Wildlife Wednesday: January 2015

This is my first blog post for Wildlife Wednesday, a meme hosted by Tina and her blog My Gardener Says… with the objective of celebrating the wildlife that lives in our gardens. I must say I had a lot of fun going through the photos I took over the past month in order to choose which ones to include. Most of them wouldn’t have passed muster because they were too blurry or fuzzy or out of focus! The ones I finally chose all pay tribute to the feathered friends who occupy my garden either on a constant basis or as occasional visitors. I tried really hard to find some insects or spiders or furry critters to include, but the bugs were difficult to find during our strange December weather and you can only take so many pictures of squirrels!

I try to keep my camera handy so I can quickly point it at one of several birdbaths in our back yard. I happened to catch this pretty little female Northern Cardinal on what seemed to be bath day for every bird in the neighborhood. She took over the birdbath and seemed to be having quite a good time cleaning up!

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Female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Northern Cardinals live for an average of about 3 years in the wild, though some individual birds have been known to have lived for up to 15 years! I’ve never given it much thought, but I guess the turnover rate for birds in any given area is pretty high. The Cardinals hopping around in my back yard today very probably aren’t the same birds who were doing the same thing three or four years ago. I find that a little sad.

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Female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The Northern Cardinal gets its name — Cardinal — due to the bright red plumage of the male, which is thought to resemble the red color of the robes worn by Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. The descriptive word ‘Northern’ was apparently added to the name to distinguish this particular bird from several South American species of birds which are also known as cardinals.

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Female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

I love these birds. That bright splotch of red flitting through the bushes catches my eye whether I’m in the house near a window or plodding away in the garden. Whatever I’m doing, I always have to stop and admire their beauty and energy. Their warning call of “chip-chip-chip” is very distinctive and usually makes it easy to locate them wherever they are.

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Female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

I’ve noticed that Cardinal pairs appear to watch out for each other while they’re out and about looking for food. Several weeks ago I watched a pair that nests in our back yard as they were feeding. While one was at a bird feeder, the other was perched on a nearby birdbath, cocking its head and keeping an eye on what was going on close by. A little later they switched positions and went through the same routine. It was fascinating!

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Female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Cardinals will make themselves at home at bird feeders if they’re given sunflower seeds and safflower seeds. The latter is somewhat pricey so, needless to say, they don’t get any from me unless it’s included in a mixture of some type. During the winter there are usually a couple of suet feeders in our back yard at all times, but I never remember seeing a Cardinal at one until I started making my own suet this year. They seem to really enjoy the homemade variety that includes crunchy peanut butter!

Here’s the obligatory photo of a Northern Mockingbird. If you live in Texas you have to get a few shots of the state bird. This one seemed to be striking a pose for the camera! He actually followed right behind the Cardinal but only took a drink and not a bath.

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Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Mockingbirds can mimic the songs of other birds, as well as other creatures and objects. They’ve been known to mimic sirens, barking dogs, cats, pianos, squeaky gate hinges —  and are thought to be able to learn up to 200 different sounds during their lifetime. And they seem to sing constantly! I’ve heard them at night when there’s a full moon and the street lights are on, singing as though it was broad daylight.

The Ring-Necked Dove in the photos below was enjoying a stretch along with his bath! He found a pan of water left outside for the smaller birds to drink from and then just lazed around in it for a while, as if he didn’t have a care in the world (which I suppose he didn’t).

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Ring-Necked Dove (Possibly Streptopelia roseogrisea)

I’m not exactly sure what he was doing — maybe catching a breeze to dry out his feathers or perhaps sunning himself? Whatever it was, he was having a good time!

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Ring-Necked Dove (Possibly Streptopelia roseogrisea)

The water had to be really cold but it didn’t seem to bother him!

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Ring-Necked Dove (Possibly Streptopelia roseogrisea)

Here’s a male Great-tailed Grackle. These birds are very visible during the winter in this part of the country. They seem to appear out of nowhere and take up residence in trees or along power lines. Sometimes the trees are so full of these birds, and other types of blackbirds that seem to accompany them, that the trees appear almost to be alive. And what noise these grackles make!

Great-tailed Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)

The bird below is possibly a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, but not being an expert on these birds, and because so many of the immature birds look so similar, I’m only hazarding a guess. Whatever he is, he’d just completed a meal in one corner of our back yard. He was there for quite a while and looked so regal that I just couldn’t help but snap a few photos. On a number of occasions I’ve been outside and experienced the woosh of these birds as they circle and swoop, so I was glad I was behind the window and inside the house when I spied this one.

Possible Juvenile Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Possible Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

On the comical side — here’s a bluejay that jumped out of the birdbath and gave himself a shake just as I snapped the photo. He’s nothing but a blue blur! The only part of him that’s not moving is his feet.

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Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue Jays can mimic the call of a hawk. While outside, I’ve looked overhead for hawks after hearing their call. Seeing none in sight, I’ve located a Blue Jay nearby mimicking the sound the hawks make. I wonder if they do this on purpose to chase other birds away from their territory?

This morning, as the wind blustered from the north in 30 mph gusts and the wind chill hovered at 10°, these little Dark-Eyed Juncos hopped around looking for water and the birdseed I’d just braved the weather to scatter.

Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

Dark-Eyed Juncos are actually a type of Sparrow. They’re relatively common in North Texas during the winter. I usually see them hopping around under the shrubs in the back yard, feeding alongside House Sparrows.

Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

This little one perched on the bird bath for a drink but found nothing but ice!

Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

There were just two Juncos in the yard this morning. Perhaps they’re a pair?

Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)

Well, I guess that’s it for this month. I really enjoyed putting together this post for Wildlife Wednesday. Hopefully I can find subjects other than birds for next month.

Thanks, Tina, for hosting this meme. To those of you reading this post — please visit My Gardener Says… and read about the origins of Wildlife Wednesday. Then consider posting your own photos and stories. It’s a great way to see what’s going on in other people’s back yards and gardens!

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12 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday: January 2015

    • Thank you so very much. I think the cardinal is just so cute! Such an expressive little face. I took the pictures through our back window, where I usually sit to watch the birds when they’re feeding. I was just lucky to catch the cardinal and I had to be very still in order not to scare her away. Just the smallest movement does that even from behind a window.

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  1. Firstly: WELL DONE! You outdid yourself on your first trip into Wildlife Wednesday–thanks so much for participating! Secondly: I’m so glad you had fun–it shows! I don’t know which photo I like best, they’re all so good. Your little Cardinal shots were so cute! And the hawk (I think your i.d. is right, btw, but I’m no expert either.), and the silly dove. And the grackle and mockingbird–beautiful! I love the junco photos. I’ve never seen one though I know they’re here in Austin.

    Gosh–this was a real treat. See you next month??

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    • Thanks, Tina! I did really enjoy this first post although I seemed to take forever deliberating pictures and words before I finally hit the publish button. I love the cardinal pictures myself. It’s so hard to get good pictures of birds. They always seem to turn their heads away just as I click the photo. For every good one I take I end up with twenty not-so-good ones! As for the juncos, I never noticed them until one winter when we had several inches of snow on the ground. I threw seed out and watched the sparrows swarm. Then I noticed that some of the little birds looked different against the white backdrop, took some pictures, and discovered the juncos. They really do blend in when there are a lot of sparrows. Thanks for the compliments. See you next month!

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  2. Welcome to Wildlife Wednesdays! Thanks for sharing! You had so many visitors to your garden – I hope you will keep up with the posts throughout the year so we can see what else frequents your garden! I loved all your bird bathers this month! While I have plenty of my own doves (mostly of the white-winged variety), I’ve never seen a ringed-neck one, so it always a treat to see the wildlife that is a different part of the state. I can’t wait to see what you share next month!

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    • Thanks, Rebecca. It is a treat to read the various posts to see what others have to share. I’ll never see many of the plants and wildlife species shown in these posts in my own yard, but it’s nice to see what others wake up to each day and what they enjoy in their gardens. The bird bath seems to be a good place to get photos since every wild bird or animal needs a drink at some point during the day! The ring-necked doves just dive in and mingle with all the other doves. I wish I could get a good clear picture of all the different ones together, but they move around so much half of them are just a blur when I do take a photo. Thanks for visiting my blog, and hopefully I’ll find something different to share next month!

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