Blue-Violet Iris Interior

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Addendum to Backyard Birding

Black-capped chickadee.
In my previous post on the birds found in my backyard, I had mentioned my vexation at being unable to get many (or any) photographs of two of the most handsome birds that frequent our yard: the rufous-sided towhee and the red-shafted flicker. The towhees were ever-present, at least aurally, but eluded all but one of my attempts to photograph them. Several flickers visited the front yard, but they are every bit as flighty as the jays, if not more so, and flew off any time I attempted to approach the windows with my camera. I was delighted, then, to get some great photos of both species over the last few days. They were all taken from inside the house, but they do a good job of capturing not just the likenesses of the birds, but the avian dynamics within our neighborhood ecosystem.

A glimpse of a male Anna's iridescence.
I got lucky, one evening, when a towhee decided to splash around in the little birdbath on the deck. This birdbath is about ten feet from the windows of our family room. When I went to grab my camera sitting on the end table right up against the window nearest to the bath, the towhee saw me and hopped to the edge of the dish, ready to take flight. So I dropped down on my hands and knees and, yes, crawled with my camera over to where I could discretely raise myself up behind one of the arms of the couch, camouflaging myself as a piece of furniture, and took these pictures. (Once again, I recommend you click on the photos to see them enlarged, if only to admire the rufous eye of the towhee!) I then settled myself on the couch and took a few more pictures as the towhee did a bit of post-bath browsing in the moss. Between each foray, the towhee would retreat either to the fence or the shrubs surrounding the deck and I had a chance to appreciate towhee's lightning speed! With a hopskipandajump that was almost faster than the eye could follow, it would flash between the safe spaces before venturing out to look for snacks. No wonder I hadn't been fast enough to take towhee pictures when I was out in the yard! I'm thankful that this one paused long enough to take a nice bath while I blended in with the furniture.

A-splishin' and a-splashin'...

...a-movin' and a-groovin'!

The turquoise dish provides a nice backdrop for this dashing bird!

The towhee hunting in the moss.

Two of the neighboring yards have massive cherry trees along their adjoining fences that have essentially been allowed to grow wild for the last 25 years, meaning they are now about forty feet tall and all of the cherries they produce are consumed by the birds. They attract crows, robins, jays, and starlings, and, rather to my surprise, since their diet is usually composed almost entirely of ants, the flickers. Ever since the cherries ripened last week, the backyard and the neighboring trees have been full of red-shafted flickers.

A male red-shafted flicker.

And just like everybody else, the flickers want to use the birdbath. I happened to capture an epic standoff between the robins and a flicker over bathing privileges.

It all started when a female flicker decided to land on the birdbath while a juvenile robin, under the watchful eyes of its father, was taking a bath.

"Get lost!" screamed Papa Robin.

The flicker, knocked off-balance by the robin's assault, struggled to regain its footing... the father flew to his (seemingly oblivious) baby's side.

"Hi, dad!"

The flicker decided things were a bit crowded and departed, startling another robin, who took shelter in the mahonia.

But the flicker soon tried again.

Papa Robin flew back to defend his offspring.

This time it was the flicker who said, "Get lost!"

The flicker attempted to the take over the bath by getting in it.

The baby, not to be outdone, started bathing, too, and drove off the flicker with its flailing...

...but not for long! The flicker finally intimidated the juvenile robin into abandoning the bath...

...only to be confronted by the female robin.

A standoff where the flicker and a robin both circled around the rim of the bath while taking drinks ensued.

Things came to a head when the robin...

...took flight..

...circling the birdbath...

...while the flicker turned to follow it... what was likely an attempt... show the flicker...

...who was boss.

The flicker would have none of it!

She launched herself at the robin and won control of the bath at last.

Without any pesky robins to interfere, she fluffed up her feathers and got down to business.

And when clean, she took off in flurry of dramatically-barred red feathers that give this sub-species its name.

It's not just the robins and the flickers that want to use the bath, of course. It continues to be utilized by all of the cherry eaters and many of the smaller birds. Some of them are prodigious splashers!

This starling gets points for superlative spray!

This juvenile robin gets points for impressive technique...

...though it was a little unsteady when shaking off all that water when it was done.

This juvenile flicker, on the other hand, didn't seem to fully grasp that you had to get IN the bath if you wanted to take one! 

Many of the birds that have been frequenting the cherry trees now have their offspring in tow. It's fun to see the young birds learning the ropes.

A juvenile flicker perches on a fencepost while being fed.

This young flicker lingered far longer at the birdbath than its more cautious elders would.

Despite the handsome flicker plumage, the little one looks a bit like a goober here. The young birds are often still quite clumsy!

A female robin and a juvenile meet on the birdbath...

...but judging by her reaction, I think this must not have been this little one's mom!

The young robins can be told from the adults by their spotted chests and the subtle patterns on the rest of their feathers. It's a pity they don't keep that attractive patterning as adults.

Although the crows fledged long ago, it didn't stop this youngster from giving out a baby crow's "feed me!" call in hopes one of its elders would provide a snack. (Please forgive the quality of this photo--I took it through a screen.)

And last but not least, I spotted the little junco on our deck at dusk the other day! It still sports a fledgling's spotted chest, but it has grown full tail feathers since the last time I photographed it!

As you can see, things have remained quite lively on the bird front! And for good measure, I saw (but was not able to photograph) a brown creeper on the Douglas-fir a few days ago, bringing our yard's total bird count to 34. As I write this, I can hear a robin splashing in the birdbath. When I got up to see who was making the noise, I witnessed a nuthatch approach the bath and think better of it. A starling then took over the bath for a quick splash before ceding it once again to the robin. Once the adult robin flew away, a juvenile jumped in (frustrating the nuthatch once again) while another pecked the ground below. I can hear chickadees, juncos, and towhees calling nearby. The birdbath stood vacant for a moment, but the mahonia next to it shook as a robin feasted on its berries. Once the robin moved on, chickadees descended from the over-hanging conifers to take their turn in the bath. Following the antics, rivalries, and family dynamics of our local bird population continues to be a rewarding and absorbing pastime. I suspect that more pictures will follow!

1 comment:

  1. Amazing Shots :)

    Birds are proving rather difficult for me to capture (on photo, that is,
    lol :) T.