Project Feederwatch underway..

Well, Katelyn and I completed our first count for the feederwatch program last week. I plan to include the count for the week and some photos, if I get to take some.

Quickly, the count. 11/16-11/17, 30 was the lowest temp, 53 was the highest. We had some rain the first day and wind the second. (I have noticed overcast and misty days bring the most activity. It’s as if the birds want the easiest meal when the weather is crappy….and who could blame them?)

Eurasian Tree Sparrows – 15
Chickadee – 3
House Finch – 3
Dark-eyed Junco – 1
Mourning Dove – 10
Blue Jay – 1 (the first one at the feeder in months)
Red-bellied woodpecker – 1
Northern Flicker – 1
Downy woodpecker – 2
Goldfinch – 2
Cooper’s Hawk – 1 (swooped through after a pile of doves, but came up empty)
White-breasted Nuthatch – 1
Titmouse – 3
House Sparrow – 2
Northern Cardinal – 2
Common Grackle – 1

Now, since then, I’ve notice a lot. As the feeders are being rediscovered, word is traveling the streets again. I know have a minimum of 8 goldfinch regulars (this morning I saw 11). I have more house finches. I have counted as many as 41 Eurasian Tree Sparrows in the yard simultaneously when I thought I topped out at about 20. I also counted over 40 doves in the trees that same day…..over 90 birds in the yard at one time is a record for me for sure.

I know of at least 3 Cardinal pairs, but never see them at the same time. I know of 2 pairs of Downys. I know of 4 titmice that I saw simultaneously the day after I counted. The juncos are on the increase daily. And, the house sparrows are mixing in with the ETS’s. Where I saw one every so often, I am seeing more regular visitors with the flock…..that’s how you know word is spreading.

I can’t wait for my other sparrows to come in, and I think I may notice my finch populations grow through the winter as migrating birds come back to where they found food last year.

Here are some untouched shots from the week. I haven’t had a lot of time for editing…

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Winter Finch Forecast…

Every year several bird species move farther out of their normal wintering range. This movement is called an irruption. Finches and grosbeaks are notorious for these winter movements in years their food supplies in northern Canada run short. And, every year, Ron Pittaway will forecast the movements of several species of irrupting birds.

Primarily focused on the Northeast US, you can find his detailed forecast here.

If you live outside the northeast, you can visit Cornell University’s website at to find out the wintering ranges of a lot of different birds. I see that my area of St. Louis, Missouri is well within the wintering range of Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls, two birds I’ve yet to see. I may be in the wintering range, technically, but it takes an irruption to get these birds down to me.

So, even though the winter finch forecast is designed for the northeast, I can still use it to guess how likely I will be to see any of these birds over the winter. In this year’s case, not likely….again.

If you are curious about which birds you may see, you can do similar cross-referencing of information yourself. I share this because many people don’t know where to start looking for birds as they begin this hobby. Start with and use other articles you “google” to verify or connect your thoughts together. These days, the internet really is your friend when it comes to learning a new hobby.

Project Feederwatch is coming..

Cornell Lab of Ornithology is about to begin it’s annual Project Feederwatch. Each November the lab asks fellow birders to help them accumulate information on continental bird populations. The Lab takes this information and studies trends that lie within the numbers. They study habitat change, migrations, populations, and from this they draw conclusions as to why things have changed. Maybe climatology. Maybe predation. Maybe just an odd year. Who knows? But, they study these things to learn more about bird populations. And, every year we get to help out and leverage our locations to provide a wide scope of information.

The feederwatch runs from November to April. Winter populations are studied because they are more stable. I also believe people stay indoors more and are able to count, but that isn’t noted as a reason….just my thought. It’s a little bit of a commitment because they ask that you buy your tally sheets (minimal cost of $15). But, I am not one to just toss money away. I wanted to make sure I would complete the project all the way through.

This year, my daughter made it easy for me. Since she has expressed an interest, too, we decided to participate together. She has become pretty good at identifying the more common visitors, and I figure she can tally some counts when I can’t.

The process is simple. Take some information about the day and weather in which you counted. Tally the highest number of birds you see at the same time in your “watch area.” And, submit online to the lab. The only requirement is that you count over a consecutive day period, Monday and Tuesday for example. And, after you count, you take 5 days off or more. So, if I counted on Mon and Tues, I wouldn’t count again until at least the next Monday. Couldn’t be more simple.

Here is a sample since I haven’t submitted a count over the last week….

November 7 and 8. Nov 7: 58-66 degrees. Cloudy and rain showers all day. Nov 8: 43-63 (but the high was at midnight as temps fell all day). Partly cloudy and very windy with gusts as high as 40mph.

Black-capped Chicakdee – 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow – 6
House Sparrow – 2
Tufted Titmouse – 4
House Finch – 3
American Goldfinch – 4
Mourning Dove – 15
Common Grackle – 11
Red-bellied Woodpecker – 1
Dark-eyed Junco – 2
Downy Woodpecker – 4
Northern Cardinal – 3
Northern Flicker – 1
Carolina Wren – 1

Not bad; 14 species listed. I expect the number to grow a bit…and the numbers of individuals to grow as the season wears on.

I’ve also included a picture for you to see.

The Birds Are Back..

Just that fast, the birds return with the addition of a feeder containing sunflower seed. BOOM! From a couple of Eurasian Tree Sparrows to a backyard full of chattering buddies. Yesterday, all in about 15 minutes of watching, I saw 3 male Cardinals and a female, 6 Mourning Doves, 4-5 House finches, 3 Titmice, 3 Chickadees, a Downy Woodpecker, about 15 Eurasian Tree Sparrows, and about 3 or 4 tree rats raiding my stash.

I now have several feeders out. A suet feeder for the woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees and nuthatches, mixed seed for the Juncos (which I finally saw yesterday, just not at the feeders) and native sparrows that will be coming in, sunflower seed for songbirds….and apparently squirrels again…lol. I will install a nyjer feeder today on a sock that hangs very close to my window. Squirrels don’t like thistle too much, and the doves and whatnot can’t really cling to the sock like the finches. Granted, sparrows will eat anything, but they have a lot of food out to choose from already and shouldn’t be a big problem.

Here are some mediocre photos from yesterday…

Hmmmmm Decisions..

I think back to my feeder setup last year at this time and it was rolling. I had a variety of birds I took for granted. The birds came and went all day long, practically cleaning me out of food on a semi-weekly basis. Winter hit, and the cleaning out became almost daily. The price got high (around $25/mo for birds…lol), but the rewards were worth it, imo.

Now, since I let the feeders go empty this summer, I have noticed my neighbors, who weren’t feeding birds last year, are now feeding them. I see nyjer seed in one backyard, and I see multiple feeders in others. Now, I know where my traffic has gone!

However, I made a statement in an article last year that Black-oil Sunflower seed is a songbird’s favorite. It may be time to test that theory for myself. I have been using a cheap mix of millet, sunflower, safflower, and some crap I can’t identify. I can tell you it is great for doves and sparrows. I plan to do the same as last winter when I sprinkled this stuff on the ground for the overwintering sparrow population. However, I have yet to see a cardinal in the past month…and that’s hard to do. I have only seen titmice and chickadees at my small platform feeder that I have been putting sunflower seeds in.

Bottom line: I think we are on to something here. It may be time to hang the nyjer sock again and the sunflower probably has to make a comeback. I haven’t seen anyone in the neighborhood using exclusively sunflower seed. (Probably because they haven’t read my blog…lol)

This lack of traffic is also the reason I haven’t been taking any bird photos. It’s hard to take a picture of something that just isn’t there. I’ll get them back. You can rest assured of that. I’m too competitive a person not to….

October Bird Count..

I thought I’d try and get these in each Friday. However, I keep getting caught up in other things. So, I thought I’d get one, sort of, in today…

I have rearranged my feeders. Most are empty right now, but I have a platform feeder up in the trees and a hopper feeder hanging down near the ground from a high branch on a long chain. Under the hopper feeder, I have a “pit” that catches dropped seeds. The pit is bordered by a bunch of old, weathered logs which should make for some great images when I get more traffic this fall and winter.

So far, I’m using a cheap mix of seed that contains a lot of millet. Generally, this isn’t the best mix for songbirds, but it isn’t bad if you have a lot of squirrels because it’s cheap. The millet attracts tons of sparrows (not a bad thing if you have native species), grackles, and doves. I have a large population of Eurasian Tree Sparrows, and they are immediately back with the mixed seed. I saw about 10 at the same time yesterday. I saw a grackle today, and I’ve had half a dozen doves for a couple of days.

In the platform feeder, I have seen titmice and chickadees since all I put in there is black-oil sunflower seeds. I have yet to see Cardinals, but have seen a nuthatch or two. I am anxiously awaiting Juncos and wintering sparrows like the White-throated and Lincoln’s…both of which I saw for the first time last year.

Till then….Keep Chuggin’!

Bird counts are coming back..

Fall is here. Things have settled into the routine. The hummingbirds are gone. The fall migrants will be returning. So, we can start paying attention to the little buddies in the backyard again.

I have moved my feeder location back towards my bedroom window (for easy photography…lol) and now we start counting the birdies again while we shoot. It will take a bit to get revved up again, but you should start seeing a little more action in this blog shortly.

Hummingbird Migration..

I’ve been away and working on a new photoblog lately. I haven’t been able to give much time to the birding. However, one thing I’ve done is watch the hummingbird migration.

It’s winding down here in St. Louis, albeit slowly. The last of the juveniles look to be coming through. I’m keeping the feeder up so every last one of them has a place to remember.

Once I take it down, I plan to put it back up around late March. That should be a week or so ahead of the first guys coming back north.

I’ve had tons of fun watching them up close this year. I haven’t really nailed a great photo yet, but it’s the journey, right?

See you soon…

Anything Goes with LEGOs..

I’ve been searching for ways to improve my creativity with photography. I came across someone using LEGOs as props. I really like this idea! So, I figure I’ll try and stretch my imagination from time to time using these little guys. Anything goes with LEGOs.

The Fall Garden..

Here is a quick update on the transition from summer planting to fall. Most people are either eeking out what’s left from summer or they are starting to give up and wind down. Not me! I am revving up for my best season of the year. If you don’t plant cool season veggies again in fall, you are really missing the boat.

These plants typically do very well as they get started in warmer weather, instead of frosty weather. And, they mature just as the weather turns the way they like it…..chilly. Most are frost hardy, so the nips of Jack Frost won’t bother them, especially when mature instead of young and tender and vulnerable.

Here is a quick photo of the plan….not the actual garden. However, it is what I have already planted and where.