Saturday, November 1, 2008

Birds, Birds, Birds

I'm going to continue the streak of raving about our back yard and boast about the wildlife. If you really couldn't care less about birds and the weird stuff they do, you may want to skip this one.

After two years of not being allowed bird feeders, we (I mean "I", really, but "we" sounds so much less crazy) got our collection of feeders out before just about anything else. At this point, we're offering seed (a mix without millet due to the neighbor's pigeon infestation), niger thistle, suet and sugar water at various places. It didn't take long for the neighborhood birds to find their free lunch, and it took even less time for them to decide we're mostly harmless.

The thistle attracts a giant mess of American Goldfinches. Mixed in among them are some Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, and maybe even an odd Pine Siskin or two. At most times of the day, the feeder looks like a giant, feathered tube that wiggles a lot.

The seed has been attracting some other characters. The Chestnut-backed Chickadees are hilarious and bold. They sort of like the suet we put out for them, but I think they'd rather annoy the finches. Our other surprise seed-eaters are of the Oak Titmouse variety. (What's the plural of "titmouse," anyway? Titmice? Titmouses?" They have a brilliant scolding call that sounds like the roar of a distant crowd. They are much more skittish and shy than the others, but we for sure have a pair of them.

As far as ground feeders go, we have been host to a pair of California Towhees. They do this funny little dance when they look for food, and I've noticed that they are spending a lot more time in our yard and trees lately. They like to sit on the neighbor's garage and watch all of the silly little birds. I think these kind of plain birds are fascinating, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them. Since putting a birdbath near the back door, we've seen a Dark-eyed Junco hanging about.

Then, there is the huge variety of birds attracted by the clever landscaping in the yard, courtesy of the owner and probably a previous tenant or two. We have a lot of bug-eaters. The Bushtits swarm in on a fairly regular basis, gobble bugs from the orange tree and the various bushes near our back door, and then swarm off again. My favorites are the Phoebes. They really like to make themselves at home. I'm always catching them sitting on the swing or the patio chairs. They like to sit on tree branches near me when I'm in the yard and just watch what I'm up to. It would be creepy if they weren't so doggone cute. Apparently, they can be a little territorial, though. One of them found the birdbath for the first time the other day, and decided it was his. When the finches weren't buying it, he hopped down and proceeded to chase them all over the ground with much wild flapping and squawking. When he returned to the top of the bath, it was to spit out a goodly number of feathers.

The hummingbirds here like to sit in the trees and scold us. Sometimes they make cute little squeaks, but mostly it's shrill "you get away from my purple flowers right now!" calls. We got lucky the other day and saw one catching a bug in midair!

Someone was very, very clever about the tree planting here. The old (declining, not necessarily diseased) walnut has holes all over and I suspect is home to many. Other trees have bark that is fun to pick at to find bugs, and one big one has berries that everyone seems to like. That is where I generally see the mockingbird. In the past two days, we've caught a scrub jay from across the street scoping things out. Almost like it's casing the joint. Should we worry? He sits on bushes, fences and trees and cocks his head to observe what's going on.

Beyond our yard, there is a neighborhood gang of crows. Their primary joy in life seems to be harassing hawks. We've seen them chasing hawks on a number of occasions, and it's been spectacular. I like them most when they chase the #$%&* pigeons on the neighbor's house. Don't get me wrong, pigeons have their place I'm sure. At our house, it is as entertainers. Because any time one lands on our roof while we're outside, they get the hose. And Elise gets the giggling fits. I want a Super Soaker for Christmas so that I can improve my aim and be more ruthless.

Now that I've got my "grab-and-go" telescope set up for terrestrial viewing through the sliding-glass door, I'll work on getting some pics of our little friends. I will probably have birds on the brain for quite awhile, so you may have to bear with me. Interestingly, this bird watching is a newfound hobby for the whole family. Andy and I get into identification and behavior, Elise is learning to tell which birds are which and also what they like to eat. Beaker is practicing talking like some of them, and has learned to hop from perch to perch-something he had never done before we moved here.

So, there you have it. Our list of San Jose backyard birds. We'll keep an eye out for new and exciting developments!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bats sleep behind my chimney. Not nearly as much fun as the flying friends you have