Today is the first Wednesday of February and time to appreciate wildlife in our gardens–happy Wildlife Wednesday to you all! In this fraught time, experiencing nature can be a balm for frayed nerves, as well as a respite for contemplating resistance to the specter of autocracy. To be a part of the natural world doesn’t require travel outside of your town or city if you make time to visit a municipal park or greenbelt, volunteer as a wildlife gardener at a school or religious institution garden, or set aside your own personal garden as a refuge for wildlife–and yourself. None of these are difficult to achieve and the benefits are enormous: for you, your community, and the wildlife you share the world with.
Though the few blasts of winter’s chill has rendered my garden the muted beige and grey palette that is the Texas winter landscape, there are pops of color in the form of the resident native birds, like the Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata,
…and the Northern Cardinal, Cardinalis cardinalis.
I’ve never successfully identified Blue Jays by gender–male and females look alike to me, though I assume they see differences among themselves. Cardinals however are easily distinguishable, the female Northern Cardinal softer in coloring than her stunning male counterpart.
Not quite as dazzling as her fella, she’s certainly pretty enough for this human to enjoy observing.
Typical of the drab girl-coloring common in the avian world, this female House Finch, Haemorhous mexicanus, doesn’t share the splash of red that her partner enjoys.
Though not as flushed and blushed as her mate, Ms. HF is pretty cute. House Finches are numerous in my garden and chatty to boot. In late spring and early summer, their song is almost non-stop.
Another vocalist in my garden–and a species where the males and females are indistinguishable to me–is the Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus.
These little guys and gals are real charmers. Males sing beautifully, often, LOUD, and with a variety of song. The adults scold with a tchtch, tchtch, tchtch when nestlings are threatened or feeding is interrupted and that is a frequent backdrop of my garden’s bird song symphony.
The White-winged Dove, Zenaida asiatica, wins the award for birds a-plenty. These are birds that I rarely photograph because my familiarity with them breeds a certain level of…yawning boredom. White-winged Doves are everywhere, every day, all the time. According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this species was originally a bird of desert thickets, feeding on the seeds of grasses and berries in trees. Year-round residents in Texas, White-winged Doves are one species that most non-gardeners and non-birders recognize because they’re generously represented in cities and suburbs. While I’m not a huge fan, I tolerate them, even when they land along the edge of the bird baths–backwards with tail in, or over, the water–and immediately poop in it. Yuck!
Typical for doves though, they have a rather sweet appearance, as this one demonstrates while resting on a bed of fallen leaves during a chilly day.
Butter Butts are back! Yellow-rumped Warblers, Setophaga coronata, are winter Texans and very welcome in my garden.
They hop along the ground, looking for seeds, but they also enjoy the suet I’ve placed in a couple of spots.
I think the two that I’m seeing regularly are females, but last year there was a male in the mix. These seasonal warblers will hang around until March or early April. I hope that I can identify individuals by the time they leave for their summer breeding grounds much farther north in Canada and the northern states of the U.S.
My newest favorite bird species and one I think has visited my garden before, though I’ve only definitively identified it this year is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Regulus calendula. A rapid-fire flyer, itty-bitty, and oh-so-darling, these song birds are fond of insects and suet. They flick their tails as they flit from branch to branch and are stationary only for very brief periods of time. I’ve seen both a male and female in my garden and though they look similar, there is one striking difference. Okay, probably more than one, but one that I can readily see.
The male is identifiable because of the startling red feathers on top of his head that he fluffs up when he’s issuing a warning or flirting with a girl. In this photo, it’s a barely visible suggestion of a red stripe.
Along with flirting and blustering, bathing is included in the list of what elicits the ruby-crowned flash,
…and after-bath fluffing revs up the red feather action, too.
It’s remarkable just how RED that crown is when it’s up and flashing. When it appears, it’s truly a ruby jewel in the garden; when the sun spotlights the ruby crown, it positively glows.
Those aren’t great photos and I’m working for better during his winter stay. The Ruby-crowned Kinglets are so fast that competent captures of these little birds has been a challenge.
Another winter warbler who visits daily is (at least) one Orange-crowned Warbler, Oreothlypis celata. He/she/they (there might be more than two) are shy and are often chased around the garden by the larger Yellow-crowned Warblers. I’m not sure why, but I observed that behavior of Yellow-rumps toward Orange-crowneds last winter too.
Birds are bullies sometimes, just like people are bullies sometimes.
Orange-crowned Warblers sing a sweet cheep cheep and that’s usually how I find them in the oak trees. They favor flitting through the shrubbery, snipping off insects and are more reticent at the feeders than either the Butter Butts or the Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Toward the end of the month, the Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, appeared in their usual flocks of many. This beauty is an anomaly as he sits quietly and alone, proudly perched in the Red Oak.
There should be ample opportunity to see and hear these beautiful birds before they leave in late spring for their summer breeding grounds.
I hope your garden is full of wildlife and that you observe, learn, and appreciate their place in the world. Let your garden be a place of renewal and strength.
Did wildlife visit your garden this past month? Please post for February 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!
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It’s always fascinating seeing the birds in your garden Tina, so different to what I’m used to seeing here in Australia. I really love those bluejays and cardinals, so bright and colourful for winter time. The kinglets are so cute and what a little sweetie the orange crowned warbler is. Lovely! It would be so nice to hear what these birds sound like one day. Here’s my contribution: https://mywildaustralia.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/wildlife-visitors-in-january/
I feel the same way about what you share from Australia-those critters are exotic to me! If you click on the Cornell Lab links for each bird, there’s a sound button that you can click to hear each bird’s songs and calls.
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You got some really great shots of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, as they are not easy to photograph. I have same birds over at my end of Texas. A few Gold Finches have finally shown up. I used to have large flocks, but someone else must have better food!
Thanks! They are quick little things, but I’ve certainly enjoyed their presence in the garden this winter. I’m not seeing any gold or lesser finches in my garden this winter–rather odd.
That Ruby-crowned Kinglet is lovely, rather like our Gold and Firecrests. Fascinating to see his crown revealed. Well done for catching that! I am jealous of your Waxwing too. We do supposedly see waxwings in East Anglia (from Scandinavia) during the winter months, but I never have 😦
Here is my wildlife post for the month, covering the Big Garden Birdwatch: http://wp.me/pM8Y1-4l7
The crown is so beautiful when in full display, but hard for me to catch! I adore the waxwings, so lovely and gregarious.
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Hi Tina, you’ve written a lovely post today, very uplifting and wise words too, a garden should definitely be a place of strength and renewal. I know how you feel about White Winged Doves, we have a Wood Pidgeons that poop in bird baths just the same. Its gross, you made me laugh out loud when I read your words. I’m glad Butter Butts are back even if just to read their name! Good stalking with your Ruby Crowned Kinglet, I followed your link, he looks a fine little bird and an exciting visitor. Waxwings have been in the UK this year in numbers, as its been really cold in Scandinavia, but I haven’t seen any myself. Where are yours coming from? I need to read more about the ones here. Lovely to see your Orange Crowned Warblers, do you have bird song early in your climate, we do not really hear much until next month, although its definitely noisier in afternoons now. Thanks as always. x
Here’s my post this month, not as uplifting as yours I’m afraid.
Thanks, Julie! I guess lots of folks feel the same as you and I do about doves! We have bird song year round, though most of the songbirds I profiled this post will migrate north later in spring–they’re winter visitors here, only. Our Waxwings winter throughout much of North and Central America, breeding further north for summer. Allison also mentioned that Waxwings are in the UK, though I assume they must be a different species from ours.
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Ours migrating from Scandinavia are Bombycilla garrulus, they look identical to me, and common name also Cedar Waxwing, I shall read up more!
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I don’t know how you do it, Tina, but you always have the most wonderful bird photos! I tried to photograph a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in my garden a couple of years ago – it was trying to become a hummingbird! You’re right – they are terribly difficult to photograph. Every photo I took is blurry!
Also, I wrote another post a while back that touches a little on the color vision capabilities of birds. You might be surprised – seen with their own eyes they aren’t half as demure as how we see them.
Loved both your links! I’d agree that the Ruby-crowned Kinglet is a little bird with a great big heart! The two in my garden are becoming more comfortable with me nearby, but I rarely have my camera on my when I’m just a couple of feet away. I need to fix that!
Glad you liked them! I’m looking forward to your future captures of those adorable little birds!
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Thank you for this! It has made my Wednesday so much better.
On Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 10:15 PM, My Gardener Says… wrote:
> Tina posted: “Today is the first Wednesday of February and time appreciate > wildlife in our gardens–happy Wildlife Wednesday to you all! In > this fraught time, experiencing nature can be a balm for frayed nerves, as > well as a respite for contemplating resistance to the ” >
Glad to oblige!
Enjoyed seeing the birds visiting your yard. I have not seen nor heard any waxwings. I enjoy seeing them each year. I suppose they all went south to see you. 🙂
Ah, well maybe the waxwings will stop by your place when then head northwards in April.
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We’re just overrun with goldfinches right now, and have been for a couple of weeks. And just this week a cardinal came bouncing up to my balcony. The darned pigeons ran it off, but those pigeons run off everything. I’m going to have to just bite the bullet, remove the feeders, and wait for them to go elsewhere. Of course, it only took them two weeks to come back the last time I tried it. Sigh. I just may not be able to feed birds, even with wire-caged feeders.
I’ve never seen a ruby-crowned kinglet. That is a bright spot of color, isn’t it? And how I envy you your waxwings. I told someone (maybe you?) that our problem this year is that the landscapers cut every bit of fruit off the palm trees before the birds arrived. I was so irritated. But, what to do?
Today was my day for white ibis, a tri-color heron, an osprey with a fish, a pair of great egrets, and three pied-billed grebes. Hooray for water!
Oh wow, you have great birds! Those darned pigeons-rats with wings, they are. I’m jealous of your goldfinches. I haven’t seen any of the gold or the lessers. I wish someone would train up these landscapers-they cut back stuff that they shouldn’t.
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What a nice display of birds Tina! Good replacement for the colourful flowers 🙂
A bad cold and maintenance on my website kept me from joining again, but I have high hopes for next month.
But it is good to read through all other wildlife wed. postings here!
Thanks! So sorry to hear about your cold–hope you get well soon. Looking forward to your next post!
Hi Tina — I was really taken by your words in the introduction–“In this fraught time, experiencing nature can be a balm for frayed nerves … ” and more. So true. I’ve been consciously turning my thoughts to wonderful outdoor places and memories, and I try to spend more time out walking and looking. It is definitely therapeutic. Nature blogs are helpful too. 🙂 I sure enjoyed the kinglets. I’ve seen the red crowns before, but not so prominently displayed.
And, you have a beautiful landscape in which to hike and observe. I just have to engage in positive thinking and forward looking and nature is what gives me rest–and then it’s time to get back to the resisting. 🙂
I generally have to grab the binoculars to see his little red bit, but it surely is RED! In the shots that I took of him in the shrubs after his bath, the sun really highlighted the ruby crown.
Tina wonderful photos of the birds that visit your garden. Your garden should be an oasis for the birds, as it takes care of them so well! I like all birds but Ruby-crowned Kinglet looks very cute and funny after his bath, arranging his feathers and with his red crest dislocated (the images are precious). Carolina Wren is very beautiful. Thanks for this great post filled with great information written with much affection. Greetings from Margarita.
Thank you, Margarita. The Ruby-crowned Kinglet is very fun to watch–quick and agile when he flies. And I agree that the Carolina wren is beautiful and the males songs are lovely to listen to.
Gorgeous bird photos! Watching birds helps me get through the winter. Their behavior is fascinating–as you say, some are bullies. Others are tricky and clever. 😉
Thanks, Beth. It’s amazing just how much personality birds display–as individuals and species. There’s always new behaviors to observe and learn about.
I would love to sit down in that beautiful garden💞
NIce! Lemme know when you’re next in town! 🙂