Friday, November 30, 2007


This afternoon, I didn't have my camera ready and missed a shot of a new bird in my back yard tree. I sketched him with my awful drawing skills but can't seem to find him in any of my guide books. He (she?) was a brown bird covered in spots - black spots everywhere! He had a long pointed beak and was a medium sized bird (bigger than a sparrow, smaller than a dove). He seemed to have some girth - not a thin bird - but he might have just been puffed out due to the cold. He was perched in the tree, and there were two of them. They only stayed for a few moments before flying away.

In other bird news, the red winged blackbirds made a visit today! I haven't seen them since the summertime. Two visited the tree and feeders, and it appeared that there was a whole flock of them in the lawn of the golf course.

A bunch of mourning doves, finches, and juncos joined the usual mob of house sparrows today. It has been a busy afternoon at the feeders!

I even spied the Cooper's hawk fly overhead - again, without my camera ready. :-/

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bird books

I picked up a few new birding books this evening, thanks to a nice 40% coupon I got in my inbox from Borders:

Birding Journal by Potter Style - this is a cute little field journal for jotting down notes when out birding. It has areas for checklists and descriptions of habitat, birds, weather, etc, along with bird related quotes scattered throughout. I fell in love with this little book, and I'm sure it will become both a journal and a keepsake of my first year of birding.

The Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible by Sally Roth - This one got me with the author's enthusiasm! I flipped through several books geared toward back yard birders, and most were dry and... well... factual. This one is teeming with personality! It covers gardening ideas for attracting birds, seed and feeders, and great ideas for projects like edible wreaths and pine cone bird treats. The author sounds just as excited as I feel, and that sold me on this book. I can't wait to dig into it tonight!

The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley - There are a LOT of bird guides out there, and eventually I will get one specifically geared toward my region, but the thing that drew me to this book is that each bird has multiple drawings of all different variations - plumages, gender differences, juveniles vs adults, etc. Most books and web sites explain the differences, but this one has an illustration for every variation of every bird in the book. I seem to have the most trouble with the variations, so I thought this book would be most helpful for me starting out. We'll see!

I'm still waiting for my Project FeederWatch welcome kit to arrive. I'm excited to start! I've been submitting my bird observations to, but I'm really looking forward to receiving the materials that come with the Project FeederWatch kit.

Birds birds birds! I can't get enough! :)

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Review of EZ Deck Tilt & Clean Bird Bath Bowl

Originally submitted at

Single piece construction easily attaches the EZ Deck Tilt & Clean Bird Bath Bowl to a railing. Heated or Non-Heated baths available.

Works great and the birds love it!

By Shelly from Lockport, IL on 11/26/2007


5out of 5

Pros: Sturdy, Easy to Install, Attractive Design, Attracts Birds

Best Uses: Backyard, Deck, Front Yard

Describe Yourself: Practical, bird lover

This product mounts and works as described. Its neutral color works well with my deck decor, and the shape of the bowl lip and texture of the material makes it easy for birds to use the bath to land on and stand on. My back yard birds are loving it! They drink from it and bathe in it. The heater keeps the water unfrozen but doesn't warm the water (ie. the water is still cool to the touch). I empty, wipe clean, and refill the bath every few days. It's easy to clean - just tip it over the side of the deck railing, wipe it down, and add fresh water. (Watch out for splashing water on your feet!)

The only problem I had installing it was because I misread the instructions. I tried to put the bowl onto the railing mount backwards, thinking the longer side was supposed to go into the latch hole. This made the bowl very unbalanced and unstable. When I re-read the directions, though, I realized I had installed the bowl backwards, and when I flipped the bowl around (so the short side inserted into the latch hole facing away from the deck and the long side faced in toward the deck), it fit perfectly and was completely stable.

We've had 2 pretty hefty wind storms (I live in Chicago!) and the bird bath did not budge, so I'm confident that it is completely sturdy and stable mounted on my deck ledge.

I couldn't be more pleased with this bird bath, especially for the price. I didn't have room in my small yard for a standing bird bath, so the deck railing mount was a fantastic find for me.

I'm certain that my bird friends will be thanking me all winter :)


American Goldfinch is back!

Back on November 3rd, I had a visit to my nyger/thistle feeder by an American Goldfinch in winter plumage:

American Goldfinch, Winter Plumage

He's back! I saw him sitting in my back yard tree a few minutes ago :) These new binoculars really help!

The goldfinch flew away, but there are still 4 male finches and a dark eyed junco sitting in the tree. The mourning doves are still around too (though not visiting at the moment).

I think I need to get more of the gourmet seed blend. Right now, I've just got black oil sunflower seed out there, and the birds aren't visiting the feeders en masse (except for the finches, who appear to love the black oil sunflower seed). I get the occasional house sparrow, but nothing like last week where 20+ swarmed the feeders. Maybe it's better this way? I'm not sure.

I'm also thinking of putting peanuts out. There was a seed I was getting at Target called Nut and Berry Blend that the summer birds loved, but it was pricey, and then they stopped selling it in the large bags. (It was even more pricey in smaller bags!) I need to find a platform feeder of some sort. I don't have squirrels in my neighborhood, so I don't have to worry about them.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stalking the Stalker

This morning started out like most mornings. I filled the feeders (I'm filling a couple with black oil sunflower seed and a couple with a "gourmet" mixed seed) and watched the incoming mob of house sparrows.


These are the guys I affectionately referred to as "ice cream heads" before I had identified them. Hey, their caps remind me of chocolate vanilla swirl sundaes! What can I say? It's a big ol' sparrow party around here.

Tons o' fun

I plugged in the heated bird bath today. When I checked it this morning, it was frozen. Time to turn on the juice! The bird bath stayed firmly mounted through the windy weather the other day. I was quite pleased.

House Sparrows at the bird bath

The day carried on. The slate colored dark eyed juncos visited (my new favorite backyard bird), and the ducks came for their usual mid-day lunch. This male got seeds all over his head - messy eater.

Seedy Mallard

The females were a bit more discreet. I believe these are Mallards.

Peek a boo!

As afternoon approached, I saw a first in my yard: mourning doves, in the tree! They hung out here all summer, sitting on the deck railing or on the ground, but not once did I see them in the tree.

3 doves in a row
Mourning doves

All of a sudden, I heard the whoosh of a flock full of birds flying up and over my house. I looked out the window, and the tree was bare... except for a hawk! I think this is an immature Cooper's Hawk, but I'm not sure. If anybody knows for sure, please leave a comment!

Immature Cooper's Hawk

The hawk stayed for a good half hour or so, and I went outside ever so quietly to try to get some better pictures of it. The trees blocked most shots, but I got a few where you could see those piercing eyes.

It was a lot like stalking the stalker. I watched the hawk through the binoculars for a while, and he was very definitely looking for a bird to eat. After a while, a cat came up to the brush, also stalking the hawk!

The hawk finally left, and within a few minutes, all of the other birds came back to the feeders.

Upon return, I finally saw more house finches! I'd been afraid that the one male that was hanging around was alone, but today he had 3 other males and a few females with him. He's no longer a loner.

Male house finch

As night fell, the ducks swam off and the birds nestled into the trees. I'm left to wonder what they're all doing now.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Lone Male House Finch

All of the summer finches have gone, except for this guy. According to, they're found in this area year-round, so I hope he'll be OK this winter. He has been hanging out in my back yard with the house sparrows.

The Lone Male House Finch

It's a very windy night here in Chicagoland - the first windy night since I set up the new bird bath on my deck railing. Come morning, we'll see if the bracket was strong enough to hold the bath in place.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Project FeederWatch

While surfing around the web, procrastinating making a presentation for class today, I came across a web site for "Project FeederWatch," a back yard bird watching data collection project through Cornell University.

From their web site:
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each species they see at their feeders from November through early April. FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.

Project FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

I signed up! :)

Basically, you have to:

1. Put out food, water, or some other bird attractant. (Done).

2. Watch your feeders for as long as you want to on 2 consecutive days each week.

3. Report the types and numbers of birds you see during your watch days.

They send you a bird ID kit and some other stuff for a $15 participation fee.

I already watch my feeders anyway, and to do it with purpose sounds quite cool. Scientists actually use the resulting data, and you can view different trends for all of the years of the project online.

There are like 20 house sparrows in the tree in my back yard right now. I saw a few drink from the new bird bath this morning :)

I can't figure out how to remove the screens on my windows. I want to remove a few so I can take better pictures of the birds from inside this winter. The screens have two plunger-type plugs at the top, and normally I would just pull down on those plungers to dislodge the bar that is inserted into the frame of the window and that would free the screen. But pulling down on these plungers doesn't seem to do anything - or I'm not able to pull them down far enough to cause that bar to clear the window frame, one or the other. I don't see any other latches or buttons or connections or anything. Darn new house windows. (This house is 5 years old).

The birds seem REALLY happy to have black oil sunflower seed again. They're also liking the "gourmet" mixed seed I got - though the sunflower seed really is the big hit around here. It was over the summer as well.

I can't wait to start counting my birds for Project FeederWatch! :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007



This is a blog about my avian friends!

I started back yard bird watching in the summer of 2007. Since then, I've learned a lot of new and wonderful things about birding. I enjoy watching and photographing birds, and am hoping to either get a digiscope for Christmas or to get one with my upcoming income tax return.

At any rate, I started this blog to document my journey into birding :)