Fall is the time to get your yard ‘bird-ready’ for the winter season. I know first hand because the Blue Jays stop by at least twice a day to grab peanuts I put out for them to cache away in their preparation for winter (be sure to use only raw, unsalted peanuts).
One of the most important things we can do to help out our birds, and draw them to our yards, is to provide water. Clean water is vital not only for drinking but for bathing to keep their feathers clean. The small birds like the Pine Siskins in the photo above prefer that the water is fairly shallow. “A good birdbath mimics shallow puddles, which are nature’s bird baths” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which has a lot of helpful information on choosing and setting up bird baths.
Clean those birdfeeders including the area under them. If you live in an area where bears visit please follow this advice to be ‘Bear Smart’ for your protection, the protection of your property and protection of bears.
Make sure your windows aren’t collision hazards for the birds you are feeding. Read more about this problem and a number of ways to avoid bird collisions with your windows including a number of products to make your windows more bird safe in this excellent article.
The Audubon Magazine recommends providing some leaf mulch habitat such as where I found the White-throated Sparrow above :
- “Rake fallen leaves under shrubs to create mulch and to protect natural ground-feeding areas for such birds as sparrows, towhees, and thrashers. Birds prefer leaf mulch to woodchip and bark mulches. Earthworms, pillbugs, insects, and spiders–songbird delicacies–will thrive as the mulch decomposes.”
To find more good ideas see their ‘Winterize Your Yard for Birds’ article.
Let me start with a little back-story. Every year for the past several I have had 3 Mountain Chickadees spend the winter in and near my yard on south central Colorado. They spend a lot of time in the two Colorado blue spruce I have and I suspect they may roost inside it’s protective boughs at night. Mountain Chickadees are found at a little higher to much higher elevation for the rest of the year but some do what is called an altitudinal migration during fall and winter to lower elevation areas such as where I live.
As the close-up photo just above shows Mountain Chickadees have a white eyebrow. In
fact the sub-species found in the Rocky Mountains has a wide white eyebrow, with buff or brownish-olive backs and buff sides. Otherwise they are similar to Black-capped and Carolina Chickadees with their black caps, whitish cheeks and underparts.
So three Mountain Chickadees had arrived in my yard around the first of October and they have coming to their feeder in my yard. Then just a few days ago I was sitting on my deck and watching them and some other birds coming to my feeders and to the sunflowers plants in my garden. I got a phone call and was busy talking as one of the Mountain Chickadees came on to my deck several times, probing in the beams which I supposed was to look for insects. I was surprised it kept coming so close but figured these birds are likely the same ones that have been coming and know me now.
As I continue my phone conversation this chickadee lands just 2 feet away on a cardboard box and proceeds to tap with it’s bill. I was now really surprised as this was very close plus I could not figure out why it was tapping there as there were no seeds or insects. It then flew directly to the feeder I put their sunflower seeds in and proceeded to tap away at the feeders bottom. I wondered if the feeder might be empty. I had ended my phone conversation so I got up and walked over to the feeder–it was empty. That smart little chickadee had been trying to get my attention to communicate that it wanted me to put out my seeds! So I did get more seeds and placed them in the feeder. Just as soon as I had done that and walked away a few feet the chickadee, that had been perched nearby watching, flew to the feeder to get a seed. How amazing!
Many people have seen these ‘hummingbird moths’ and mistook them for actual hummingbirds. Easy to see how that can happen since they hover at nectar producing flowers and stick their proboscis (the long, thin tube they drink from) into the flower to such up the nectar–just like actual hummingbirds.
The hummingbird moth in the top photo has it’s proboscis curled up. The website Butterflies and Moths describes this as follows: “The proboscis rolls up like a party noisemaker when not in use….”
‘Hummingbird moths’ are not their real names just how many people refer to them. Here is what the World of Hummingbirds website says about them:
- “The hummingbird moth belongs to the family of moths technically call the Sphingidae family or Sphinx family of moths.”
- “There are many different types of Hummingbird Moths. These can include the Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth, the Tersa Sphinx Hummingbird Moth, and the White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth”
This hummingbird moth is a White-lined Sphinx Moth which is obviously named for the white line across their wings. Notice the long proboscis on the hummingbird moth in the photos just above and below–it is inside the flower on my Sonoran Sunset cana Agastache plant. I wrote about White-lined Sphinx Moths getting nectar from this long blooming plant in an earlier article here. Birds and Blooms Magazine’s editor Kirsten Sweet wrote about another species of hummingbird moth, the clearwing moth.
Even though we have had hard freezes on two nights so far this fall, I still have several of these cute hummingbird moths feeding on the Sonoran Sunset agastache plants in my yard in Colorado. Have you seen any of these hummingbird moths?
This pretty bird is a songbird that is about 8 inches long. It is a Wood Thrush, a cousin to the American Robin.
This close-up shows that it indeed has hearts on it’s breast–ok, they are called ‘dark spots’ but they are shaped like little hearts. And that is so fitting for a bird that sings like a flute. Just go to this National Audubon Society link and click on either of the songs to hear what a beautiful songster this bird is. The hearts/spots on the Wood Thrush extend from it’s neck to it’s belly on a white background. It also has a bright white eye ring and a short tail that help distinguish it from other members of the thrush family. According to Animal Diversity Web, it’s range in North America “extends from southern Canada to northern Florida and from the Atlantic coast to the Missouri River and the eastern Great Plains.”
Now is the time for Wood Thrushes to be migrating south to Mexico and Central America where they spend the winter. However this bird took a detour several hundred miles west of where it could usually be found during migration. I found it in a linden tree in cemetery in Canon City, Colorado just a few days ago. Though this species may migrate through the eastern half of Kansas, this is 200 miles west of the border with Kansas so this bird is quite a ways off course. It wasn’t there the next day when I looked so I am hoping it took off with southerly winds the evening I found it to take it on it’s journey south.
This ‘Botanical Gardens’ is small in size but large in creativity. The lady who has created this, Pep Aragon, sells some organic herbs and vegetables from her gardens in Canon City, Colorado. The gardens are in her yard surrounding her small home located close to the river that runs through town so has a lot of trees and vegetation surrounding place.
This is a view of part of her backyard which is filled to the brim with plants and interesting yard ‘ornaments’. She has many trees, shrubs and vines in which vegetables and herbs are interspersed.
This elevated rock garden was converted from a metal bird bath by just adding rocks and plants that grow in this sparse environment.She mixes in arbors and a few chairs as well as decorative areas such as the one on the right–yes, in that mirror is my reflection as I photograph this interesting view. Actually she has several mirrors around the gardens, as well as pots and vases in a truly eclectic fashion. A great way to recycle old mirrors.
A couple of old wooden window frames, like the one above, are also found in these unique gardens. This is another neat way to recycle old, unusable items.
Wild grape vines like above that are laden with fruit are found interlined on fencing around the garden. These are providing a feast for birds like the American Robin that was gorging on the grapes while I was there. Quite a combination of a flower, herb, fruit and vegetable garden with interesting ideas for recycling items for your yard.