The magical hum of summer

Sometimes, in the heat of a summer day, if you’re sitting still (and sometimes if you’re not), you may glimpse a tiny, winged thing not much bigger than a large moth, zip right by, emitting squeaks and beeps. In the northeast, it’s likely a ruby-throated hummingbird in search of a sugar water feeder or a suitable flower.

Before this year, I hadn’t been much on keeping up with feeding hummingbirds; I know you have to change the water often and make sure it doesn’t run out (hummingbirds are voracious sippers), and I just didn’t make the time.

But as I spent more time with Mom, feeding the regular feeder birds like cardinals, house finches, titmice and a few others, I figured we would both enjoy watching hummers through her big picture window. I found an inexpensive feeder, we boiled some water and let it cool, added the requisite sugar, and very shortly, welcomed our first visitor.

little male hummer
The males I find hardest to photograph; the light has to hit them just right to make their gorget shine.

Hummingbirds, perhaps because of their speed (or their insatiable appetite), are not as shy as other birds. After a few days, you can risk getting closer for pictures.

hummer comin
Sometimes you have to keep snapping to get a good photo: these things are fast!

I am always amazed at how birds (and animals as well) can so easily blend into their backgrounds.

hummer camo
One of my favorite hummingbird shots.

I recently relocated Mom to live with my husband and I in North Carolina. As we sat on the deck one evening, a hummingbird flew by. That was our signal; Mom set out the feeder. After about an hour, there was one. Now there are four, and they all think they own the feeding station.

hummer hover
I caught this little beauty mid-hover!

I forgot to look for a second feeder today when we were out shopping. I will have to remedy that soon; the males seem to have already left for the winter.

hummer tail
Hummingbirds look amazing from every angle.
hummer stretch
I joked when we saw the first hummer in North Carolina that they had followed us from Mom’s house, two states away.

Whether sitting still, or zooming by, hummingbirds can be a wonderful introduction to backyard birding.

hummer hello
Soon they’ll fly south, but I look forward to their return in the spring.

 

The downside of bird-watching

I’ve got a new zoo post coming, but in the meantime, I wanted to share what I found swooping down in my backyard a few days ago.

I saw some big wings rise up out back, but when I got to the door, I didn’t see anything. I was out weeding a bit later, and stopped, dropping the weeds, and stared. There it was – a hawk – right back there in the woods. I moved as quickly and quietly as possible around the front of the house to get my camera. I snapped a lot of photos, but these two are the best.

red-shouldered-hawk-one
This turned out to be a red-shouldered hawk – a new one for me.

When I reviewed all my pictures, I realized the hawk was chomping down on one of my little yard-birds. I’ll spare you that photograph.

 

Did the bluebird see his shadow?

I’m not sure how they can tell, but the birds always know when cold weather is coming. It was quiet out earlier, today, when it was warm, but as the skies grew cloudy the birds began to fly in for suet, black-oil sunflower seeds, and fresh water. I started taking pictures, but these don’t even cover all the birds I saw.

cute-titmouse
Titmice are always welcome in my yard, even though they are quick to scold when the food runs out.
curious-goldfinch
It’s good to see the goldfinches again. They are pretty even in their winter clothes.
chickadee
Chickadees – a perennial favorite.
camo-wren
Carolina wrens – noisy, but cute.
white-throated-sparrow
White-throated sparrow – a bird new to my yard.
thirsty-butterbutt
When they sit still, it’s easy to see yellow-rumped warblers have more than a butterbutt.

It was cloudy when my camera was out, but the sun peeked through several times today. I guess spring will have to wait.

Snow birds

It rarely snows in this part of North Carolina, and although some was tentatively forecast for last night, we could hear the sleet falling as we went to bed, and again this morning.

Still, some wet flakes fell while we slept, dusting everything in about an inch of powdery white, and started back again after breakfast.

I had filled up the suet cage in anticipation, and threw out plenty of seeds and stale bread throughout the day to keep the ground-feeders occupied. My husband thawed the birdbaths and made sure the birds all had water to drink. And my youngest grandson and I enjoyed the show.

brown-headed-nuthatch
Suet is like a magnet for these brown-headed nuthatches.
mourning-dove
Snow makes the color on mourning doves really pop.
some-yellow-bird
I haven’t been able to ID these cute little yellow and black birds. Suggestions, anyone?
junco
A real snowbird – a dark-eyed junco.

 

Duck, duck, goose!

I took a break this week from spying on my “yard birds,” and found some water birds at Joyner Park. We spied them while walking, and after we were through, I picked up the camera and was happy to see the flock of geese, and a mallard duck and his mate.

mallard-pair
Mama duck blends in with the leaves so well, I didn’t even see her until I started editing my photos!

It’s easy to lose track of time when taking pictures. But birds are so much prettier up close!

dsc_1564-2
This is one of many Canadian geese we saw this week.
two-geese
We see lots of these Canadian geese in this part of North Carolina.