Welcome to my Bird Blog!

Welcome to all my fellow bird lovers and gardeners! I'm so glad you stopped by.

Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Little Chickadee

I just happened to catch sight of this little chickadee busily plucking away at some animal fur she had found in my garden.  This video isn't very long because my batteries chose that particular time to give out.  But you get the idea.  I tried taking a couple of still photos before I switched on the video, but she was just moving and working too fast--it was all a blur.  Even though this is a very short film (about 7 seconds), it is quite entertaining!

This is the 3rd nest that I know of for the chickadees this year so far.  They love the bluebird house I have in my cottage garden, and have used it for the last several years.  Just this morning I saw mama chickadee stick her head out of the house before she headed for the bird feeders a short distance away.  I'm amazed at how many chickadee chicks she has raised thus far!

Grandma Pearl

Make a Bird Nesting Basket

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Create Habitat to Attract Indigo Buntings

Male Indigo Bunting by Grandma Pearl
I absolutely love these beautiful little sapphire colored finches!  They have a lovely, bubbly song; but best of all they consume tons of insects.  Farmers love to see them working on the bugs in their fields.  Living in the woods, I appreciate these tiny powerhouse bug eaters.  My first sighting of the beautiful 5 1/2" male Indigo Bunting was on May 11, 2013.

About a week later I caught sight of a soft fawn-colored female Indigo Bunting.  She was flitting about rapidly in the understory of the woody shrubs that have multiplied throughout our woodlot.  That's their preferred habitat, along with hedges and thickets.

Because I love these little birds so much, I set about devising a plan last year to attract them permanently to my yard.  Before that they had stopped by in the spring just long enough to tantalize me with their beauty, then proceeded to leave without even a second glance back!  I was determined to find a way to attract my little blue finch friends and make them want to stay for the summer, before heading back to South America or Mexico at the first sign of cold weather in the fall.

So here was my plan:
  1. Plant shrubs and vines that they love to use for shelter, nesting and food.
  2. Be sure to add their favorite foods to the feeders first thing in the spring.
  3. Place shallow containers of water low to the ground.
  4. Add colorful quick-to-flower seed-bearing annuals in containers placed all around my yard.  
The raspberry canes and grape vines were installed in the backyard, which is within a few feet of the edge of our woods.  And it's one of the few sunny areas I have here because we are surrounded by large hardwood trees, as well as white pines.

Those berries will eventually ripen and please our little fruit-loving buntings, as well as cardinals, grosbeaks, orioles and waxwings, among many others.  As they mature, the thorns of the raspberries and the tangles of the grape vines will provide excellent shelter from predators; and lots of safe nesting spots.

In the meantime, by adding my special birdseed mixture to black oil sunflower seeds I have enticed my wonderful Indigo Buntings to stay around. 
SUCCESS! This time they didn't leave!  Birds have excellent memories.  If they find a good source of food, shelter and nesting opportunities, you can be sure they will remember and return.
Male Indigo Bunting eating a sunflower seed
by Grandma Pearl

My special mixture contains raisins, dried pumpkins seeds and cherries, millet, safflower seeds, chopped peanuts and other chopped nuts, including pistaschios and walnuts, and finally canary seed!  My little blue finches are ground foragers primarily.  Fallen seeds pushed aside by other birds are pounced on eagerly under the bird feeders by the buntings.
I have recycled some shallow round cake tins and placed them on bricks near the ground.  The smaller ground foragers enjoy a splash and a drink often.  Adding a flat stone or two, and making sure the water is fresh and clean daily has also pleased a lot of my birds, including the Indigos.  Be warned though, if you have neighborhood cats patrolling, do not put your birds in harms way!  There are hanging bird baths available that are much safer for birds that might otherwise fall prey to 4-legged predators!
Male Indigo Bunting loves to forage for seeds.
by Grandma Pearl
Planting cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, tickseed coreopsis, salvia and nasturtiums and other annuals that produce seeds will encourage seed-lovers like the indigo buntings to stick around.  Remember, it is very important not to use toxic weed killers or other toxic chemicals on your plants or lawn.  Those toxins are harmful to birds and fatal to the bugs they like to eat.  Make your yard and gardens bird-friendly and they will reward you by eating the bugs and weed seeds.  You will have a lot less gardening chores if you ask the birds for their help!
Grandma Pearl


How Do Birds Get Their Colors?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How Do Birds Get Their Colors?

Male Indigo Bunting foraging for seeds
How Do Birds Get Their Colors?
by Grandma Pearl

Have you ever wondered why some birds have iridescent patches; or why Northern Cardinals are red; or what makes Blue Jays blue? How dull would life be without the colors that punctuate our lives?  Everywhere you look Mother Nature has given us a huge paint box full of colors; and she reserves her most diverse color palette for our backyard birds.

My two most memorable gifts were my first watch, because I have always been fascinated with the concept of time and how it surrounds and consumes us; and the industrial size box of 64 crayons!  Later on Crayola bested themselves with an even larger size, which I was very fortunate to receive as a gift as well. 

Male Northern Cardinal
by Grandma Pearl

Colors, especially those emanating from the natural world, nurture and feed my creative soul.  They determine in large part how I feel, whether it be happy on a sunny, green goddess day; or contemplative when the wind blows cold and grey.

So how do birds’ feathers develop their colorations? 

Pigment and how the feather is constructed determine the color of birds' feathers.  The pigments come from just 3 different groups.  To learn about these pigments and where they come from, and why blue jay feathers look blue even though they are really dark brown, click here

Grandma Pearl

Learn about The Sounds of Hummingbirds   
Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
by Grandma Pearl
Bear Bird House
from RusticBarnwoodBirdhouses

Newest Rustic Bird House:  Awesome Bear Bird

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks Are Back 'Home'

Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
by Grandma Pearl

A Banner Week For Returning Songbirds!

I knew he was nearby when I heard the distinctive 'squeaky door' sound that these grosbeaks make.  Then I heard the marvelous liquid robin-like song, and instantly thought "my grosbeaks are back home"!
The females are not here just yet, but I'm sure they will be along any day now.  Like the ruby-throated hummingbirds, the males always arrive about a week ahead of the females.
Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak Eyeing the Buffet
by Grandma Pearl

You can tell these birds are seed eaters from the heavy beak.  It is well-adapted for crushing seeds.  At the feeder my grosbeaks enjoy the mixture I have made that includes sunflower seeds, various nuts, berries, cherries and other fruits and pumpkins seeds.  That mixture also attracts Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Goldfinches and Purple Finches among others.
When the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak males take flight, you can see the distinctive white wing patch.  It is a gorgeous bird, and you know, I think he knows he is handsome!
I'm glad they made it back safely from their winter home in South America to spend the summer with me.

Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak working on a sunflower seed
by Grandma Pearl
 Did you know that these grosbeaks are very fond of potato beetles?  They also love all kinds of other insects and eat tons of them in a season, along with weed seeds and lots of wild fruits.  Here you can see the contrasting white back and the pure white underparts of this grosbeak.
Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak showing back and underparts
by Grandma Pearl

Thursday, May 9, 2013

5 Hidden Dangers to Backyard Birds

Male American Robin hunting for lunch
by Grandma Pearl

Spring is a time when the birds are coming 'home' for the summer.  We love their colorful, song-filled visits.  Nothing says summer like the dawn chorus, and the 'chip, chip, cheerio' of the American Robin.  But there are hidden dangers to birds.  For instance, do you have indoor plants in front of your windows?  Most of us do, however, this can pose a grave and often fatal danger to your feathered friends.  Read what you can do to prevent unintentionally causing harm to our songbird visitors and their nestlings in 5 Tips to a Bird Safe Yard.
Grandma Pearl

5 Easy Steps to a Bird-Friendly Cottage Garden
8 Easy Ways to Landscape Under Bird Feeders
Diane Rivers Collectible Bird Houses

Monday, May 6, 2013

Raspberry Finches, Purple Violets, Lavender Lungwort and more

Think Pink. . . And Purple!


Beautiful Flowering Quince.  This bush doesn't mind being in partial shade.  The soil is moist at times, but it doesn't mind that either.  Its shoots will spread all around the perimeter of the bush.  This is an ornamental shrub of the rose family, complete with thorns!  Regular quince produces fruit that can be preserved as marmalade.  The beautiful flowers remind me of old-fashioned roses.  A reliable plant that produces year after year.

Raspberry Finch, also known as Purple Finch.  This handsome bird is about 6" in size, and is similar to the House Finch, which I think is more of an orange color.  Their warbles are bubbly and make me smile.  Currently I have a large flock that visits my feeders every day.  Their favorite food seems to be the black oil sunflower seeds.  The purple finches arrived in late March and have been serenading me daily ever since.  Female purple finches are heavily streaked with brown, which is an excellent camouflage when they are nesting and tending their nestlings.  Look for their notched tail and cheerful songs.   
 My Crabapple is just getting ready to bloom I planted it last year in the hopes that it would eventually set fruit and attract a whole bunch of birds.  Grosbeaks, Tanagers, Warblers, Orioles and Cedar Waxwings all love fruit.  When you think about it, they live in the tropics all winter.  So their food sources are tropical fruits.  Another favorite is mulberries, which I also added to my garden last year.  This year I also planted Concord grapes...another irresistible treat for the birds. 

 Purple Salvia is a hands down favorite of bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, as well as hummingbird moths.  It is a perennial that I have included in all my gardens.  Today I saw bumblebees, bee flies, hover flies and little sweat bees sipping nectar from the newly-opened flowers.  Salvia is easy to grow in almost all conditions.  It prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade.  There are many varieties and colors from which to choose.  This one compliments my blue salvia, as well as the scarlet and black and blue varieties.  They will be flowering by the end of May.

 These are the burgundy and green leaves just emerging from my pink cloud spirea plants.  I originally transplanted one from my Mom's garden where it was very well behaved.  However, in my shady woods it has sprung up literally everywhere.  It is not bothered by deer, rabbits, bugs or slugs.  The flowers will bloom after the lilacs have finished flowering.  Favored by the beneficial insects and butterflies, its flowers are tiny clusters that make an almost-flat landing  pad for the butterflies and bees.

Diminutive and dainty purple woodland violets are just beginning to crop up in the strangest places.  This one is growing in my stone driveway!  They are obviously not fussy at all about soil or moisture because this is a very dry area.  In Christian symbolism violets represent modesty and humbleness.  It is said that violets spring up from the graves of saints and virgins.  Folktales from England and France often associate violets with death and the mourning of loved ones who have passed.

Lungwort is such a strange-sounding word for this dainty flower with its interesting speckled leaves.  My aunt gave me several of these plants, which have since spread out to be a very pretty part of one of my cottage gardens.  It is a medicinal herb of the borage family, and its other name is Pulmonaria.  As you can imagine, it is excellent for clearing the lungs of congestion and relieving symptoms caused from viral and bacterial infections affecting the lungs.  Flowers begin as pink in color and turn to blue with pink centers as they continue to bloom.  It was originally named because the leaves resembled the lungs and not because of its medicinal use.

Barberry with its burgundy leaves and thorny spines, also produces small pinkish-white flowers that eventually become small fruits.  The berberine made by this plant is turned into an antibacterial compound.  
I placed my barberry plants on the outside perimeter of my cottage garden fence.  They protect plants like lilies from the deer that like to think my gardens are their private salad bars!   
This plant likes full sun, but will tolerate part shade.  Mine face the morning sun and receive afternoon shade.  I gave it organic-rich soil and keep it watered during dry spells.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gold Finches on a Sunny Yellow Day

Male American Goldfinch at sunflower seed tube feeder
by Grandma Pearl
I call them drops of sunshine!  American Goldfinches  are a familiar and welcome sight.  The bright yellow and contrasting black plumage of the males is distinctive.  They use both the sunflower tube feeder and the nyjer or thistle tube feeder, often lining up in the nearby trees waiting for their turn.

Nyjer Thistle Seed Tube Feeders
 These guys travel in flocks and are very social and sociable.  I love to here their 'zee-zee-zeet' call as they fly in for food.  I planted coneflowers and joe pye weed so they would have lots of natural seed sources in the fall.  
Male American Goldfinch, Female Goldfinch and Goldfinch in flight
by Grandma Pearl
Yellow Double Tulips add to the Sunshine This Morning
by Grandma Pearl
What's your favorite color in nature?

Diminutive in size at about 5", they make their presence known as they chat among themselves at the feeders.  The female in breeding plumage is a duller olive green-grey color, but I think just as beautiful in her own way as the male.  She will lay 4 or 5 light blue eggs in her nest of grass and dandelion down.

Dandelion fluff, incidentally, is used by a number of birds to line their nests and cushion their eggs.  Just this morning I saw a chickadee with a beakful!
Am I the only one who thinks dandelions are pretty?
by Grandma Pearl

White-Throated Sparrow-Morphed with Yellow Spots above Lores
by Grandma Pearl
This White-Throated Sparrow sports bright yellow
spots above the lores; and white and black stripes on its head.  Yellow spots denote the morphed version.  The white throat is easily visible in this picture.  These sparrows love to forage on the ground for seeds and small insects.  Their call sounds like 'sweet, sweet, Canada, Canada, Canada.'  Measuring about 6 1/2" they  prefer to flock and roost in thickets or hedges at night.
Narcissus with Yellow Trumpet
by Grandma Pearl
What's your favorite color in Nature?
Grandma Pearl