Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Backyard Biodiversity - Birds

We have 1.2 acres of land, three quarters of which is treed.  Even though we are in town it is a very natural setting.  The York River runs past the back, a small creek in a ravine on one border, and a 20+ meter buffer of trees on the other.  Across the river is designated as a flood area, so there are hundreds of acres with nothing but trees, water, and bugs.  It amazes me the diversity that can be found on our property.

Robins - we have a nesting pair that is one of the first bird returns each year.  They like to nest in a cedar hedge in front of the house.  They've already got a nest with 3 eggs on the go.  They also made a second nest under our front porch last year.  Mars likes it when we try to feed them worms.

Wood Ducks - we had a pair in the creek earlier in the spring - probably the same pair that seems to check out the area each year.  We put up a duck box this season to encourage them to stay and nest, but I haven't noticed them in a few days.  Wild and timid, they are easily startled away, so have been trying to avoid too much activity down by the water.  UPDATE: Sad to report a failed nest attempt in summer 2011.  The creek area was frozen enough that I checked out the nesting box over christmas.  Discovered six eggs mostly buried in the wood shavings, frozen solid and smelling terrible.  I don't know if human activity scared them off? 
Terrible blurry rushed photo of our Wood Ducks

Mallard Ducks - I think the creek is a bit of a way station, in spring thaw it looks more like a decent sized pond.  I've only seen Mallards there early in the spring.  I know a pair nests in the oxbow lake behind, and I've also seen a momma & ducklings upriver a kilometer or so.

Great Blue Heron - lived in the creek the first year we moved.  Another timid bird that we used to see from the road, but the activity of a young family (vs retired couple former owners) was too much.  I still see it nearby fairly regularly when kayaking.

Blue Jays - saw the first of the season the other day.  A regular visitor, but I think passing through rather than nesting on our property.  Later in the summer, we get a mob of six to eight that will check out the yard.  They will land on the window feeder, prop a tail against the window, and make a big mess - spilling sunflower seeds as they root through.

Hawk - of some kind.  My mum is a serious birder & says she has difficulty telling them apart.  Occasionally does a flyover.

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird - we have a feeder, but I think they like someone else's better, an infrequent visitor.

Belted Kingfisher - another just passing through visitor.

Hairy Woodpecker at the peanut feeder
Hairy Woodpecker - occasional visitor, I think this one was passing through in the fall.

Downy Woodpecker - goes through phases, sometimes rare, sometimes daily while it demolishes a suet block.

Northern Flicker - one that confused me for ages.  Used to see them regularly up and down the street, but always flying away and never got a good look.  We normally get one regularly hopping around the back yard, this year a pair digging in the front.

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker - spotted by Leaf, I haven't been lucky enough to see it yet.  There is a standing dead tree in the backyard, the holes he has pecked keep getting bigger.  I've heard him across the river.  Update: August 8th, 2012 - Mars heard a new bird while having a bath.  I went out and after a few minutes of narrowing down where the calls were coming from, spotted a Pileated Woodpecker on the hydro pole calling away.  There was a pair, a second heard tapping in the trees by the creek, heard it call once, then a glimpse as it flew away.  The one on the hydro pole quickly followed.

Crow - used to be a regular Wednesday visitor as they hit the garbage up and down the street.  Sometimes the family will check out the compost pile. I try to feed them, but I think reaction to their garbage shenanigans has made them wary of humans.

Black-capped Chickadee - a year round resident.  I figure there are at least several pairs nesting nearby, but I've never noticed a nest.

Red Breasted Nuthatch - sometimes hits the suet, often the window feeder.W
White Breasted Nuthatch -  sometimes hits the suet.

American Goldfinch - an itinerant visitor, I like the vibrant colour.

Dark-eyed Junco - we had two pairs this spring, one in the front yard, one in the back.  I think they have moved on, though we've occasionally had them through the summer.

Red-Winged Blackbird - I was surprised to see this distinctive bird in our back yard last year.  Could only have been passing through.  I see them all the time kayaking up Faraday Creek.

Purple Finch - a later springtime arrival, usually a few pairs live here for the summer.
House Finch -  very similar looking to Purple Finch, but I think new this year.

Common Redpoll - some to a bunch, visits the hanging feeder, doesn't stay through the summer.

Sparrow - several kinds.  Haven't got good enough to differentiate them.
Clay-Coloured Sparrow - spotted in the front yard feeder.  The solid clay-coloured breast made it easy to identify.  (With my mum's help).

Ruffed Grouse - I've yet to see one, but discovered tracks in the snow today (March 1st/12)

Grackle - forgot this first time through.  A much disliked bird, I chase them off when they flock through.

Duck box 2012 note the papery looking stuff top right
Common Merganser -  I've seen these before up river while kayaking, but this spring (April/12) they were hanging around the creek.  At first I thought it was the wood ducks back since I saw motion but didn't go down for fear of scaring them off.   A later sneak with binoculars confirmed they were Common Mergansers, a male and female.  UPDATE (Aug 2012):  Checked the duck box today, much more down than before (last year I think Wood Ducks were in it), remnants of egg shell, some thick papery stuff (dried membrane?)  Never noticed ducklings this spring though, although avoided the creek since last year eggs were abandoned.  Lots o' spider webs!

Brown Thrasher - a new one, early summer 2012.  The property across the street cut down a couple acres of woodlot, I think the Thrashers may have moved from there to our place.  A breeding pair?  One possible youngster.  They are very timid, and move around in the undergrowth, so often hard to see.

Turkey Vulture - circling high overhead.  IDed by my mum.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak - (Maybe) My mum thinks she saw one in the back yard while visiting.  It would be awesome, we used to get them (as well as Evening Grosbeaks) regularly at our old place, but I've yet to see one here.

Pine Sisken - scoped this one way at the top of one of our very large pines using my new binoculars.

Cedar Waxwings - Woot new binoculars!  Spotted this as well out front.

Northern Cardinal - a female spotted below the feeder.  First cardinal we've seen in the 10 years we've been up here!

Wild Turkey - Jan 2013 - yesterday I finally saw the fox in the backyard.  Today was surprised to see a pair of wild turkeys meander into the back yard and stand around.  Turns out they were waiting for the rest of their flock - 9 in total.  Wandered around, we watched for 20 minutes, they've moved under the pine trees now.
Hooded Merganser - April 2015 - Very excited to see a new bird.  Was hoping to sneak down and see the Wood Ducks that arrived yesterday, saw this instead.

Spotted Sandpiper - May 2015 -  noticed an abundance of bird poop on the sandbank between dock & creek so snuck down the next day.

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