving around the conservation we went over to Boeing Ponds and birdwatched. The pond was teeming with surf scoters, mallards, and buffleheads. Robins sang cheerfully. An Anna’s hummingbird entertained us. Wrens played by the water. It was incredible. I also saw a cute killdeer.
Then came the stay at home law. I get to telework again, so I at least have a job. I have a yard with a bird station so I’m lucky there. I started counting birds that I can see daily at home. The count is about 12-15 regular species! That includes crows and seagulls which fly by so it’s a bit of a stretch. But I love my little plethora of birds. House sparrows, white crowned sparrows, golden crowned sparrows, juncos, black capped and chestnut back chickadees, house finches, gold finches, scrub jay, starlings, flickers, and doves. I haven’t seen my hummers in a while. They seem to come through periodically. But I have their feeder set up for when they come.
Check out my gallery for new March pictures! While you’re at home, check out your own yard, patio, or windows for visitors from afar. Stay safe and pray for those who are suffering and those helping the suffering.
I'm ashamed of myself. I wrote most of my February article in February, but I never finished it. The Corona Virus, CORVID19, has gotten out of hand in my area. A lot of my attention has been focused around the virus and the events in my area relating to it. I contemplated not mentioning this, there has been such a lot of talk about the virus and it's ramifications. But it has affected my life considerably, as it has probably affected anyone reading this.
Yes, I have gone birding. I have done quite a bit of bird watching, both at home and in my typical drive-by fashion. The only crowds where I went were avian. I didn’t have to worry about contagion and infection, but what type of hawk I was viewing.
I didn't see too many new birds in the month of February. Much of the month was cold and dismal. There was unusual flooding which made my trips a little more adventurous. It is not recommended that one drive through a road full of water. I am usually cautious, but I did go through some shallow road ponds. Well, I rode. My sister usually drives.
Flaming Geyser State Park is one of my favorite places to birdwatch as I walk my dogs. I saw kinglets, Golden Crown kinglets at the park. They seem to be hanging out with some chickadees which surprised me. I went and visited the Weyerhaeuser pond for the first time ever and saw surf scoters. Those were the two new birds of my month. Very tiny kinglets and big scoters. I didn’t get pictures of either.
The birds frequented my feeders, bringing me some pleasure. It was a relief from the frightening news that even got into social media. I have gotten some of the timing down of my little feathered guests. The first visitors are usually scrub jays. Chickadees come soon after, followed by sparrows and juncos with finches. They welcome the flicker and starlings. The chickadees stay until just after noon. The sparrows and starlings stay until later. The flicker just hangs out at the suet for about thirty minutes. If the doves show up, they come just around the time of the flicker. The day is full at the feeder station! Juncos are usually the last to leave.
So far, March is shaping up much better than February bird wise. I hope to present a much more interesting tale for this months’ bird watching experiences. Meanwhile, check out my birding Gallery for a few new pictures to show that February was not as dreary as I feared.myyarncraftsplus.weebly.com/birding-gallery.html
January 2020, King County Washington. It was wet – icy wet. The sky was charcoal grey most of the time. This isn’t weather that makes me think – let’s go birdwatching! I want to turn all the lights on and snuggle under a blanket while reading or doing nothing more than being a cat bed for my Annie.
Yet my bird feeders called me – I fill them, and the birds come. I get to watch and take pictures. It’s win- win. I see the finches, chickadees, juncos, flicker, scrub jays, and sparrows. They brighten my day.
When I am in the car, whether riding or driving, birds flock together and draw my attention. Of course, I promise that I am not a distracted driver. I might not notice that the light has changed immediately as I am watching pigeons on the light pole or gulls circling beautifully a street over.
At stores and at work I parking lot bird watch. Though I feel that I’m not doing much with my hobby my list of identified birds defies that notion.
On the weekends my sister and I like to give our doggies extra walking time – in parks and rural places where we can bird watch. We travel to those places – doing drive by birding on the way.
Some roads are overflowing with water in the countryside. We plow through it. The fields are muddy. The dogs and I trot across anyway. Many waterways are full and flowing fast. We peer over them with awe. There are smells to be smelled and birds to be watched and pictures to be taken. Gulls and crows and starlings and pigeons dance and float over the city buildings. They amaze me.
No, I have not lost my enthusiasm for birding. This is my 3rd year of blogging about the hobby. I was surprised to go back through old posts and pictures. They give me a history I had forgotten.
In the first months of 2018 and 2019 I saw almost the same birds as January of this year. This year there was a notable exception – red winged blackbirds. I heard one this year – but have not seen them yet. They were common in the past years. Where have all the red winged blackbirds gone?
So far, I have not seen a sap-sucker yet either. Perhaps I will yet – I’m always optimistic. Meanwhile, my list has additions to the previous years – finches, Canada Geese, and a variety of ducks I probably saw before but didn’t identify at the time. Here is a list of January 2020 birds so far.
Chickadees Juncos House sparrows White crowned sparrows
House finch goldfinch towee flicker
Scrub jays Stellar jay crows gulls
Pigeons starlings kingfishers wren
Kestrel red tailed hawk bald eagle blue heron
mallards wigeons northern shovelers pintails
Canada geese Cackling geese
This is a new year. I am writing this post to finish the old, 2019. Wet is a good description of the middle of December in King County, WA. Weather fit for ducks. Also, great to see raptor birds. The trees are bare, and the big birds are up there – watching the world and looking for their next meal. In the 3rd week of the month I saw 4 eagles and 5 hawks plus 2 blue herons. In the 4th week of the month I saw 3 eagles, 4 hawks but no blue herons.
On week 3 the thrill of a lifetime occurred. We were driving along, birding, when we turned a bend. Just to our left, just a few feet up, on a branch over a river, was an eagle. I got several excellent pictures. The paparazzi was hot! I don’t think he ever noticed us. But we saw him!
The water receded some in the end of the month. I didn’t see any particularly unusual birds. Just crows, starlings, robins, red wing blackbirds, eagles, herons, hawks, kestrels, towees, juncos, sparrows (several types), chickadees, flickers, pine siskins, pigeons, Canada geese, mallards, wigeons, pintails, mergansers, and kingfishers. Still, I delighed in each species as I did my counts.
For the year 2019 I counted 68 species of birds. Most of them were common according to the King County bird checklist. I missed 31 common species so those go to the top of my to do list for 2020. I want pictures of those birds!
I counted 41 bird presentations on my website this year! Check out my final updates on the gallery page of this website. https://myyarncraftsplus.weebly.com/birding-gallery.html .
It was just a cold. But what an awful code was it! For a week I ached, slept, coughed, hacked, was hot and cold, and only moved with tremendous effort. My foggy eyes couldn’t even see out the window. I did not step outside once. No dreams pierced my broken slumber. This avid bird watcher didn’t see a single bird in days.
Finally, my wracking cough eased just a little, with the help of medicines and cough drops. My temperatures seemed to steady. Once could almost say I showed a hint of energy – but just a tad. I was not ready to go out and bird watch yet.
So, I geared up my strength and stepped into my yard, where the sun hit my face for the first time in a long while. I blinked. It was just a little bit of sun on a cloudy day. But it was far brighter than my sick room. I sighed and pulled my jacket close. Then I filled my bird feeders. I set out suet, a thistle sack, and regular food. Everything was empty, or near empty. I filled it all. I returned to my room and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours.
When I woke, my chair was facing the window. A pair of black capped chickadees started at the thistle and moved to a feeder. I smiled. Dee-dees are so cute. They were making happy calls. Four finches attacked the thistle. Beautiful. My neck lifted a little and my eyes blinked to be able to see better. A starling landed on the suet basket. “Darlin Starlin.” I muttered in my raspy throat before coughing some. Meanwhile a white crowned sparrow hopped under another feeder, which was staffed by a song sparrow, a house sparrow and a chestnut backed chickadee. I dozed.
When I woke two song sparrows were at a feeder. The finches were still on their sack. A flicker had taken over the suet. Two doves and a junco were hopping on the ground. Another sparrow was in the bird bath. It felt as though I had an aviary. I have never kept pet birds – not a good idea with my cats. But in this moment my heart swelled as I watched “my” birds at feast.
I guess I’m getting better. But staying at home and birding was as much fun, almost, as walking in the park with the dogs while birding. Maggie certainly enjoyed a morning of drowsing and cookies. But not for Katie. She went to the dog park and had a blast with her mom, my sister. I saw more birds from my window, though.
Instead of posting this weeks pics in the gallery, I'm making a brief video on Facebook. Enjoy.
After a great start in November, birding settled down for me a bit. There were joyous moments in my yard, mostly at the feeder. I did my normal day off birding expeditions. Have you noticed something about my bird watching? I do a lot of it sitting or traveling in a car. I call it drive by birding. It’s lazy, but it works for me.
Once a week my dogs, my sister, and I go for a walk in the park which is not like the daily walks of strolling down the sidewalks of our neighborhood. We go to somewhere in a car and then walk. They sniff and trot and greet other dogs and people. We bird watch.
On our drive to Flaming Geyser Park this week we saw a pair of turkey vultures. They are big, messy birds. But I like them. It was fun to get 3 good pictures of them. I don’t see buzzards often. On the same trip we saw 4 eagles and 2 hawks, one of them a redtail. That season is coming – raptor time. January is a great month to see hawks and eagles.
Then, at the park we saw Virginia rails. I’ve never identified them before, nor gadwalls, which were also in the marsh. A blue heron reposed nearby. He was a handsome fellow. So was an eagle, majestic though far away in my camera.
My own yard was bursting all week with chickadees (black capped and chestnut backed), sparrows (house, white crowned, and song), finches (house and goldfinches), towhees, juncos, starlings, flickers, and a dove. My telework stint came to an end, so I have to bird watch on my days off until the daylight comes back before and past working hours.
November was an impressive birding month in King County, Washington. It makes me look forward to December!
November started with a boom of birds. I expected little. The light is decreasing. My workday is not. But on Friday, the first of November 2019 I got off at 4:45pm. Early for me. I took advantage of it and went birding with my sister. We didn’t stop off for the dogs. This was going to be drive by, count some duck and watch the crows fill the evening sky birding.
A hawk stood proudly in a tree, looking for his dinner. He was a red tail, a big handsome fellow. We moved forward. Sounds of killdeer, Canada geese, and ducks filled the air before we could see the marshy field. A majestic trumpeter swan floated serenely. He was by himself amongst northern shovelers, cinnamon teals, and wigeons. Canada geese filled the field by the marsh. A bald eagle soared in, flipped around a few times and left without taking a meal. Thank goodness. I know they must eat but I prefer to think a rodent is better than a bird. A wild rodent, not someone’s pet.
After oohing and aahing, and much picture taking, we move on. Mallards mix with wigeons and pintails in the next field. We meet a dead end and turn. Past the dead end is a little river. My sister grabbed my arm and pointed, speechless and then stuttering. “It’s a, a, a.” “Blue heron?” I’m excited. “No, a bittern. An American Bittern.” I see it as it dives over some reeds in the water and vanishes. We wait hopefully but he doesn’t return.
The next morning, we had to go back. The swan was there, and the ducks, but no killdeer. More ducks. But no bittern. We were disappointed. We went back again with the same results in the evening.
Finally, on Sunday we went back to find the swan not there, but the bittern was. Finally, I got some pictures. Not good pictures. But something to show. I’m so pleased
My regular birding jaunt was limited – I walked Katie around Flaming Geyser park. We missed the robins. Wonder where the robins are? I haven’t seen any all weekend. I’ve also missed red winged blackbirds. But I saw a blue heron fly in. I got some wonderful snaps of a hawk and some crows. The bittern and swan both made my weekend. November is starting off with a boom of birds…
I love birdwatching. It's relaxing and fun. Even though I've been birding for over 10 years I classify myself as an amateur birder. I plan to write a blog each month about my experiences. Hope you enjoy them!