Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mississippi Kite

Well, the little ones are out and about these days - testing their wings and learning the world. Unfortunately, they didn't nest where I could keep an eye on their progress as they grew. Today I watched as a juvenile was served some tasty bugs multiple times. In childlike fashion, he would cry for his momma with the customary "PIT-teeewwww". Momma would show up with a morsel for him to consume. This scenario repeats itself fairly often.

(Momma brings the "bacon".)
I hadn't noticed before, but the juveniles (at least this one) has brown eyes, while the adults have red.

As if to express gratitude for its meal, another call to its Momma before digging in:

("Thank you, Momma!")
Dine hearty, young fella!

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

This morning was cool enough and I got up early enough to get out and watch for my fine feathered friends. It was almost immediately when I saw another Black-Chinned Hummingbird flitting around our trees near the feeder I set up. I managed to get this shot when he stopped to perch on a neighbor's clothesline to scope things out.

(Black-Chinned Hummingbird)
It's not easy catching these little guys sitting still, but this one was cooperating quite well. He kept his distance, because I was apparently making him a bit nervous.

Since making alterations to the seal on my ant moat, I've not seen any sign of ants contaminating their home-made nectar. In the hot weather we've been having, I have to refill the moat pretty often, but it's worth it. Even though I don't get out early enough most of the time, the nectar keeps going down - and it isn't leaking. I know where it's going now.  :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hummingbird Feeder Ant Cure

I've had my hummingbird feeder out since right after I got the photo of the hummingbird in the previous post. It didn't take but a few days for the ants to get in and taint the sugar water. (My feeder is hanging on a shepherd's hook.) There are various methods to stop them. I chose a homemade cure - a moat.

Parts you'll need:

  • A cap off of a spray can - like a paint can. 
  • Something to hang it with. I chose a piece of solid wire used for house wiring. 6" or so should be long enough. You can always cut it shorter if it's too long.
  • Something to make a hole with, like an awl or drill bit. An 1/8" bit worked perfect for me.
  • Something to seal around the wire to prevent leakage. I used a 3/8" glue dot available at craft stores.
  • Two water bottle caps from 1/2 Litre bottles.
Use the drill or awl to make a hole in the center of the cap, just big enough for the wire to go through. Peel a glue dot off its backing and stick the edge of it on the wire where you want the bottom of the moat to be. Wrap the glue dot around the wire, stretching it as you go. Slide the cap over the wire until it contacts the glue dot seal you just put on the wire. Twist the cap back and forth a little if needed, to get a good seal.

(Glue Dot "seal" and bottom hook.)
Make a hole in the center of each water bottle cap, and slide them down the wire on the inside of the spray can cap. Put the first water bottle cap with the open end down, and the second one on top of it, open side up. This will keep the spray can cap moat from tilting excessively.
(View of water bottle caps in center of moat and upper end of wire.)

Trim the wire to a suitable length and bend a hook in the bottom (feeder end), and an eye at the top - big enough to accommodate your hook/hanger or whatever your installation requires.

Hang the newly constructed moat on your mounting means, and hook your feeder onto the moat's bottom hook. Fill moat with water.

(Finished moat.)

Add water to the moat when you clean your feeder and change your nectar.


The glue dot didn't last very long for me, so I tried another route. I got some E6000 adhesive and applied it inside and outside the cap where the wire went through. After a couple days (I was making sure), it was well set and I put it back in service. Seems to be working pretty well now. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Another "first" for me here in the panhandle. Shelley saw one of these flit by a couple days ago, and this morning I took up a position near our trumpet vines. After a few minutes (10 or 15 maybe) I saw this little girl dancing around some of the upper flowers and darting in and out of them.

(Female Black-Chinned Hummingbird)
These tiny birds are not uncommon to the panhandle, but they are not easy to see - especially in the early morning light. In addition to getting the nectar from flowers like these, they also dine on tiny flying bugs and are frequent/common visitors to hummingbird feeders. Black-Chinned Hummingbirds commonly perch on high, bare branches of trees.

As part of their mating ritual, males will perform a steep dive as much as 75 - 100 feet to impress the females.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Western Bluebird

While at the Buffalo Lake NWR, I spotted another first for me: a Western Bluebird. It is one of the most attractive thrushes in North America. Vivid colors catch the eye easily in the sunlight. The Eastern Bluebird is similar in color, but are paler than the Western Bluebird.

This Bluebird usually spend nesting season in open woodlands and savannas, then in winter turns to deserts, farm fields and riparian woodlands. They swoop down from a perch to catch flying insects, and forage on the ground for invertebrates. In winter they rely on ground foraging heavily. Mistletoe berries are also on their menu in winter.

(Western Bluebird)

Friday, March 16, 2012


Many people confuse the three varieties of doves we have here - the Euro-Collared, the White Winged, and the Mourning doves. The two here are more similar than they are to its cousin, the Mourning Dove. I managed to get a good side-by-side comparison shot of two of them this morning: the Euro-Collared and the White Winged doves.

Euro-Collared Dove (L) and White Winged Dove (R).
It's easy to see the differences here. While both have red eyes and very similar overall coloring, the Euro-Collared dove lacks the white edge of the wing, as well as the vivid blue "eyeliner" of its counterpart. The White Winged dove only has a small black cheek mark, as opposed to the collar around the back of the neck. These differ from the Mourning Dove that is characterized by its general coverage of black spots. From my observations, the Euro-Collared dove emits a kind of a low-key "scream" right before, or as it lands on its perch. The White Winged dove is generally silent as it lands. Both doves do have the characteristic "coo-ing" sounds.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wood Duck

The Wood Duck is at the edge of its Summer and Winter ranges in the Panhandle. It nests in tree cavities and duck boxes, usually over water.  They eat seeds and nuts, and prefer acorns and hickory nuts. The male's green iridescent head appears mostly black until the light hits it at the right angle. The vivid markings on its head are easy to spot.

(Male Wood Duck.)

(Male Wood Duck.)
(Male Wood Duck, preening.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

The Red-Bellied Woodpecker looks very similar to the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker elsewhere in this blog. Unlike most woodpeckers, Red-Bellies eat lots of plant material and seldom excavate the wood for insects. They forage in trees, on the ground, and even on the wing, eating insects, seeds, nuts, and fruit - sometimes tree sap, bird eggs, and small amphibians. Their "red bellies" are just a small area that is difficult to see in the field. Red-Bellied Woodpeckers live more than 20 years.

Male Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker
The Female does not have the continuous red cap that the male does.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

This little Nuthatch is a strange-looking creature as it moves headfirst down a tree trunk while foraging for invertebrates, seemingly not knowing which way is "up". It is known for wedging nuts and seeds into crevices and hacking them open with its beak. They nest in natural cavities in large deciduous trees, or even make use of abandoned woodpecker nests.

This Nuthatch poses with a nut he has wedged in the tree bark.
White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch
The White-Breasted Nuthatch is a common visitor to backyard feeders, but I have personally not seen any at mine yet. These were taken at Lake McClellan in the panhandle.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blue Jay

I bought a small bag of salted in-shell peanuts and put them out for the birds. I'm glad it was a small bag, because it's not a good idea to use salted peanuts for birds. It's better to use unsalted peanuts for birds. The Blue Jays simply love peanuts in the shell, but the salted ones are not good for them. Too much salt is just as bad for them as it is us. So, later today I'll get some unsalted peanuts - in the shell.

(Blue Jay)
It's fun to watch the Blue Jays snatch them up and fly off to eat them nearby. Sometimes they'll take them about 10 yards away and eat them on the ground. Sometimes they'll head for the branches of a tree. This Jay found a 6" branch with an appropriate spot in our elm tree where he could safely open it up and "chow down" before returning for another.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ladder-Backed Woodpecker

This morning while checking my feeders, I heard the "tap-tap-tapping" common to woodpeckers. As I watched the branches of our Elm tree for the source of the sound, I caught sight of a bright red spot popping out from behind one. This is what I saw:

(Ladder-Backed Woodpecker)
(Ladder-Backed Woodpecker)

The Ladder-Backed Woodpecker often feeds and nests in cacti in the Southwest. It's a small woodpecker that mainly feeds on insects such ants and beetles. Females generally like to feed in upper branches, whereas males tend to feed closer to the trunk or near the ground. This male was, however, feeding in the upper branches.  The Ladder-Backed Woodpecker is a year-round resident of the panhandle, albeit being a "rare to common" resident. They nest in trees, cacti, agave, yucca, or even a utility pole. The nests are likely drilled by the males, and lined with wood chips.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

I found this photo from a couple years ago - April of 2010. It apparently slipped under my radar and I never identified it or pursued it.

(Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker)
The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker winters in the panhandle. It "drills" wells in tree bark serve to collect sap, and attract bugs. The Sapsucker makes the rounds visiting its "wells" and eating the bugs it attracts. It also eats the sap, not by sucking as its name suggests, but lapping it up with its tongue - which resembles a paint brush.