Birds of Winter: Wildlife Wednesday, January 2017

Greeting the new year with my first 2017 post, I’m glad to kick 2016 to the curb–good riddance, what a difficult year–but I am glad that the birds in my garden are busy with their winter work of eating, singing, bathing, gearing up for spring flirting, defending territory and providing interest in the garden and entertainment for the gardener. It’s the first Wildlife Wednesday installment for 2017, where critters are wild, occasionally woolly, and always welcome.

Central Texas enjoyed a couple of nights of sub-freezing temperatures a few weeks ago, just enough to leave  the garden crinkled and wrinkled, foliage-deprived and bloom-less. On the up-side though, it’s easier to see the birds as they forage  in the undergrowth for winter sustenance and prepare their game-on for spring migration, spring wooing and summer chick-rearing.

I’m observing and listening to winter Texan warblers again this winter–and pleased that I’ve learned a bit about their habits and vocalizations.  This past month, my garden has hosted several of the Yellow-rumped Warblers, Setophaga coronata.  So far, it’s mostly males in their winter plumage that I’m spying.  Flashes of sunny yellow and soft cheeps  in the trees are my clues in identifying these cuties as they fly between trees or perch on bare limbs.


I’ve no idea if this is the same fella, but he rested in the glow of the late afternoon light, which rendered  his colors a golden hue.

I especially like this shot,  as he points his yellow rump at me.  Avid birders call these North American songbirds Butter butts.  A silly and apt name, I think.

I believe that the Butter butts in my garden are the “Myrtle” subspecies common to the eastern part of the United States because my Butter butts have a white or cream-colored throat.  The “Audubon” subspecies common further west sports a yellow throat.


Many are my “favorite” birds, but the Carolina ChickadeePoecile carolinensis, really holds a soft spot in my heart.  From their pretty songs, to their decorative popping presence in trees, to their break-neck snatches of sunflower seeds from the feeder, these year-round residents are fun to watch because of their antics with one another and curiosity about their surroundings.


Thrilled this winter to have at least one Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula, in the gardenhe’s challenging my photography skills because he’s super quick flitting in the brush and shy after any movement I make.  He’s hard to shoot–that is if I’m aiming for a clear photo.  If you click on the name link (which takes you to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page on this bird), you can see the red “ruby” crown in a photo.  For now,  I can only dream of getting that splash of crown color which is this species’ namesake. However, I can gleefully report that I’ve seen the red stripe atop his darling head through my binoculars.  My goal this winter is at least one shot of the ruby crown on the Ruby-crowned.

I think there might be a female coming in for visits too, but for now, it’s all about the guy and his red crown.


Several Orange-crowned Warblers, Oreothlypis celata, are currently hanging around, much as they did last winter. I’ve observed two males and a female.  Like most other warblers, their movements are fast and their body language–all head tilts and swishy tail flicks–charming.

A butterfly chrysalis hangs below the blue bowl, just to the right of the vertical wood post. I didn’t see it until I downloaded the photos.

The Orange-crown males have an orange crown (similar to the red crown of the Ruby-crowned), which appears as a little bird mohawk when a girl bird, or rival guy bird, needs impressing. I haven’t seen the orange crown so far this winter, but did on a regular basis last year with those who visited.


I was chasing the male Ruby-crowned Kinglet one afternoon for a photo, when a contentedly berry-munching Northern MockingbirdMimus polyglottos stopped me in my tracks.  Nestled in the branches of a native Possumhaw tree, Ilex decidua, the Mock gobbled berries within easy reach.  The Possumhaw is a small tree which produces beautiful (to gardeners) berries during winter and is a favorite of a variety of wildlife, including my friend, The Mock.

The Mockingbird is the state bird of Texas and known for its vocalization mimicry and beautiful songs.

This Mock was comfortable as I stood close, probably because I told him how pretty he is.


And hoping to catch and devour any, or all, of the above was this handsome Cooper’s HawkAccipiter cooperii.

Another year-round resident in urban Austin, Texas, I see these and other raptors regularly in the neighborhood, flying from tree to tree, scaring the prey birds witless.

This gorgeous one perched in my back neighbor’s tall tree, remaining for several minutes, surveying its realm and allowing me to get some clear shots. The birds in my back garden remained very quiet for a time….

Wishing you a happy new year, full of wildlife in your gardens and peaceful interactions everywhere. Did wildlife visit your garden this past month? Please post for January Wildlife Wednesday. Share photos and stories of your garden wildlife to promote and appreciate your region’s natural habitat and diversity. When you comment on my post, please remember to leave a link to your Wildlife Wednesday post so readers can enjoy a variety of garden wildlife observations.

Happy wildlife gardening!

42 thoughts on “Birds of Winter: Wildlife Wednesday, January 2017

  1. I had been thinking about how glorious your neighbourhood must sound with all these birds, then I saw the hawk! I don’t blame them for keeping quiet. I love your descriptions of the warblers. I clicked on the link for the kinglet – that is some ruby crown! What a delightful post. It has put a smile on my face on this dark, rainy Wednesday. Wishing you the happiest of years ahead.


    • When the raptors show up, the birds scatter and then are eerily quiet–and why wouldn’t they be, with those talons and that beak! My neighborhood is smack in the middle of urban Austin, so we do get plenty of traffic noise, especially this time of year as cold fronts move in. Still, I can generally catch bird songs and calls and am learning recognize and distinguish them. Glad you enjoyed and happy new year(s) to you, Sarah!


  2. Pingback: Wildlife Visitors in December | My Wild Australia

    • Aren’t they darling? I just love it that they visit and that I’m privileged to observe them. The hawk was such a treat (for me, that is). I was working on downed leaves in the garden and had to run into the house for my camera (when WILL I learn to keep that with me???), when he landed in the tree. Sorry your summer is so hot, but I feel you on that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m trying to get into the habit myself of having my camera with me at all times when I’m outside now because you just never know who will make an appearance. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – Looking for a New Home | Gardening Jules

  4. Hi Tina, I hope all is well with you and yours, I have read some of your old posts and hope you are just referring to the political scary nonsense of 2016, have I missed something else? As a wildlife lovers we are moving into really scary times ahead. I love the variety of birds you have, your Coopers Hawk is absolutely beautiful, what an amazing bird and photo. Brilliant shot too of the Northern Mockingbirds, we have so few berries left now in the garden, that I am having to putting out lots of additional seeds and berries to supplement. Your posts are a constant source of pleasure, thanks so much as always for hosting. Here’s to a positive 2017!
    Here’s my contribution, this took ages to put together this morning as I am so rusty on WordPress.


    • Thanks, Julie! Along with the “political scary nonsense” as you so well stated, it was just a hard year for us. My husband had a bad bicycle accident (he’s recovered,, though still in physical therapy) and my lovely father died in July. He lived a great life (92), and died gently and peacefully at home, but I miss him. Terrorism, stupidity and Trump and…whatever is going to come with that mess. It’s just a tough time to stay positive. But, you’re right when you say that natural spaces in the world are going to be under assault, as are so many other issues. We’ll just have to stay vocal, resist when and how we can as individuals and work to stay positive. I’m glad to see you back, though–I’ve missed your posts!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh Tina, I am sorry to hear about your Dad and that I’m so late to tell you so. I hope your husband’s recovery continues, that must be tough on you too.
        The coverage here on Trump has been extensive, we are also a divided nation, which maybe set the scene and made his election all the more possible.
        And for 2017 its so important now to be supportive and share what we know. Gardeners could help and make a difference with our spaces and havens. Best wishes, Julie. x


      • Thank you, Julie and no apologies as to timing. I didn’t mention my Dad’s death anywhere on my blog–licking my wounds in private is a thing with me. 🙂 My husband is recovering and doing well; I took him out for a ride this past weekend and he’s on a stationary bike at the gym his company provides. As to Trump, well, it’s certainly disconcerting that America is not the country I thought it was. Being supportive of policies and leaders that we agree with and resisting those we don’t will be the way to recovery. I hope.


  5. I’m with you, out with 2016 and trowels crossed 2017 will bring unexpected benefits and joy to all creatures, great and small. Tina, your wildlife photos just get better and better. To be able to identify much less capture the teeny tinies flitting about your spaces is testimony to your patience, knowledge and skills.

    The hawk shots are especially impressive. What a daunting aspect hawks present. I believe I’d be extra quiet too when facing that glowering stare. And those talons…that is one no-nonsense bird of prey. I enjoyed your description of the mockingbird – I agree he must have been wooed into cooperation by your flattery. Lucky creatures to have you as caretaker and space guardian in our urban area and lucky us to have you sharing your experiences here. Happy 2017!


    • Thanks, Deb–good to hear from you! The talons on birds of prey always fascinate me–they’re so…lethal. I was quite surprised that the mockingbird just sat there with me jabbering at him/her–we hung out for a good 5 minutes before he moved to the upper areas of the Possumhaw tree. Funnily enough, I don’t see the mockingbirds in my back garden all that often, they mostly hang out in front, and I don’t take photos in my front garden too often. So, the state bird gets short shrift in my blog!!


  6. Your hawk shot is awesome! The hawk that visits my yard will not pose. If you have a chance, could you look and my post on Dec. 28 and see if you know what kind of bees are visiting my feeder. These warm days have brought out all kinds of bees and butterflies.


    • I’m rarely good enough to catch the photos of hawks, this one was a fluke for me, but I’m glad I was able to get a shot of it. I missed that post–sorry! You have honeybees looking for some sustenance and the hummingbird sugar water is probably yummy for them! You might put out a plate (not a bowl, they’ll drown) of sugar water (1:1 mixture), especially if you don’t have much blooming right now. There’s obviously a hive nearby and they do need to eat in winter.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have to contend myself with admiring your birds Tina (yet again). The mockinbird sitting in the Ilex makes for such a beautiful display!
    We have had such unpleasant weather that even the birds are hiding; we noticed during a walk through the woods how quiet the birds were comparing with the sunny days.
    But I saw the cardinal fluttering around yesterday so they must be ok 🙂


    • Brrrr! Our winter has mostly been mild (what’s new there….), but we’ve had a couple of freezes and more predicted in the next days. My best bird watching is this time of year as many North American birds winter here, though they breed in summer nearer to you. I’m sure your birds will be okay!


  8. Pingback: Wildlife Wednesday – Messy Eaters! | Frogend dweller's Blog

  9. Best wishes for 2017 Tina. You smashed the standards for bird photography here. What fantastic shots you’ve captured of the elegant Cooper’s hawk and wonderful mockingbirds. The cute chickadees remind me of our long-tailed tits with their entertaining antics and curiosity.
    My posting is mostly full of hungry birds too –


    • Thanks so much, Allison. I contented myself with fewer photos with (hopefully) more clarity of purpose. I agree that my chickadee (and black crested titmouse–which had no play this post) are similar to your long-tail and blue tits. They’re all in that category of cute, charming little birds that are easy to anthropomorphize! They all have such winning personalities!


  10. You definitely have some birds we don’t but I’ve noticed a big increase in the numbers of birds we usually have. With our heated bird bath and feeders, we have a lot of bird action in the winter. A huge wild area near me was recently cleared for a housing development and I wonder how many of those birds sought refuge here. Sad. 😦


    • That is sad about the new development. Progress, right?? I’m betting that you’ll have more wildlife because the poor critters have been squeezed. Again.

      Nice that you use the heated baths for the birdies.


  11. Magnificent tub post. The warblers are beautiful. The hawk is wonderful. All the birds that appear in their wonderful photos are beautiful. I am very glad that I begin to know how to distinguish the songs of the various birds. It is a joy to see them. Happy Year 2017. May all wild animals continue to be able to live in their respective places safe from all evil. Greetings from Margarita.


  12. Even though I don’t have a “garden,” we share a few of these wonderful creatures. There’s been a red tail hawk perched on the power lines down the street every morning for a week — just surveying the field beneath him. No doubt he’s watching for a mousie. And my friendly mockingbird has started singing early this year. Every morning at 5 a.m., he’s at it. Perhaps this cold front will slow him down for a bit — although I saw a pair of doves mating yesterday afternoon. I told them it was too early, but I’m just a silly human.

    The crepe myrtles are full of goldfinch, and this morning I heard geese overhead. I know there are some here already, but these were my first for the year, and they always give me a thrill. Our coots have arrived, and some of the other water birds: widgeons, grebes, and teal. It gives me great pleasure to see the cycles of nature continuing on, despite our human foolishness.

    Do you know I’ve never found a chrysalis? Lucky you! It’s always fun to see your flowers, but your birds and your butterfly-to-be are just as delightful.


    • Sounds like you have a nice diversity of birds in your area–that’s great. I’m glad you gave the “no fooling around” advice to the doves, but my guess is that they didn’t listen….

      I’m always amazed to see where butterflies (and moths, too) choose to pupate. I”m sure I miss more of them than I find, but it’s always a treat to see one.


  13. Wow – great shots, Tina! How wonderful to have such abundance of birds! I agree with you – those Chickadees are nothing short of adorable! 🙂 We have a Red-tailed hawk that hangs around our neighborhood too. Such an amazing presence – never managed a decent photo, though…


  14. These are beautiful photos =) and really welcome because today I am going to hide inside to avoid the cold. Love that Butter Butt. I so rarely see our local hawk though I do see evidence of its presence — usually a circle of dove feathers on the lawn. Your hawk looks magnificent.


    • Hi Debra! It’s been a cold weekend, that’s for sure! I primarily see hawks during winter into early spring and not so much during summer, though I assume they’re around.


  15. Pingback: Wildlife Visitors in January 2017 – snaphappi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s