Image #140 – Tufted titmouse

Image #140

These guys are such frequent flyers at my birdfeeders. My Audubon Field Guide states the titmouse “are social birds and, especially in winter, join with small mixed flocks of chickadees, nuthatchers, kinglets, creeper, and the smaller woodpeckers.”  Well, spot on Audubon! ! That perfectly describes my feeders just now. Mix in purple finches and cardinals and you have the Fawn Hill bird mix of the moment.  I’ve been told that juncos will arrive  but I remember in Washington, D.C. that the juncos arrived only when it was truly cold to the north. Perhaps the same is true here. ☙

Image #100 – Growing Up is Hard (9/6)

Image #100

My feeders are overwhelmed with fledglings, young birds trying to learn the intricacy of living. They remind me so much of young toddlers.  Watching a toddler get command of his or her legs is not much different than watching a young bird learn how to use his wings.  They fly in and hover by the feeders, unsure how to make the final approach, often missing the landing perch again and again. Once they do find the perch they begin to eat and are reluctant to leave. They do not yet comprehend the dangers in life and the need to flee. This little fellow above is a perfect example. All the other birds flew away when I walked onto the porch, but not this guy. I was able to walk up to feeder and get within a few feet of this young finch and snap this picture. He never moved. I have literally watched fledglings fall asleep on the the feeder, their beak in the trough like a toddler asleep in his oatmeal. It’s dear and entertaining. I wish them luck but know that many won’t make it. But, then again, that is true of us all. ☙

Image #90 – On the brink …

Image #90It has been a joy to watch fledglings mature to almost adulthood. This picture is a perfect example.  A juvenile, female red cardinal, I’ve watched her parents fly in and out of the feeders on an endless gravy train run of food to their chicks. Later the parents brought the young birds to the feeders where I would watch tender feedings from adults to fledglings.  Soon the parents made it clear it was time for the young ones to stand on their own and so they have.  This young female is poised on the brink of adulthood. Perhaps she’ll join a migration southward or maybe cardinals “tough it out” in the North Carolina winter. I haven’t been here long enough to know and, since I don’t plan to be here in the winter, I’ll probably never know.  We can’t know the minutiae of life’s cycle, only the broad strokes.  She is vibrant and ready to take on life.  Good luck to her. ☙

Image #88 – The Swarm

Image #88Autumn is close at hand. Migrations and changes have begun. Yesterday a neighbor called to ask if I was being over-run by starlings. Her deck, with its many feeders, was covered with starlings–young, adult, old, they all vied to get as much feed as they could before flying away. Birds migrate mostly at night, using the stars for navigation. So these starlings were “packing on the carbs” before the night’s flight.

A few starlings visited me but my swarm was quite different. It was bees!  Hundreds of bees had found their way to my hummingbird feeder and drained it dry. There were so many bees that the birds were intimidated and perhaps even stung. They would fly in, furtively, grab a quick mouth of seed and fly away with bees on their tails.  The bees massed in great numbers on the hummingbird feeder and some even climbed into the feeder through a feeding hole that had lost its tiny plastic “flower” which narrows down the opening, drowning themselves in the process and making quite a mess.  You can see them in this picture, bunched at the top of the liquid.

I was puzzled as to why they had suddenly decided to descend on a feeder that has been in place for two months. The answer presented itself today.

A short distance from the hill on which I live is a small business that specializes in erosion control and surveying properties. The owner also has bee hives which he put out in a field last May during my visit. In the past couple of days the number of beehives has increased dramatically and so has the activity at the business during the night. The annoying beep-beep-beep of a lift backing up has pierced the night, disrupting the sleep for many of us here on Fawn Hill. We could not imagine what this company was doing in its work from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. but today, as we drove by the place returning from a delightful day trip to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest we noticed that the number of hives has increased tremendously. They line the driveway and stretch onto the fields. Suddenly it all became clear. The bee hive keeper was collecting his flock, preparing it for a move south. Hence the bee population in this neighborhood has skyrocketed and they are going for whatever they can find eat.

Just another part of the cycle. I’ve been told I need a special feeder that has holes so small that only hummingbirds with their small proboscis can access them. I’ll make that investment and, next year, the hummers will have two feeders until the bees return in August. Then we’ll put away the feeder that calls many to their death.  Just part of the learning process here on Fawn Hill and, after all, life is for learning. ☙