Posted in Mocha's family at our house

My Backyard Accommodations

Last weekend I participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). It made me realize how much our yard had become a local bird haven. Mostly it is visited by our regulars who most would consider common. That includes House Sparrows, Juncos, Flickers, Stellar Jays, Anna Hummingbirds and not to ever be discounted my Crow family.  Note the photo above of a raider on the feeder.  Makes me smile every time I see it.

That is right a feeder is a destination in the bird world and ours is supposed to keep large birds off.  Ha!!  Of course we have a squirrel baffle to keep those raiders out.  They have finally given up trying to get up there and just eat the grain that falls in the flower bed. That was after they chewed on the plastic thing a bit.

I dispute that my birds are common. One can chase their tail feathers for days looking for those rare type birds or views. When we do that in life we miss out on real treasure. That is why I say to ramble without technology. I technically break that rule by having two cameras (digital) and my smart phone. However, I keep the phone in my pocket except to use the camera or as an emergency phone.  No phone booths are found today or we would never knock on a neighbor’s door to ask for help.  Times have changed!

My list from last weekend was of 8 species in alphabetical order; Anna Hummingbird, American Crow, Black-caped Chickadee, European Starling, Dark-eyed Juncos, Spotted Towhee, House Finch, and House Sparrow.

The Anna hangs out in our neighbors Douglas Fir that borders on our fence and their feeder. They are like little super sonic jets buzzing around and never too shy to scold us if the feeder is not to their satisfaction.

The feeder on a cold morning
The feeder on a cold morning
Hummy in the fir tree
Hummy in the fir tree

Every yard needs a bird bath. It is a place for the little birds to fluff around and get a bath. Of course they need water to drink like us and then maybe it is a good place to court your girlfriend. See the crow pair together below enjoying its ambiance.

Crow Lovers drinking together
Crow Lovers drinking together

We have not only lovers but we have the villains too. In our case it was a small hawk who moved into the area one summer. He figured out that we had lots of little birds who could be a quick snack. The little ones were smarter than him. They hid in the barberry. Mr Hawk could not penetrate the thorns and gave up in frustration. Here he is on the fence trying to look un-ruffled.

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Hawk feeling deprived

Then there was the time I had a special visitor. A prehistoric scream comes to us and when I looked out there was a Pileated Woodpecker. He was attacking our feeder and hanging out on the old stump we have. Can’t beat that for any backyard bird watcher.

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Woody Woodpecker visiting our feeder

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There you have it. There are special moments to be had every where and every day.  Just be sure to be looking out for them. Wide open eyes to what nature provides is a treasure to be protected.

Posted in Mocha's family at our house

Crows get hot too.

Hanging out in our back yard on a hot afternoon are two of our local murder.  They were hot and in poor feather.  It is that time of year after the babies have been kicked out of the nest and weaned, when molting begins.

On the Audubon.org web site they give us this little blurb about birds and how they use this open mouth behavior to cool off.

When it’s hot, some species will also resort to gular fluttering. The bird will open its mouth and “flutter” its neck muscles, promoting heat loss (think of it as the avian version of panting).

If you want to know more about molting check out a post I did earlier around this topic. I like to think of molting like getting new school clothes each fall.  Birds are not the only thing that molt but they are the ones we notice the most.

http://wp.me/p1d1cX-9j

Posted in Mocha's family at our house

Tortilla Crow

Yum Tortillas for me!!
Yum Tortillas for me!!

My resident crow was in heaven when we threw out some old corn tortillas.  However, they were not soft enough for his pleasure.   That means using the bird bath for a little dunking and soaking.  Once he got them just right he flew up on the shed roof and had a snack.  By the time we came home from shopping every morsel was gone.  Yum Tortillas!!

Dunking in the bird bath makes everything better
Dunking in the bird bath makes everything better
Softened tortilla ready to munch
Softened tortilla ready to munch
Posted in Mocha's family at our house

Walking with my baby – crow love

Walking with my baby
Walking with my baby

This crow pair that hang out around our house strutted by today.   The male had his head feathers all fluffed up (he is on the left).  We call that the boofu head.   They walked back and forth several times looking for snacks in the grass.

It might only be November but they are refreshing their relationships in preparation for next years mating.  They are insuring that the family territory is held and defended.  There won’t be any interlopers stealing their best nesting spots and good eats.

I was impressed by their fine feather.  The molting season is over and they have nice tidy coats to show off.

That is why I titled this “Walking with my baby”.   Just out for a promenade on the boardwalk.

Posted in Mocha's family at our house

Frumpy Crows

Molting isn't pretty
Molting isn’t pretty

The summer heat has taken its toll on the local Crow family around our house.   Their feathers are lack luster during the process of molting.  The baby crows are particularly impacted since they need to change their feather suit from juvenile to adult.

One of my older birds looks even worse for wear.  He has lost  his head feathers and looks the part of the frumpy bald old man.

Crow going bald
Crow going bald

Here is a shot of the family sunning themselves.   Guess the family that molts together stays together.

Crow Family sunning themselves
Crow Family sunning themselves
Posted in Crows in Renton, Mocha's family at our house

Crow Courtship Begins

The days of the big flock party time is winding down.   Soon we will see them going off pair by pair establishing territories and nesting sites.  It will probably take a few months for then to settle in.  The weather will drive a lot of the timing and make for false starts.   See my blog article from last year called “Spring Mixed Signals end Crow Love” = http://wp.me/p1d1cX-4a

Last week in the trees surrounding the office I watched several pairs size up the area.   Last year a pair made several false starts building nests in our pine trees.  They eventually settled into a tree down the street next to the Blood Bank’s building.   Our trees are probably too close to the street and not dense enough for their needs.   However, they are back and maybe this will be the year we get to watch them raise a family right outside our windows.

Today in our backyard we got a good view of Crow Love.   A pair landed on our weather vane awaiting a handout and you can see them grooming each other in this picture.

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Springs not even sprung but crow love has

Here is another photo showing them cuddling up and becoming a pair that I took last year.

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Crow Kisses on the wire

One final thought for the day  –  It was today in 1845 that Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” was first published in the Evening Mirror.

Posted in Crows at the Beach, Crows of the Hood, Crows on the Road, Mocha's family at our house

Crow Winter Territories

Crow watching Winter blow in

Crow families are a lot like us humans.  When old man winter blows into town they stay close to home.  They get together into their bigger family groups and hang out close to the best feeding spots in their territories.   That might be a beach area or a family that feeds them.   They might even have more than one honey hole feeding spot.   When they go in group to another place within their home range they will leave a guardian.   Then if another crow family invades or if food is doled out that guard crow can put out the call for all to come on home.

This last week I checked out my crow families in the area.   For those that like data here are the spots and counts I took.

Ocean View Beach –  sunny low tide day = apx 60 – windy rainy middle tide = apx 10

Marine View Drive & 114th – 6 members including my gimpy crow Ellie

Peanut House on 35th – apx 40 – it was high tide.  When it is low tide they usually only have one or two here.  Great example of  a Murder with two honey holes.

Our House – every morning our neighbor starts the day with peanuts to Mocha’s family.  Then my husband gives them bread.  apx 10 members in our home group.   Like the Peanut house they leave a guard crow when they travel away.

104th & 41st –  small family of 3

Roxhill Garden – apx 30 members.   This must be a great honey hole & that is why the numbers are so great.   They also range into Roxhill Park where there is lots of tender handouts.   Again, guards are posted around the key areas.  Easy to see them since it is more urban next to the school with light poles and buildings to hang out on.

30th & 104th  – small group of 3 hanging out next to the swampy drainage area that this street turns into.

31st & 106th –  another small family with 2 members

That is well over 100 crows in a couple of square miles that I have observed.  One has to figure there are at least twice that.   Or am I fooling myself since they all look-alike.   That’s right, we can’t tell them apart but they sure remember who we are.

Final Note on another subject –  The Amanda Knox paparazzi seem to have disappeared or made themselves very thin.  Makes one pretty happy that they are not bugging her family like crazy locust any more.

Posted in Crows at the Beach, Mocha's family at our house

Murder of Crows in Flight

Yesterday was a wonderful fall day in Seattle.   It’s crystal blue skys, low tide and warmer weather made for a great walk to the beach.   On the way I fed my usual Crow Families on MVD.   The gimpy crow I call Ellie was there which put my mind at ease that she wasn’t the one that drowned a couple of weeks ago.   I was worried that since she has that bad leg she was the one who got bumped in group flight and landed in the drink at high tide.

Today the tide was an average low tide exposing about half of the beach and a few crows were feeding on the seaweed all pushed up from the low tide earlier.   When I started to feed the bread I noticed in the distance the local  Murder of Crows in the sky zooming around.    They heard there was free food to be had and started flying towards me.   The first five photos in the slide show attached gives you a good idea of what that was like.   The last two photos are of them going back up over the Sound and up in the Madrona Trees.   They were having fun for sure.

It is the time of the year that they build up big flocks and the strict territories of the summer disappear.   Earlier this week during the day while I was at work, my husband had to chase off this same beach flock from our house.  They showed up about 60 strong to beg for bread and peanuts.   He said you are too many and threw a small firecracker at them.   That ended the party quickly.   They are way too smart and finally figured out where we live.  I”m sure they will be back and join Mocha’s family who own the territory around us.

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Posted in Baby Crows, Mocha's family at our house

Growing Baby Birds

The little ones are starting to figure out how to feed themselves and fly with some finesse.   However, there is always one or two who can’t leave their mother alone.

In our neighborhood we have the crow family with 3 babies.  One of them is the biggest whiner.   He cries and cries and cries.   I can hear him first thing in the morning begging.   He just never gives up.   Mom is so disgusted she keeps deserting him with his siblings and he crys so much they fly away.

This morning she couldn’t quite get away from him even by perching on a little birdhouse.  There he is hugging close hoping for a meal.

Mom Crow trying to ditch Baby on the Left. Didn't work did it?

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The other baby birds I saw this weekend are two Cooper’s Hawks.   Or maybe one was the Mama but I think because they are both so light in color & streaks on their chest they are probably siblings.

They were both in the maple and fir trees in Fauntleroy Park.  I had gone to a corner of the park I hadn’t been to in a long time.  Usually in the summer this area has lots of stinging nettles along the trail plus since it is a less used area spider webs strung from side to side.   Nothing freaker than getting a web in your hair & finding the spider hanging off your arm.   My method is to have a 2 foot stick and wave it in front of myself.  That gets most of the webs as I walk and when I come to nettles that are overhanging I whack them down. I was doing pretty good at this and came to top of the hill.   I started hearing birds crying back & forth.  A sort of whistling sound.

Landing on a branch right in front of me was this little Hawk.  Wow!!   Not every day you get to see them that close.  I got this picture to share with you.

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Young Coopers Hawk calling for Mom or sibling

Then I saw the other hawk on a limb of a dead tree.  So, to get a better view and picture I went on down the path.   However, I wasn’t as diligent in my stinging nettles eradication and got it on the ankle and elbow.   Dang that stings at first and if I could have found a dandelion I would have put that white sap from them on it.   Not to be distracted I got the camera out & got this picture.   See how light this one is and the how the streaks go all way to his chin.  That tells me it is a Coopers versus a Peregrine Falcon or Merlin.    And that is a sign that it is a young bird.

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Hawk watching me get tangled up in stinging nettles to take his picture.

Footnote:   My memory of how bad nettles are was over rated.  The sting pretty much went away except a slight burn on my elbow.   Maybe as summer goes along they get weaker or this cool summer we are having  in Seattle made them not get to full power.