Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: wrens

Project FeederWatch – Month 2

Carolina Wren waits for breakfast


The above recording is a Carolina Wren followed by a response from a Black-crested Titmouse. The wren follows and then they sing together after which the titmouse gets in the last word. I recorded it on my iphone so it’s nothing fancy and doesn’t sound professional by any means. I edited it down from 55 seconds to cut the dead space between songs.

I’ve been trying to record some of the backyard bird sounds hoping this will help me learn their songs over time in much the same way that photographing them has helped me learn their names.

Project FeederWatch contines. Last month, I noted I hadn’t seen any cardinals or Mourning Doves since the count period began, but in the past month both birds have checked in. I also had a European Starling visit the back porch to investigate one of the feeders. They’re common here, but I rarely see them in the yard. Last year, I only had them show up once. Three came by for a swim in the birdbath.

American Goldfinches are the only birds from last year that haven’t come around. I’ve talked to a few people around here who say they haven’t seen many this year either.

Here’s the current tally with the highest number of individuals in parentheses.

  1. White-winged Dove (23)
  2. Mourning Dove (1)
  3. Blue Jay (3)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (2)
  5. Black-crested Titmouse (2)
  6. Carolina Wren (2)
  7. Bewick’s Wren (1)
  8. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1)
  9. Northern Mockingbird (1)
  10. European Starling (1)
  11. Orange-crowned Warbler (1)
  12. Chipping Sparrow (15)
  13. Northern Cardinal (1)
  14. Lesser Goldfinch (5)
  15. House Sparrow (17)

Here’s a picture of a Black-crested Titmouse leaving the feeder. It’s not a good picture, but I like the motion.

A Black-crested Titmouse takes flight

Update: This post was included in I and the Bird #117 at the Marvelous in nature. This week’s host, Seabrooke Leckie, actually drew all of the featured birds including my wren and titmouse singing it out and linked to all the posts from her drawing. It’s awesome. Check it out.

What I Learned about My Backyard from Project FeederWatch

A Common Grackle looks around the yard

A Common Grackle looks around the yard

Project FeederWatch ended last weekend. For those just tuning in, PFW is a citizen science project run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The idea is that you commit to keeping a record of all the birds that visit your feeders, birdbaths, birdhouses, and landscape features from November to April. In addition to being a part of something that helps scientists learn about and help birds, participants have the opportunity to learn a surprising amount about what goes on right outside their doors.

This is a summary of some interesting things I learned.

Observations about Specific Birds:


A Bewick's Wren stops by for a snack

A Bewick's Wren stops by for a snack

We get both Carolina and Bewick’s Wrens at our house. They both like suet and mealworms, but the Carolina Wrens will also take seeds from the cake feeders. Carolina Wrens also seem to be more willing to poke around the ground in the flowerbed, while Bewick’s Wrens prefer scouring the trees and plants for bugs. Carolinas also seems to be much more vocal; every morning, I can expect one singing (surprisingly loud) from the fence.


Accipiter hawk relaxing on the neighbor's fence

Accipiter hawk relaxing on the neighbor's fence

On several occasions, on count days and non-count days, I saw unidentifiable accipiter hawks swooping through the yard. On one occasion, I got some pictures of one sitting by the neighbor’s feeder and on another day, I saw one sitting by my feeder. I never got a good enough look to ID any of the ones I saw on count days, but readers of this blog thought the one I photographed was a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

I assume he’s been eating sparrows since those are the only birds whose counts have been lower than I expected them to be. The wrens, titmice, chickadees, and finches all seem to show up in basically the same numbers each week so I suspect they’re avoiding the hawks.


Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch

I was thrilled to see goldfinches show up in my yard at long last. I have my sister to thank. She got me some nyjer bags for Christmas, and the goldfinches arrived withing days of putting them out.

Lesser Goldfinches will only take nyjer seed from the bags, while American Goldfinches who seem to prefer the nyjer bags, will use the tube feeder when the bags are crowded.

American Goldfinch in winter non-gold plumage

American Goldfinch in winter non-gold plumage

I had hoped to see the American Goldfinches in breeding plumage, but they seem to have mostly left, although I did see one this weekend in transitional plumage. I hope he sticks around so I can see him in his full golden glory.

Blue Jays:

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Through most of the winter, the Blue jays came around only for the peanuts. As things warmed up, and nesting season began, they started taking suet again, which they didn’t touch during winter, ceding it instead to the wrens, titmice, kinglets, warblers, and mockingbirds. They also come around more and more for the regular seeds, but the peanuts are still the favorite.


(no pictures. try back next year)

During the fall and winter, the cardinals only come around in the very early hours before dawn and the dusky hour between sunset and dark. During spring and summer they come around the feeders at all times of the day.


One Mourning Dove and two White-winged Doves

One Mourning Dove and two White-winged Doves

White-winged Doves are the most prevalent and obvious birds at our platform feeder during spring and summer, but through fall and winter, there are substantially fewer and the Mourning Doves come around a bit more frequently.


A Northern Mockingbird eyes the suet feeder

A Northern Mockingbird eyes the suet feeder

The mockingbirds come regularly for suet in the winter, but lose all interest in it when it gets warmer out. There is a pair nesting in the neighbor’s cedar tree, but their only interest in my yard now is the birdbath.


Black-crested Titmouse on the pinecone feeder

Black-crested Titmouse on the pinecone feeder

The Black-crested Titmice are almost always the first ones to check out a new feeder, and often the first ones to the worms in the morning, thus earning them the nickname Pigmice. They’re still my favorites, though.

Every morning in winter, one or two would burst from the wren box and start scolding me from a nearby tree until I had the worms out. Now that it’s warmer, they’ve left the box for the wrens and are nesting elsewhere, but they’re still first in line at the worm feeder most mornings.

And, now, some lists…

The Visitors:

The numbers are the highest numbers of individuals seen at one time.

  1. White-winged Dove (25)
  2. Chipping Sparrow (24)
  3. House Sparrow (20)
  4. American Goldfinch (8)
  5. Common Grackle (8)
  6. House Finch (5)
  7. Northern Mockingbird (4)
  8. Brown-headed Cowbird (4)
  9. Black-crested Titmouse (3)
  10. Mourning Dove (3)
  11. Carolina Chickadee (3)
  12. European Starling (3)
  13. Blue Jay (3)
  14. Lesser Goldfinch (3)
  15. Bewick’s Wren (2)
  16. Carolina Wren (2)
  17. Northern Cardinal (2)
  18. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2)
  19. Red-bellied Woodpecker (2)
  20. Black-chinned Hummingbird (2)
  21. Orange-crowned Warbler (1)
  22. Ladder-backed Woodpecker (1)
  23. Accipiter sp. (1)
  24. American Robin (1)
  25. Red-winged Blackbird (1)
  26. Song Sparrow (1)

The Permanent Collection:

These are the birds that appeared in all 20 counts.

  • White-winged Dove
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Black-crested Titmouse
  • Carolina Wren
  • Bewick’s Wren
  • Chipping Sparrow

All of these are permanent residents except the Chipping Sparrows. They will depart for points north in the next week or so, and return in October. If past years are any guide, we will see flocks of 60-70 in the yard for a day or 2 and then they will be gone.

House Sparrow only missed one week (Dec 27), which was incidentally, the first time I saw an accipiter hawk. Smart sparrows.

Passing Through:

Birds that came for a distinct span of time and then left.

  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1.3.09 – 2.7.09)
  • American Robin (2.28.09 – 3.14.09)
  • Orange-crowned Warbler (1.3.09 – 3.14.09)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (3.7.09 – 3.14.09)

I’ll be curious to see if these species come around these times next year.

Sometimes Birds:

Birds that are here year-round. They don’t come by the yard very often, but were kind enough to stop by on at least one count day.

  • Accipiter sp (Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • European Starling

Spring/Summer Birds:

These are the birds that hang around the yard only during spring and summer along with their arrival dates.

  • American Robin (2.21)
  • Common Grackle (3.07)
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird (3.21)

Biggest Flocks:

These are the largest groups of individuals seen at one time.

  • White-winged Dove (25 on 3.14.09)
  • Chipping Sparrow (24 on 1.17.09)
  • House Sparrow (20 on 12.06.08)
  • American Goldfinch (8 on 02.21.09)
  • Common Grackle (8 on 03.07.09 & 03.21.09)

Life Birds:

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet considers the suet feeder

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet considers the suet feeder

These are the birds I had never seen and saw for the first time as a result of paying closer attention to the feeders.

  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Orange-crowned Warbler
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Accipter sp. (probably Sharp-shinned Hawk)

Non-avian Feeder Visitors:

A possum visits the bird feeder

A possum visits the bird feeder

Fox Squirrel

Fox Squirrel

  • Fox Squirrel
  • Virginia Opossum

Project FeederWatch was a fun and eye-opening experience. I intend to continue counting birds and uploading my counts to ebird for the rest of 2009, and I will definitely be participating again next year.

Wrens at the Pinecone Feeder

A Carolina Wren stops by early

A Carolina Wren stops by early

For Christmas our nephew and neice (with some help from their mom, I’m sure) made us some pinecone bird feeders made by using peanut butter to stick birdseed to the pinecone. I hung them from a hanging plant and sure enough, the birds were interested.

The first visitor was a Carolina Wren who seemed to enjoy swinging back and forth on it between bites of seed. A little while later (after the light calmed down and made for better shooting) his smaller cousin, the Bewick’s Wren came by to enjoy some of the peanut buttered seed.

A Bewick's Wren stops by for a snack

A Bewick's Wren stops by for a snack

I love these kinds of simple homemade gifts. So do the birds.

Project FeederWatch Week 3

Week 3 of Project FeederWatch was cool and overcast with occasional showers. It was a good weekend for staying in and staring out the windows.

A Black-crested Titmouse eyes the suet feeder

A Black-crested Titmouse eyes the suet feeder

The birds and the numbers:

  • House Finch (1)
  • House Sparrow (10)
  • Blue Jay (2)
  • Bewick’s Wren (1)
  • Carolina Wren (2)
  • White-winged Dove (17)
  • Black-crested Titmouse (1)
  • Chipping Sparrow (3)
  • Carolina Chickadee (1)

I didn’t see our cardinal this weekend, but all the others have made appearances in my previous counts.

What’s really interesting to me is how the birds’ behavior has changed slightly since the summer. The Blue Jays, for instance, are no longer interested in the suet feeder. They hogged it all summer and now they’ve all but surrendered it to the wrens and chickadees.

A Blue Jay watches the feeders

A Blue Jay watches the feeders

They have not lost their taste for peanuts, though, and they swoop in, grab a nut and are gone before I know it.

Unless this guy is in the way…

I’m pretty sure there were more Chipping Sparrows, but they like to poke around behind the sage bush.

The 3 Chipping Sparrows I counted

The 3 Chipping Sparrows I counted

Bewick’s Wrens come each summer to nest in our boxes, but this time of year, I see more of their larger cousins, the Carolina Wrens.

A Carolina Wren on the worm feeder

A Carolina Wren on the worm feeder

Time to Fly

A Bewick’s wren hunts in my tomato plants for a bug to bring back to the nest box on the fence post.

Last week, I got to watch the young wrens living out back leave their nest. It takes about 2 weeks for the eggs to hatch and another 2 or so for the nestlings to fledge so I had been keeping track so I wouldn’t miss the show, which came last Monday afternoon.

Each day leading up to flight day, the cheeping in the box grew louder and louder whenever one of the adults showed up with a worm or bug. Last Monday, I noticed that the adults were up in the trees singing and calling louder than usual. Then, I noticed one of the young birds kept poking his head out.

He would sit in the hole and look around at the world, studying it and listening for his parents, sometimes responding, sometimes ducking back into the dark safety of the nest.

Occasionally, he’d get his little feet up onto the lip of the hole and look ready to jump only to back into the nest again. Eventually, he jumped and flew to a nearby tree.

He hopped around in the branches and then flew up to the roof of the neighbor’s house where one of his parents met him, and then they flew off from there. A few minutes later, a second wren poked his head out of the nest and went through the same process.

At one point, one of the adults brought a worm to the nest, went in and then left again with the worm, as if to say, “You want this? Come out and get it.”

By the end of the day, the first 3 (maybe 4, I’m not sure how many there were – 5 at least) had flown and only 2 remained. They flew away early the next morning.

When I cleaned out the nest box, I inspected their nest as I broke it up and scattered it on the ground for other birds to use and was surprised by the amount of dog and cat fur in there. I guess regular brushings of all the beasts is good for the birds too.

Six Wrens All the Richer

This bird has flown along with its six offspring. I checked the box on Monday evening and saw a pile of small wrens looking up at me. When I got home on Tuesday, they had all left. I dumped out the nest and saw no dead ones and there weren’t any struggling in the yard, so I assume they all made it into the air.

I’m sorry I missed the flight lessons, but it’s good enough to know that the world is six wrens better today.

Hopefully, I wasn’t too late in cleaning out the box; I’d love it if they came back for a second round this year.

Be sure to check out I and the Bird #47 at Bell Tower Birding. My Three Bird Lunch post, which has a fairly decent shot of a scissor-tailed flycatcher is included in the carnival. It’s funny that the one time I had my camera at work is the only time I’ve seen one there.

Backyard Birds

Here’s a better shot of one of the Carolina Bewick’s Wrens who is nesting in the box on our porch. He actually came up while I was outside with my camera. Probably to demand mealworms. I checked the box and saw that the eggs hatched today. Hopefully, I’ll be home when flying lessons start.

Last weekend, we decided to see what other birds we could attract. I put up a woodpecker feeder since my wife saw one in the yard the other day. I’ve never seen one before, but the seed block had been pretty heavily pecked by the time I got home.

The only finches I’ve seen in the yard are house finches, but I put up a finch feeder in the hopes that we’ll attract some goldfinches. I think it may be the wrong time of year for them to be here, but perhaps if I plant a garden of lettuce, they’ll come as they seem to have for Amy at Esau.

So far, though, it’s mostly white-winged doves, house sparrows, and Carolina chickadees around here, although this afternoon I did hear a song I hadn’t heard before. The woodpecker, perhaps? I’m hoping to add him to my list.

And, of course, our wrens, one seen here singing “Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons.”

Carolina Wren

This is one of the Carolina Bewick’s Wrens that lives in the wren box on our porch. He comes out for meal worms each morning.

They started laying eggs two weeks ago so they should be hatching soon.

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