Wildlife Wednesday: February 2015

It’s once again the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for Wildlife Wednesday, a meme hosted by Tina and her blog My Gardener Says… as a way to celebrate the wildlife residing in our gardens! Again this month most of my wildlife turned out to be birds, but I did include several other critters that I happened to run across.

I was surprised and happy to find my garden being visited by American Goldfinches towards the latter part of January. About a month ago I bought two finch feeders containing nyjer seed. I figured they’d provide food for the House Finches but I’ve never seen them use the feeders. Then suddenly one day the Goldfinches appeared. I don’t know if these birds are just wintering in this area or whether they might be permanent residents. According to the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas:

“The few observations during the TBBA field work in 1987-1992 of summering American Goldfinches were confined to the northern and northwestern sectors of the state.”

Several of the range maps I’ve looked at indicate that we are very close to the cutoff point for the area in which the American Goldfinch takes up year-round residence while others put them farther north. I’ll continue to provide nyjer feeders for the birds throughout the spring and summer to find out whether they’re just visiting or if they live here year-round.

The birds in these photos seem to spend a lot of time in the tall Photinia hedge along our back fence as well as in several oak trees. Birds have been at both feeders simultaneously so there are at least two visiting our back yard. Based on their color scheme they appear to be nonbreeding adult males or females. One has a black patch on one side of the head — perhaps this is a male bird? I’d love for them to be permanent residents if only to see them in their bright summer plumage.

This Red-winged Blackbird was among a flock of other black birds perching in a tree one afternoon. At this time of the year, when the trees are bare of leaves, birds are easy to photograph as they take a rest from foraging. At the time I took this photo I thought I was just aiming at a bunch of crows or grackles, but when I zoomed in on this particular bird I discovered he was just a little bit different!

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

We had a wide variety of birds in the garden this month! Here we see a Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Dark-eyed Junco, American Robin, European Starling, White-winged Dove and several Inca Doves. The Juncos will probably start disappearing from this area around the middle of March. The others remain here year-round.

Here’s a hawk that paid a visit. This is possibly a Sharp-shinned Hawk, as its tail appears to be square-tipped, unlike the Cooper’s Hawk, which has a rounded tail. Someone please correct me if this isn’t the case!

Possible Sharp-shinned Hawk
Possible Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

We had some non-bird visitors, too! This Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger) popped up onto the AC unit and participated in a staring contest with Angus the Cat, who was sitting on the window ledge inside the house. The Fox Squirrel is the most common squirrel found in Texas. Doesn’t he have a nice long bushy tail?

Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)
Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger)

I was almost certain the wasps had all died off, then this one made an appearance. Apparently the weather hasn’t yet gotten quite cold enough to kill them all this winter. We had a real problem with paper wasps all of last year. They built nests everywhere they could get a toehold — in the eaves of the house, under a window awning, even on some of the outside light fixtures. These wasps seem to be more prolific during dry, hot weather, which we have an abundance of!

Paper Wasp
Paper Wasp

That’s it for me for this month’s Wildlife Wednesday. I’ll see you again on the first Wednesday of March! Want to join in on the fun? Click on the link to My Gardener Says… at the top of this post and add your Wildlife Wednesday link to Tina’s February 15 Wildlife Wednesday post. Thanks, Tina, for hosting!

Happy Wildlife Wednesday!

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23 thoughts on “Wildlife Wednesday: February 2015

  1. It’s interesting – I’d thought our paper wasps were goners too but found one recently that seemed stunned by cold in leaf litter underneath a hedge. Now I’m wondering how many are simply taking long winter’s naps in the mulch. I try to keep them from nesting close to the house, especially the doorways – but since I read they “recognize” faces I “allow” them to nest in areas where we won’t disturb each other. (if wasps read and have a sense of humor, I bet they’d laugh out loud reading that).

    Great shots of your feathered visitors. I’ve been hearing more than seeing birds in my spaces this month. Thanks for being part of Wildlife Wednesday!

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    • We also let the wasps nest as long as they stay away from the house itself. They probably do as much pollinating as bees. I plan to catch the rascals early this year to keep them away from the places they shouldn’t be! Thanks for your kind comments.

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  2. Ditto on the wasp. I just saw one last week. These are great photos. Your squirrel looks so tidy and well behaved. You have a really nice variety of birds it must be a joy stepping outside.

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  3. Such great photos! All are just beautiful. You do have a great variety of birds–that hawk photo is great, I love the angle of his (her?) head and the beak in profile. And the Inca Doves–so cute, cuddling on the branch.

    Until I paid closer attention, I always thought the goldfinches who visit my garden were American (I didn’t bother to, you know, actually LOOK IT UP!!), but I’v come to realize that I don’t think I’ve ever had American goldfinches visit–just the Lessers. Not complaining, though.

    Thanks so much for joining in, it was a treat!

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  4. I’ve just found your blog through Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday meme and I see you have a European Starling, they are another of our birds in decline over here. The plumage of your Blue Jay is beautiful, we haven’t anything similar, we have Goldfinches but I think they are smaller than yours and a slightly different colouring. Your fox squirrel is very handsome, he does have a wonderful tail too.

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  5. You come up with the most wonderful array of birds for wildlife day! I’m going to have to get out in the cold with my camera more often. Then again I hear it may warm up this weekend.

    Squirrels and birdfeeders don’t mix so well, it’s always a challenge.

    All are beautiful.

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    • Thanks Shirley! So true about the squirrels and birdfeeders. They’ll go to great lengths to get at that food. We have a cold front heading through as I speak. Strange weather yet not so strange for Texas. It’s supposed get all the way up to 41 tomorrow, then 70 on Friday. Poor confused plants. They don’t know if its summer or winter from one day to the next!

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  6. Beautiful pictures! The American Goldfinches just showed up in my backyard and have been emptying the thistle feeder. They seem to be a bit larger than the Lesser Goldfinches and tend to take off around March / April. Would love to see them in their summer plumage as well.

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    • Thank you! I put another feeder up today. I noticed four Goldfinches flitting about at the same time around the feeders, so I don’t know how many we have, but figured I’d add another feeding station. 🙂 I have a feeling I’ll be investing in more thistle to fill them up soon.

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  7. An enjoyable and interesting post with wonderful pictures. You sure do see plenty of different birds. We get squirrels on the allotments, where they can be a bit of a nuisance at times. Thankfully we don’t usually get wasps. xx

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  8. Wonderful photos and what beautiful birds. The blue jay is magnificent.
    I have never heard of paper wasps or seen one. We have common wasps Vespula vulgaris and hornets: Vespa crabro. I was happy to have hornets’ nests in my garden until last year when one chased me down the garden and stung me. A hornet sting really packs a punch. Are paper wasps aggressive?

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    • Thank you. Paper wasps are those that make the honeycombed nests from some type of paper-like material. They chew up plant fibers and build their nests using the resulting material. Don’t ask me how they do it! From what I’ve read and from what I’ve seen of them personally, paper wasps aren’t terribly aggressive. They really don’t seem to bother you if you don’t bother them. But that’s no reason to get too close to them! On the other hand, I was stung by one last summer. It was apparently on my clothing when I went in the house. When I changed in order to shower it got caught up in my clothing and stung me on the hip. It really hurt! Then itched. I had a deep red, swollen splotch for about two weeks before it slowly faded away.

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  9. Great photos! The hawks are really making their rounds around Texas now, aren’t they? I have one (or a few?) Cooper’s Hawks and maybe one sharp-shinned hawk that frequent my garden at dawn looking for prey. Such magnificent creatures! I haven’t seen any male red-winged blackbirds in my yard, thought I’m pretty certain a female stopped by last month. Looks like plenty of other birds and critters are also enjoying your garden right now. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Anna I loved seeing all your wildlife. I hope to see our goldfinches out and about eating the native plant seedheads. Many of our birds live here year round except the redwing blackbird….they are a true harbinger of spring here….soon I hope to see them. What a wonderful blog you have here.

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