Munchies

A bevy of beautiful birds are noshing in the garden.

Three males and a female enjoying lunch.

Lesser GoldfinchesSpinus psaltria, come and go throughout the year, but I can set my calendar by their appearance in the garden buffet during autumn when the Plateau Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, are creating seeds.

After all, that’s how the plants and the birds rock-n-roll with one another: seeds are produced at the end of flowering and for the nourishment of the birds, and the birds, in turn, spread the seeds to other places to grow, bloom, seed. It’s an ancient complementary relationship and one worthy of watching and appreciating.

 

Waiting

It’s been a week or so since I last saw a hummingbird in my garden. Perhaps I haven’t been out at the right time or maybe Ms. Hummer isn’t around at the moment.  She’s probably a nesting female, busily tending her little ones somewhere nearby.

When I last observed, there were two hummers: two females, pursuing one another from Turk’s cap blossoms to Mexican orchid tree blooms, with a quick turn about the sunflowers.  Continuing the chase, they zoomed off, heading away from my garden.  Now, I’m waiting to see either one, or both, again.

Not long ago, I bumbled out the door while Ms Hummer was slurping at the salmon blooms of the Red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora.  She darted up and settled onto the Desert willow, Chilopsis linearis, whose foliage is lacy over the front garden.

She rested, alert but relaxed, waiting for me to exit the area.   I snapped some shots while she posed prettily.  She eventually grew tired of my presence and sped to another place, presumably where no one was taking her photo.

This begins the time of year when the hummingbirds are most active in my garden.   No doubt, I’ll see the females again, but I’ll also begin seeing the males, especially in August and September, as they prepare for their journey south.

To garden with wildlife is all about waiting:  waiting for the right moment to feed, to forage, to observe, to photograph.

I’m pleased to join again with Anna and her Wednesday Vignette.   Check out her blog, Flutter and Hum, for musings of various sorts.

 

Peanut Gallery: Wildlife Wednesday, July 2019

In my garden, I’ve never hung loads of feeders.  I’ve limited the feeder frenzy to one, occasionally two, black-oiled sunflower seed feeders at any point in time, augmented during the cool season with one feeder for commercial suet cakes.  Recently I began offering peanuts at my backyard bird buffet.  Peanuts are power food for birds.  Packed with fat and protein, as well as plenty of other avian-appropriate nutrients, peanuts pack a punch for bird nutrition, and often, for the bird-lover’s pocketbook.

Last summer I began filling a ceramic pot I’d made with unshelled peanuts.  The pot was originally crafted for a succulent (I even placed a hole in the bottom for water drainage), but I decided that, given my poor history of watering container plants and especially where I placed the pot, that it might make a more successful  bird feeder.

The Blue Jays, Cyanocitta cristata, squawked, flapped their feathers, and applauded–and then they ate!  Now, each morning, bleary-eyed and before coffee, I pop a couple of handfuls of peanuts in the little square pot and the jays have at it. There’s usually at least one Jay in the tree under which the pot sits, waiting patiently for me to deliver the goods, and then vamoose.  There have been times that the jays line up on the fence where the pot is affixed, politely taking turns swooping to the pot, each grabbing a breakfast bit and swooping off to enjoy in some neighboring tree.

I’ve seen photos of Titmice and other birds enjoying unshelled peanuts, but in my garden, it’s only the Blue Jays who partake.  Squirrels never eat the peanuts either, though I know that may bird lovers complain vociferously about the peanut-stealing squirrels.  I guess I should count my peanut blessings that it’s only the Blue Jays after the peanuts; they certainly consume enough of them.

A few months back, I purchased a feeder for shelled peanuts because I wanted to provide this yummy, healthy food to a greater variety of birds. (No dis on you jays, but I like some bird diversity munching my offerings.)

And munched they have!  The peanut feeder is the place to eat now, so much so, that I’ve had to limit the supply of peanuts.   The male Black-crested TitmouseBaeolophus atricristatus, pays no attention to me snapping his photo, as he’s focused on his snack.

He works the wire with claw dexterity.

 

The neighborhood Red-bellied WoodpeckerMelanerpes carolinus, is a shy-guy (as is his mate), but when he lands on the feeder, he is the master of the peanuts and defends his meal.

While his head is red, it’s the blush on his belly which gives him the moniker red-bellied.  And he likes his peanuts!

The female partner also visits and snatches her share of the legume.   Not as flush with blush, she still rocks that red hat and snazzy plumage pattern.

 

The biggest boon to providing the shelled peanuts is that I now observe a family of Downy Woodpeckers, Dryobates pubescens, regularly in my garden.   Daddy Downy dons the jaunty red beret.

Hang on there, buddy!

Mama gets her share of protein, too.

The pair of Downies had one chick (that I’m aware of)  this spring.  I watched Daddy Downy feed his fledgling and show her the ropes on maneuvering around the feeder. Baby looks like Mama, but with shorter tail feathers.

The number of Downy visits have lessened in the past few weeks, but I still spy furtive visits, especially in the evening.  It’s good dinner-time entertainment.

Green goblins!  Austin hosts several colonies of Monk Parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus.  Not native to this area, these gregarious greens fly over my house often, squawking their squeak, but rarely stop in my garden.  One afternoon, I spotted two in the oak tree where the peanut feeder hangs.  One popped down for a nosh.

 

This ninja bird is otherwise known as a Great-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus,  the Gracks have become nuisances at the peanut bar.  Like the so many others, these brassy birds share a love of the nut, but also scatter the smaller birds like titmice, chickadees, and Downy woodpeckers when  they zoom in for the feed.

Peanut in beak, ready to eat!

 

I usually see Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus, in spring, but this handsome dude has hung around all June because of the available peanuts.  Red-wings breed in this region, though none have ever spent time during summer in my back garden.  I’m glad there’s something to attract him.

I hear him before I see him because of  his melodic, high-pitched call as he perches in the tree where the feeder hangs.  He’s cautious about flying to the feeder, but once arrived, he’s is all in.

 

The tiniest is the the quickest!  Carolina Chickadees, Poecile carolinensis, are nut lovers too, but so quick at their snacking that it took some time for me to get an unblurred photo.  This little one picked bits of peanut from those behind the mesh.  Do you see that peanut mush at his beak?

Scoping out choices: which peanut should I grab?

 

An unwelcomed visitor is this fella, a European Starling, Sturnus vulgaris.  It’s rare to see only one at a time and this summer there’s a whole clan swooping in daily to gobble up the peanuts.  I  admire Starlings’ beautiful plumage, but they are bullies and I don’t like them muscling in on the peanut action.  When I first offered peanut pickings, I filled the feeder in the morning and it was empty by late afternoon.  Per advice from Wild Birds Unlimited and since the native songbirds mostly nosh mornings and evenings, I’ve mitigated the Starlings’ peanut gluttony by offering only a small amount of peanuts in early in the day and another small amount in evening, leaving the feeder empty for the afternoons.  The schedule change has allowed a slight decline in Starling visits and I’m not emptying my bank account keeping them in peanuts.

 

The poor, hapless White-winged Doves, Zenaida asiatica, have no game at the feeder.  They land on top, bumble around trying to figure out how to work the mesh. Inevitably, fluttering to the ground because they can’t hang on to the cylindrical feeder, they feed on fallen peanuts.. Doves are ground feeders and competently snatch up leftover peanut bits–as long as they’re terra firma.

The feeder hangs close to this ceramic pot holding graceful Basket grass, Nolina texana.  The doves (and some other birds) root around the plant, pecking and picking peanut droppings.  There’s no peanut mess for me to clean up, but birds poop on the foliage.  It’s always something.

 

I started this peanut gallery with Blue Jays and will end with them.  Jays like peanuts:  shelled, unshelled–they love’m all!

How is your wildlife?  Are they foraging in your foliage or feasting at your feeders?  Please share your wildlife garden stories and remember to leave a link when you comment here–happy wildlife gardening!