Category Archives: Identifying Birds

Coyote Hills Regional Park in Spring: Vibrant with Poppies, Rocks, Planes, and Turkeys

Coyote Hills Regional Park PoppiesIf you’ve ever wondered why the golden poppy is California’s state flower, Golden poppies. Coyote Hills Regional Parktry visiting the Golden State in spring! Coyote Hills Regional Park Amid the poppiesWhile on a tour to see our numerous West Coast rels
(which included the families of 2 sons and 3 siblings), Coyote Hills Regional ParkAaron took us with his crew for a hike near
San Francisco in the East Bay’s Coyote Hills Regional Park, Spring Wildflowers in Coyote Hills Regional Parka vast stretch (978 acres) of marshlands and rolling green hills that are carpeted Poppies in March at Coyote Hills Regional Parkwith flowers—most gloriously poppies—in early spring. Boardwalk through marsh in Coyote Hills Regional ParkIt’s been so rainy this year that part of the boardwalk through the marsh Alemeda Creek Ponding Areawas submerged by overflow from Alameda Creek, Wetlands in Coyote Hills Regional Parkso we had to retrace our steps along the Muskrat Trail. Gorgeous wildflowers in Coyote Hills Regional ParkHowever, the hills were phenomenal! Coyote Hills Regional Park poppies bloomingThe bedrock of Coyote Hills is part of the Franciscan Formation, Greenstone and chert outcroppings at Coyote Hills Regional Parkand half of that is composed of sheared greenstone,
which varies in color from shades of green to even reds and yellows. Franciscan Formation. Coyote Hills Regional ParkWhere the rocks have not been weathered, there are some stunning outcroppings with vibrantly colored veins of recrystalized red and yellow chert (jasper). Wildflowers and vibrant rock formations. Coyote Hills Regional ParkAt the top of one hill, the rocks had some strikingly blue coloring so beautiful Greenstone in Coyote Hills Regional Park that I feared people might think I was just “turning up the color” on my photos! Hiking in Coyote Hills Regional ParkFrom the tops of the Red Hill Trail, you can also catch vistas of San Francisco, Evaporation Ponds in Coyote Hills Regional Parkand the southwestern side of Coyote Hills is bordered by tidal mud flats that have been landscaped to create evaporation ponds for salt water from the Pacific. Radio-operated airplane pilots at Coyote Hills Regional ParkThis area is also popular with radio-controlled airplane operators, Coyote Hills Regional Park Oops. Shouldn't pick the flowers!and on the balmy day of our visit (Oops! It’s pretty, but don’t pick the flowers!), Radio-control airplane operatorone friendly pilot shared some of his expertise and delight in flying with us. Climbing the Trail in Coyote Hills Regional ParkThe only downside of this perfectly good day for UP Testy Tom Turkey in Coyote Hills Regional Parkwas a close encounter with an IFO…an identifiable flying object
which turned out to be a testy tom turkey. 16 Turkeys in our fieldWe have a flock of about 2 dozen turkeys in our Michigan woodsy backyard,
but they shun humans and won’t pose for close up photo ops, Turkeys 2 Coyote Hills Regional Parkso I was delighted that these turkeys seemed more than happy to accommodate… Turkeys by the Red Hill Trail in Coyote Hills Regional Parkuntil I realized the hens were simply feeling secure Tom Turkey at Coyote Hills Regional Park 2because their gorgeous but irascible tom guarded his harem Tom Turkey defending harem in Coyote Hills Regional Parkby  aggressively accosting interlopers, Coyote Hills Regional Park 2including my small partners Poppies in Coyote Hills Regional Parkwho—if a bit taller—were not nearly so wide! Green hills carpeted with wildflowers in Coyote Hills Regional ParkAnd so, I would advise prospective hikers to expect a fabulous day at the park, Testy Tom Turkey in Coyote Hills Regional Parkbut beware the jabberturk, my son! Tired boy after big day of hiking“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety”
(Psalm 4:8).Little Boy Shoes after big day of hiking

 

 

 

A Few of My Favorite Birds (33 ): Turkeys—and not Just at Thanksgiving!

Turkey. Wild 4.29.13Turkeys are the largest game bird in North America and their existence helped the pilgrims survive their first year in America, which is doubtless how they ended up as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinners yesterday. Turkeys in October 2015As turkeys haven’t been globe trotters, I don’t know how many people on other continents like turkey, but my son Joel became the turkey donor for his house, because even though many of his fellow graduate students are Asian and didn’t  actually want to roast a turkey…they all wanted to eat some turkey! 🙂  Turkeys grazing in our fieldSo, turkeys are popular birds. Turkeys not only the biggest of our game birds (2-4 ft. in length and up to 50 pounds for domesticated turkeys), many people think they’re the best! There are now about 200 million raised every year for food in the U.S. and another 7 million running wild throughout North America. Turkeys 21 of them! 9-15            We have a flock of 21 (last count) that roam our woods and fields. Turkeys in Field I was surprised to learn that wild turkeys actually prefer woodland areas and are especially fond of acorns but are omnivorous, eating fruits, seeds and nuts of various varieties, insects, and even salamanders!Nest of Wild Turkey eggsOne hen laid her nest of 13 tan-speckled eggs right up against the sunny, southern wall of our home hidden behind a thick patch of day lilies this summer. Turkey eggs                                                      (They can lay 4-18 eggs.) Autumn Flock of Turkeys This would have been an ideal spot had it not been for an influx of 4 curious grand sons and 4 curious coon kits during the month it would have taken to properly incubate them. Sigh.Flock of wild turkeys                                                 Still, a flock of 21 isn’t bad. Turkey Male showing off copy        The males are aloof parents…mostly interested in strutting and breeding.Male turkey displaying                                 (I’ll refrain from any snide comments.)

Mother Turkey with Poults But, the hens make excellent mothers, fiercely protecting their young poults during the first two weeks before they can fly. Hen Turkey with PoultsHowever, once the poults can fly, the entire flock roosts relatively high up
in trees during the night. Turkey Tracks+ 3.28.13                   Hens watch over their young even through the first winter, Wild Turkeys 8.25.13 and our flock seems to stick together year round,
roaming freely all over our yard, driveway, lane, woods, and fields. turkeys-in-our-driveway                    I think they think they own the place…and maybe they do.Turkey on waterfront 2015 copyGiven the specialness and succulence of turkeys, you may wonder why
“You turkey!” is considered an insult. I addressed that issue some years ago (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/you-turkey/ ), Wild Turkeys   but since that time I’ve also learned something from a professional hunter that’s made me rethink my compliance with the present P.C. turkey slurs. Wild TurkeyTurkeys aren’t just big; they’re fast, running up to 25 mph and flying up to 55. Furthermore, they don’t fly in a straight line,
making them extremely challenging for game hunters.Turkey. Wild by fenceSo, even if some birds would rather try to bust their brains
through a fence than fly over it, they’re worthy of respect
…and I think that holds true for all God’s creatures.  Turkeys on our lawn 10.15            We all have some weaknesses, but we all need and deserve respect. Turkeys+20 pix 9.2.15     So, sorry, big birds. You won’t be hearing anymore turkey slurs from me.    🙂 Turkeys in yard 9.2.15“Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any:
he is mighty in strength and wisdom” (Job 36:5).

 

A Few of My Favorite “The Birds” (32): Budgie Mania

Curious budgiesLast week the budgies were pretty much “out of control!” Budgie in lady's hair In all my years of feeding the budgerigars (aka parakeets) at the John Ball Zoo,  Budgie "attacking" ladyI’ve never seen them so aggressive and eager to eat! Budgies everywhere! I don’t know if it was the cool weather, Lady with budgie on head being morning, Girl with blue budgie or just luck of the draw, A Good Day for Budgies but they were landing on everybody and everything, Budgies everywhere 2  fluttering around, and fighting over “territories” atop innocent visitors! Yikes! Aggressive budgiesOf course, we loved it, Budgie on girl's head but it was a little disconcerting Budgies trying to eat leather neck strap when six “attacked” the leather strap around Joel’s neck, Budgie on baby's head landed on my grandson’s head Sleepy baby and budgies (while he was trying to sleep soundly)Budgie Pecking at Mirrored decorations attempted to peck the decorations off my top, Lots of budgies! gathered in groups on our arms Budgies fluttering around and fought over landing space! Feeding budgies 2 Usually we leave before all the seeds on our sticks have been eaten, So many budgies but this time we went back and bought more! Little boy excited to feed budgie Well, let’s just say it was the high point of our trip! Budgies love to land in hair Did you know that budgies are also called “love birds”? Trying to pet a budgie They are the world’s third most popular pet (just behind dogs and cats),  Budgie on a purse so they’re not just one of my favorite birds, Popular budgie stand they’re one of everybody’s favorite birds! Budgies on girl's arm Budgies (parakeets) are wonderfully social
and among the animal world’s finest “talking” champions. Feeding a budgie seeds (The world record-holder had a vocabulary of 1,728 words!) Green budgies being feed seeds on stick  They’re actually small members of the parrot family and native to Australia.  Hungry Budgies!The original coloring is (was) green and yellow with black scallops, Line of budgies!although they’ve now been bred into a veritable rainbow of colors.Little boy with blue budgie (However, the blue cere at the base of the beak always denotes a male.)Birds and kids So, if you’re looking for a small friend who talks a lot but doesn’t eat too much, New fashion budgiethink budgie. Come to think of it, Budgies interested in baby now that I’m an empty-nester…maybe I should get one! 🙂

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
[or closer than a bird…that would be Jesus, so maybe I can live without a bird…]
(Proverbs 18:24)

A Few of My Favorite Birds (31): Timid Little Titmice?

Tufted Titmouse Fluffed up in coldNo fair-weather friend, the little songbird known as the tufted titmouse Nuthatch rainy fall day is a year-round resident of lower Michigan (where I live) & much of Eastern U.S. Tufted Titmouse in tree 3.13.15Even though they’re one of the few birds with distinct head crests (hence the name “tufted”), don’t be tempted to confuse them with female cardinals,  Female cardinal 2who are a good third larger and have brown with red-tinged feathers as well as very prominent orange beaks.Rainy Fall DayHowever, like cardinals, they can lower their crests so that they don’t show,  Rain-drenched Titmouse 11.6.13which seems to happen most often when they’re wet, Tufted Titmouse with seed; crest down anxious, or in a hurry….and that seems to be much of the time! Tufted Titmouse Back 1.15.10Unlike cardinals, the little tufted titmouse has completely grey upper parts, Underside of tufted titmouse white underparts with just a touch of rust color on the flanks,Profile of Titmouse at Bird Feeder  bright black eyes, a short, black beak, and black markings above the beak.  Titmice. Two at feederThe males and females are indistinguishable in size and coloring, Two tufted titmice at feederand like most birds, they are devoted mates and parents. Tufted Titmouse Singing 2.20.15All during mating season, titmice have a clear, whistling chant they useTufted Titmouse singing in tree 3.13.15to call their mates that sounds like, “Peter, peter, peter!…Here, here, here!” Tufted Titmouse 5.13.14They tend to nest in old woodpecker holes or other small tree cavities, and one rather charming aspect of the couple’s relationship is that during the month Titmouse in a Cherry Tree 5.13.14while the female incubates and broods over the young, the male will feed her, but he often gives a cheery call so she’ll come out of the hole to pick up her lunch! Tufted Titmouse in tree. Cold 2.20.15Although the titmouse’s favorite diet is primarily animal rather than vegetable, Tufted Titmouse eating seeds 2.20.15they are inordinately fond of sunflower seeds Tufted Titmouse +1.15.10 and definitely enjoy feasting at or under our feeder. However…Back of tufted titmouseunlike many birds, who will sit contentedly and gorge at the feeder until full,  Tufted titmouse on railingtufted titmice wait patiently for their turn on a railing or nearby tree, Tufted Titmouse 6.28.12 back feathers and when they perceive that the road is clear, Tufted Titmouse+ 6.28.12. Singing they swoop in, Face and under wing Tufted Titmouse 5.13.14 grab a single seed (a sunflower if they can find one fast enough), and thenTufted Titmouse 6.28.12 with food  retreat to a safe distance before cracking it open and devouring its contents. Tufted Titmouse 6.28.12 Dancing 1Their unusual timidity about feeding seems strange, because many bird-lovers think of them as brash, feisty little fellows. Titmouse in flight They are brazen enough to pull hairs right out of small mammals in order to line their nests, so why are they so unable to relax at our feeder? Tufted Titmouse 6.28.12 2Come to think of it, how can we be bold about some things but so antsy about others? A peck here and a bite there…why not sit and feast at the Lord’s table on the Word of God until we’re fully satisfied?Tufted Titmouse+ 9.18.14

I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it…Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!…He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.”
(Psalm 81: 10,13,16)

A Few of My (Mother’s) Favorite Birds (30): Bluebirds—Busy Beauties!

By GloNegret Morgue File Free PhotoBoth my own mom and Mommu (spiritual mom) adored bluebirds, and so do I! 110 Bluebird They’re gorgeously arrayed in bright blue jackets, rust-colored vests, white trousers, and shiny black shoes. IMG_1970Eastern bluebirds are common throughout America east of the Rocky MountainsBluebird+30 1.10.14but typically breed in the North and winter in the South.Bluebird in tree 1.10.14 These beautiful little thrushes sing sweet, melodious cadenzas from treetops, Bluebird in tree 2.13.14 and often (like this one) return from the South just in time for Valentine’s Day, Bluebirdsbringing with them the promise of another spring and renewed hope for life. Bluebirds waiting their turn at feeder 2They are very social little creatures and migrate in flocks of up to 30 or more, Bluebirds+30 . 02.1.13although they pair off for breeding season and will defend their territory. Female Bluebird at FeederThe females have a more greyish tint to their heads and backs; Bluebird fluffed to keep warm. 2both male & female chicks have somewhat mottled breasts and shorter feathers, Bluebird fluffed to keep warmbut no matter how you cut it, you’ve got to admitFledgling Bluebird they’re pretty much adorable at any age, don’t cha think? IMG_8508 Bluebirds prefer insects and other invertebrates, but in early spring they’re  IMG_8516 happy to come to our feeder until the ground thaws & such tiny wildlife emerges. IMG_8517Other favorite foods include seeds, berries, and fruits, such as Close up of bluebird eating from feeder wild grapes,  black raspberries, sumac, honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, etc., Snowy Day  Bluebird and our woods is pretty much overflowing with a tangle of what they love. Blluebird fluttering by feeder The only thing that’s not perfect about our woodland accommodations is that Bluebird 1.10.14bluebirds prefer open  fields, so they build their nests and rear their young IMG_8519 down by our field rather than where we get to see them every day Bluebird on snowy day and only come back to feed with their young if the weather is unseasonably cold Fledglin Female(which sometimes happens, and can severely reduce the bluebird population). Bluebird on top of feeder 2.13.14So, although we get to enjoy their antics at the feeder in early spring, Bluebird at feederit’s always a rare and transient treat… Bluebird on top of feeder 2 like a friend we love dearly and who visits regularly…IMG_1984 but can never seem to stay very long! Bluebird 2.13.14I’d love to be as pretty and melodic as a bluebird, but I sometimes wonder if I’m a bit too much like a bluebird when it comes to friendships! Bluebirds waiting their turn at feederIt’s so easy (and natural) to come and go as we please, appreciating friendships at our convenience but then being off again in a flurry of frenetic activity! IMG_1986Even worse, do I treat the Lord like that? Am I happy to enjoy his bounty when life’s too hard to survive on my own…but then quick to flit off and try doing it
“by self” whenever I think it’s possible?IMG_8509

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42)

A Few of My Favorite Birds (29): Nuthatches…Don’t Get Your Pinfeathers Ruffled!

Nuthatch about to defend his right to feederI’m not sure which bird first inspired the saying, Nuthatch. Ruffled Pinfeathers copy “Don’t get your pinfeathers ruffled,”  but of all the birds in our backyard, Nuthatch. Hackles up! 3.5.15+ that saying is most apt for our white-breasted nuthatches! Nuthatch trying to drive off pigeon 3.6.15  Albeit grouchy about defending their right to the bird feeder, Nuthatch Dance 3.5.15 and all the antics they go through to discourage other contenders Pigeon Fluffed up (including birds 4 times their size who are totally unimpressed), Nuthatch dancing 2 I think nuthatches are delightful little birds, and I enjoy them every day! Nuthatch on tree branch Nuthatches mate for life and live year-round in southern Michigan.  Nuthatch 11.4.13 They are compact little birds—only about 6 inches long—with short legs, Nuthatch long claws, long, very sharp beaks with a slight upward turn, Nuthatch Backview a beautiful pattern of bluish-grey and black feathers on their backs, a black cap, Nuthatch Profile  bright black eyes that look like they’ve been enhanced with black eyeliner, Nuthatch Cold and Sleepy and  snowy white breasts. (This one was fluffed up for the zero-degree weather.) Nuthatch The females are almost indistinguishable from the males, Nuthatch Summer profile although males have more distinct chestnut coloring on their underside, Nuthatch Tail feathers 2.23.15especially around their tails. Nuthatch head down with seed If you have any doubts, you can also recognize them by their propensity Nuthatch upside down on tree for landing upside-down and working their way down trees Nuthatch working way down tree 03.12.15 in search of insects and seeds. Nuthatch breaking see in wood Nuthatches also have the somewhat unique habit of stuffing a seed or nut into a crack and hammering it with their sharp beak Nuthatch pecking like a woodpecker “woody-woodpecker style” until they “hatch” the nut! Nuthatch cracking seed We have a crevice on our old wooden railing that’s a favored spot for industry, Nuthatch 4.24.12and as we also live in a deciduous woods at the edge of a lake Nuthatch 5.15.14 (an especially appealing nesting ground for nuthatches), 2 Nuthatches at Feeder 3.18.13 …and because we try to keep our larder full, Nuthatch landing we always have a plentiful supply of these feisty little guests! Nuthatch waiting turn 3.9.15As with all the birds in our backyard, I learn life lessons from observing them, Nuthatch long beakand what’s obvious to me from watching white-breasted nuthatches is that Nuthatch Ruffled Pinfeathers! 3.9.15I should be more understanding and not get my pinfeathers ruffled by others! Nuthatch defending feeder 3.6.15There’s room for everybody in our Father’s world, and He provides amply for all  Pigeon not interested in moving(even for those who are very big and appear threatening).  Nuthatch 5.23.14Instead of getting all excited trying to defend ourselves or becoming anxious,Nuthatch Baby let’s keep calm and pray on! NuthatchBut I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45). Nuthatch landing 2.23.15

Gentle Juncos

Junco on Snowy Tree Branch 3.19.13The more I watch birds, the more I admire them…at least some of them! Slate-colored Junco Among those I particularly admire are the juncos, because they are so peaceable. Junco+20 2.19.15For instance, this morning I just refilled the bird feeder (after a week’s absence),Juncos at Feeder 2.17.13 and while many of the birds fussed and fumed at each other, Sparrow complaining to junco the juncos simply tried to stay out of trouble’s way and ate when they could. 11.15.12 They are primarily gleaners and usually pick up seeds from beneath the feeder, Junco. Slate-coloredwhere the atmosphere is quieter, and there’s less competition for food. Snowy Junco stamping ground When it’s really snowy, juncos hop back and forth, packing down the snow Slate-colored Junco pecking out sunflower seed to expose seeds, which is really fun to watch. Junco eating seed They’re very industrious, and I notice that they always get plenty to eat Junco behind plant without having to enter into any neighborhood ruckuses! Junco 10:23:14 The juncos in my backyard here in lower Michigan are the “dark-eyed juncos,” Junco all fluffed up in zero degree weatherbut sometimes they’re called “northern juncos” or “slate-colored juncos,” Snowflakes on Junco 2.24.15 & I’ve even heard them referred to as “snow birds,” which seems strange to me, Northern Junco Snowy Day! 2.24.15 because I think of snowbirds as birds who fly south to escape the snow, Female Junco posing and juncos actually tend to head north in April or May Junco. First Snowsnot reappearing until fall, as one of the first heralds of cold weather returning. Junco deep in a drift In fact, the more snow, the more snowy juncos come to our feeder!Junco with violets 3.19.13 By now, you probably have a very clear picture of what juncos look like:Close up of Junco  The prototypical male has a “slate” gray (dark, almost charcoal gray) head and neck bib, dark gray back and wings, and a white belly. Junco. Tail feathers and back The males have darker, more pronounced markings than the females, Juncos' colored coat who are more of a brownish gray Junco on rail. Snowy with reddish brown flanks, Northern Junco landing on branch 2.20.15 although both males and females have wonderful variation in their individual plumage designs. Junco in snow on lake  Still, if you see a small bird in the winter, about the size of a sparrow, Junco Front shot that’s dark on the top and white underneath, Snowy Junco with orange legs, black feet and a short, stubby, pale pinkish bill with a black tip, Northern Junco pecking through snowyou’re most likely looking at a junco. Junco.10.23.14JPG If he has a peaceable nature Slate-colored Junco 1and  is willing to glean in the shadows under your feeder, Junco in Flower Pot than I think you can be sure it’s a sweet-tempered junco! Junco in Snowstorm 3.19.13Ah, to be like the peaceable juncos! Junco Fluff Ball in snow“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).