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Hawk Attack

So, we were sitting on our deck at about 5:30 last evening when a hawk swoops in to our back yard and takes a rest  on a branch right above our feeders.  We’ve seen this guy before but can’t decide if it’s a Coopers Hawk or Sharp-Shinned Hawk.  Luckily, I had my camera near by and I took a few pictures.

Right after I snapped the pictures he dove off the branch and nearly picked off one of the male Cardinals that frequent the feeders.  The Cardinal escaped several attempts by the hawk to grab it.  The two of them were flying in/out, and around a magnolia bush and pine tree.  Finally the hawk gave up and sat back on the same branch he started on.  I took a few more pictures.  Unfortunately they are pretty blurry due to the low light and my having to hand hold the camera.  Here they are.  Maybe one of you more experienced birders can tell us which hawk it is, Coopers or Sharp-Shinned:

These first two are of the front of the hawk:

Here’s a couple of the back:

Based on these pictures, and our Kaufman Field Guide, we think it is a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. What do you think?

Homemade Suet Time

Don’t The Birds Know There’s A Recession

Our backyard is a busy, and expensive, place.  All the birds coming to our feeders mean we are spending some serious money feeding them.  Don’t they know there’s a recession? 

We really enjoy all the feathered things, and we don’t want them to leave, but the outlay of cash is more than we were budgeting that’s for sure.  So, in order to save some money we finally broke down and started making our own suet.  The birds seem to like it so far.

The Recipe Please

There are a ton of possibilities for suet recipes.  People use real suet, beef tallow, bacon fat, or lard for the “base” and mix in all kinds of other stuff.  We wanted to make something that would survive the hot, humid weather here in Georgia without melting (although it is funny to see the birds slide down the pole right past the feeder because of the melted suet on it).  We found a recipe that is supposedly “no-melt”.  It’s going to get warm here this weekend so we’ll see if this “no-melt” recipe we made is truly no-melt.  Here it is:

  • 1 cup lard
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 cups quick oatmeal
  • 2 cups plain yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  1. Melt the lard and peanut butter in a pan over low heat.
  2. Add the rest of the stuff and mix well.
  3. Pour into a pan to cool down (or the containers from the store bought suet you have been using up to now) and put in the fridge to cool down.
  4. Cut to size and place in your favorite suet feeder.
  5. Watch the birds tear through it forcing you to make more 

Saving The Big Bucks

All the ingredients cost us about $11 (enough for two+ batches).  We should be able to get 10-12 feeders full of suet once we get through all of it.  That works out to about $1 a pop which is less than 50% of the $2.19 we were paying for each of the No-Melt Suet packs at our local pet supply store.  We won’t be retiring early because of the money we save, but a dollar here and there adds up over time.

What other suet recipes have you found that work well in hot weather?

Bath Time For Mr Cowbird

Our birdbath is only about 8 feet away from us when we sit on the deck.  The birds are getting fairly used to us being out on the deck and are starting to come to the birdbath more and more while we are sitting out there.  It’s fun to watch them land on the deck railing, hop down to the birdbath, and then take a drink or a bath before flying off.

Last weekend we were sitting out on the deck eating some dinner and watching all the wildlife activity in our yard.  Birds were coming and going from the birdbath but were a little skittish.  They’d land, chirp a few times, and then fly off without really using the birdbath.  That was until our local pair of Cowbirds showed up.  The male boldly landed on the deck rail and immediately plopped into the birdbath.

After sitting in the water for a few seconds, as if he was testing it, he hopped up on the edge of the birdbath.

He looked over at us very quickly then hopped back into the water.  For the next minute or so he was happily splashing away.

Water was flying all over the place. He wasn’t holding back.  There was no way he wasn’t going to get clean!

He finally stopped and flew off after splashing all the water out of the birdbath .
We like our birdbath.

We Caught The Thief

Yesterday Pam and I came home from work to find the little “stick on” window feeder that is attached to our deck door by suction cups hanging by one suction cup about to fall off.  We had no idea how that happened.  In addition the birds had been eating a lot of seed from the feeder, or so we thought.

Well, today, when I came home for lunch, I glanced over to the window and saw something that really caught my attention.  I ran upstairs and grabbed the camera and caught the little thief red handed, or should I say “red pawed” 

This squirrel was wedged in the feeder happily eating away at all the seed!  I don’t know how he got up there.  The feeder is about 4 feet off the deck and there’s no “launching pads” nearby.  As I moved closer to the window he finally saw me, jumped down, and scampered away.  I guess we need to put the feeder a little higher on the window, huh.

Still Here Just Distracted

Wow, time flies when you’re busy and focused on other stuff.

We’re Still Here

Pam and I are still alive, we’ve just been distracted/focused on other stuff the last couple of months.  Pam has been crazy at work, as have I, plus I’m getting into the meat of the cycling season.  In addition, since late March I’ve been focusing, when I can, on a new blog called Video Beer Reviews that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  I’ve been a lover of quality beer for 20+ years and now I am reviewing beers and posting the videos on the blog.  So, if you like beer and want to see somebody babble on about why they like or dislike a beer feel free to go over there and subscribe.  How does beer relate to birds you ask?  Well we spend a lot of time on the deck enjoying beer and watching the birds so there you go 

Birds We’ve Seen And Missed

In the last month or two we’ve seen a few new birds in our yard including Brown Headed Cowbirds, Magnolia Warblers, Purple Finches (pretty sure although they are “rare” in Georgia), Red Headed Woodpeckers (very cool bird!), Cedar Waxwings, and Blue Jays.  We’ve also noted the return of the Ruby Throated Hummingbird to the sugar water feeder on our deck.  The Goldfinches have come back as well. I think we’ve missed most of the Spring Migration.  We were planning on getting out to bird with a group this Spring, especially for Warblers, but it’s May and most of them are gone.  We’ll catch them in the Fall and next Spring I guess.  Both our life lists are a little bigger than before.

Looking Ahead And Another Mystery Bird

We’re hoping to get back in the swing of birding more often and posting about our experiences.  I’m also going to try to get some more pictures to post as well, including one of another “mystery” bird that we just saw yesterday.  It was mostly brown, songbird sized, and had a thin white “crown” and white dots on the wing.  The beak is short and stubby and might be slightly hooked at the end.  It was hanging out at our feeders.  We’ve looked through our field guides but can’t find anything close.  We’ll keep trying and hopefully we will figure it out.  If anyone has any ideas please let us know.

Anyway, I’ll try to be a bit more regular in posting.  We really appreciate those of you that visit the site on a regular basis.  Thank You!!!

Snow Day

This past weekend Atlanta, and most of the Eastern half of the country, got a fair amount of snow.  In the two years we’ve lived here this is the largest amount of snow they have had.  While it was a “significant snow event” for Atlanta, it barely qualifies as snow for our old hometown of Chicago!  Either way, it was nice to see some snow in the yard.  I took a few pictures of the feeders and yard to prove that there actually was snow.  Here they are:

A Winter Wonderland

This first picture is of the backyard at nearly the “height” of the storm.  There was a bit of slush/ice on the roads for a few hours.  The snow stuck around on the grass for a day or so and in the shady areas for nearly 3 days.  We ended up with maybe 2″ of accumulation.

Carolina Wren

here is one of our regular Carolina Wrens sitting on the snow covered platform feeder.  You can also see the beak of a male Cardinal peeking out from behind the tube feeder.

Cardinals And Yellow Rumped Warbler?

Here is a picture of a couple of cardinals along with what we think is a Yellow Rumped Warbler.  There’s a little bit of yellow under the wings along with the “wing bars”.  What do you more experienced birders think?

Another Picture Of The Warbler (We Think)

Here’s another picture of the bird we think is the Yellow Rumped Warbler.  See the little bit of yellow on his head?  The only place we didn’t see yellow was on his rump.

Winter is on its way out here in Atlanta. March is usually when things start to warm up a bit here in the South so the late snowfall (March 1st) was a nice treat. Pretty soon we’ll be complaining about the 90 degree days with 90% humidity.

Ready Set Count

In a couple of weeks Pam and I will take part in our first “official” bird count, The Great Backyard Birdcount 2009. The GBBC is a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.  It is annual event that takes place in February.

Lots of Participants

In 2008 over 85,000 checklists were submitted and over 9.8 million birds of 635 species were reported.  Obviously, lots of people take part.  We’re looking forward to being part of the 2009 edition.

Our Plan

The count takes place from February 13th to the 16th.  We will be around most of the weekend except for a few hours on Saturday.  Our plan is to spend some time Saturday afternoon as well as Sunday morning and afternoon recording all the birds we see in our backyard during those times.  Hopefully, we have some good activity and are able to get some good counts.  This will be a good opportunity to test our identification and “binocular handling” abilities.  We have a fairly large backyard so we will need to pay attention and count correctly.

A Good Opportunity

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to participate in birding.  You don’t need to be experts, Pam and I definitely aren’t  , and the information you gather is used to further science.  If you are getting started in birding like we are, this is a great way to contribute and have fun at the same time.

To learn more about the GBBC, visit their site, then get ready to count!

Sick Day

Well, it finally caught up with me.  After probably 6 years without missing a day of work due to illness, I took today off because I had a fever and generally felt like crap.

After getting some tea and OTC cold/flu medicine I took a nice 3 hour nap and then spent an hour or so sitting in the recliner, drinking tea and keeping an eye on our feeders and birdbath.

A Different Perspective

This was probably the first time I have been in the house by myself in the middle of a work day, doing absolutely nothing, in nearly 10 years.  On the weekends Pam and I run around doing errands, etc.  We spend some time watching the feeders but usually in the morning or late afternoon.  The middle of the day is not a common time to watch birds.  So this afternoon I just took in what I could see.  There were some differences in the bird’s activities in the middle of the day.  They seemed to be less rushed.  More of them just sat on the feeder and ate as opposed to taking one seed and flying away.   Is it because they aren’t trying to get the “last seed” before darkness?  I don’t know but it was fun watching them.  Also, the daylight is much brighter making the birds colors more vibrant.

The Tally

I only saw 12 species, kind of low for the yard.  I did see a new life bird, the Dark Eyed Junco.  Maybe it was because it was the middle of the day.  But, each of the birds was more laid back and I was able to watch them better.  A trade off I guess, quality over quantity.

I sort of enjoyed the afternoon birdwatching, except for the fever, chills, and hacking cough 🙂  Hopefully I recover quickly.

Time for another nap.

Some Bird Pictures From A Cold Week

This week was one of the coldest weeks Atlanta has had in a few years. The birds were eating seed like crazy. They also discovered our heated bird bath in large numbers as well as the little feeder we stuck to the sliding door to the deck. I tried to take pictures of as many birds as I could but they were always the same birds! Here are a few of the better ones I got:

Our recent invasion of Pine Siskin is a little unusual from what I understand. I guess they don’t usually appear down here in such large numbers. Here they are on our thistle feeder:

Here’s one of my favorite pictures to date. I got lucky with this guy who was sitting on the bird bath.

Here’s one of the Pine Siskin eating in our “stick on” window feeder.

This Eastern Bluebird was very interested in what was going on in the house.

I’m getting better at this bird picture thing but I still take a bunch in order to get a few keepers. Hopefully you enjoy the pictures as well.