Saturday, August 27, 2005

My Brother and the Western Scrub Jays

I can't believe that almost a month has passed since my last log note. It wasn't my intention, but rather due to the unexpected death of my brother under tragic circumstances. Needless to say, it has been a very sad and heartbreaking time for me. His death rendered a hole in my heart that will never completely heal. He was my only sibling and we were very close. My notes in this log were always planned to bring positive and happy circumstances to anyone who happened by to read them. So mentioning this event is to explain my unplanned delay in writing about the one area of my life that consistently brings joy . . . my pet birds and feeding those in the wild. It is also offered as a small remembrance for my brother.

Although I've cared for pet birds for more than 20 years, it was my brother who first showed me the pleasure of feeding wild birds. I was instantly captured by the frantic activity of his Western Scrub Jays that we have here in California. It was during a visit to my brother's home that I discovered how much pleasure a
simple hanging platform bird feeder can add to a bird feeding program. Actually, it was due to watching my brother add peanuts in the shell for his Blue Jay visitors that instilled the dedication I now have to feeding backyard birds. Thanks to you always, Brandon.

He'd pile the peanuts high in a swinging platform feeder and the Jays would come. Well, to tell the truth, he would wait until he saw a Jay nearby (they were always about) to fill the tray. The bird activity at the feeder was instant and so much fun. The Jays select the best peanut they can find on each visit. And they sure are selective or so it would seem. I've watched them pick up peanut after peanut until they find the right one. Then off they fly with it. One peanut at a time. Do they eat the peanuts? Nope! They hide them for a future meal. So they come to the feeder to steal away the next peanut until they are all gone. I'm sure that if I could put a 50# sack of peanuts on a platform feeder they would not rest until all the peanuts were safely hidden away.

When I got my own hanging platform feeder the Jays came immediately. I watched the first one take a peanut and fly right down to the backyard lawn. Later I checked the spot . . . sure enough, the Jay had hidden away the peanut deep down in the grass. Having a platform feeder turns into quite an adventure if you have Jays around. When I began feeding them there was only one. Now the number has grown to four or five. Four of the five seem to come and go. But one is always around. I believe he may be a baby born this past spring. He watches the Orioles and has decided the grape jelly I feed them is perfect for him, too. I don't know if anyone else has Jays eating grape jelly, but I expect so since Jays are very ominvorous.

I don't expect a day to pass by without loving thoughts of my brother. I'll continue to miss him terribly . . . and especially so when I offer peanuts to the Jays. Brandon, is dedicated to your memory.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

An Oriole Summer!

Last summer I saw my first flash of gold and black at one of the hummingbird feeders. It definitely was only a brief glimpse, but long enough for me identify the bird as an Oriole with the help of my trusty field guide. Later I was able to narrow it down -- the bird was a male Hooded Oriole. I saw him occasionally then . . . but this summer has been different. All I can say is "wow" because a family of Hooded's have taken up summer residence near my jelly feeder. As far as I can tell the family consists of one male, his mate and at least one female offspring. The jelly feeder never seems to stop swinging from the constant visits. The feeder hangs under my patio deck roof so is very close. That is a good thing because I've discovered these birds are very flighty and do not stay long in one place. They are nervous around humans they can see nearby. That is very different from the more tolerant Goldfinches that I can approach as they hang on the thistle feeder. So having the Oriole feeder very near provides a great view of these beautiful birds from inside the house.

Since I live in California the Hooded Orioles that visit us are the Western species which are more golden in color than the orange of Eastern variety. I lived in Florida for a few years in the 90's but never saw an Eastern Hooded Oriole. I won't digress into my great bird experiences in Florida today. I'll find another time for that.

My stepdad, who lives with me, recently purchased a remote video camera. He has been working diligently to get it setup near the bird feeders so I can share what goes on in my backyard at The project has been challenging but he's making progress. As soon as the camera is working outside near the Oriole feeder the next step will be to show the live feed online. He's determined so I hope he'll succeed.

My Oriole feeder is designed to hold half an orange above a little dish that offers jelly or mealworms . . . both Oriole favorites. Well, to be truthful, I never got around to adding mealworms because once I provided jelly the Orioles have fed consistently . . . all day long, everyday. I should get some
mealworms to thank them for being so entertaining before they head South for the winter. By the way, if you want to feed Orioles jelly make sure it is grape jelly. Just buy an inexpensive brand . . . I pay between $1-2 for a 32-oz jar. I have to warn you, Orioles are eager eaters so be sure to keep jelly on hand. Also, be sure that the dish you provide the jelly in is shallow. I read about a lady who had to rescue and rehab a baby songbird when it fell into the jelly and got mired up to it's little head. Also, put your jelly feeder in the shade to keep it fresh. If your Orioles don't eat the jelly as fast as the ones I'm feeding be sure to replace it every few days. I refill my jelly dish about twice a week because the Orioles empty it completely that often. My jelly dish feeder holds about 1/4-1/2 cup.

Orioles are attracted to the color orange -- in the same way hummingbirds are attracted to red. You can provide an orange-colored Oriole feeder if you are feeding nectar. However, my Orioles fed at a hummingbird feeder even when I had a small Oriole feeder available. I just drilled a couple of larger holes in the plastic base of my feeders to accommodate their larger beaks. You can make your own
Oriole nectar which is a little different sugar-to-water ratio than you feed Hummingbirds. However, I would put the Oriole nectar in an Oriole feeder . . . not a Hummingbird feeder because the ratio wouldn't be appropriate for Hummers.

With the jelly available, the Orioles in my yard have pretty much ignored the Hummingbird feeder until recently. In the past few days they have emptied nearly 2 cups of nectar. This fast consumption of nectar is so unusual that I'm wondering if it has something to do with our hot summer weather arriving. Maybe they are thirsty. Yikes, if that is true it makes me feel guilty. I've been looking for a water source -- such as a bird bath with moving water. I haven't found what I'm looking for yet. I'd better get a move on. I'll let you know what I come up with. Here's something funny about the Orioles drinking all the hummingbird nectar. The Black-chinned Hummer that called that particular feeder his own has now set up residence by perching on the feeder to protect it from the Orioles. Hummers are very aggressive about their feeding sources. I guess this little guy is going to do his best to make sure those big bully Orioles leave his food alone.

Orioles are migrating birds. Fall is just around the corner and our Western birds will head for southern destinations in Mexico. I'll really miss them when they leave. Since I'm in Southern California where we enjoy a moderate climate I wonder if my Orioles will leave. They are pretty attached to my feeders. But nature has programmed them to fly South so I expect them to migrate. If they go I'll just have to wait for their return. Birds remember where they find food so there is a good chance these same ones will come back in the Spring. I sure hope so. I'll be waiting and the feeders will be full.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Welcome to Birdwatchin' Buzz

Thanks for visiting the first weblog of Birdwatchin' Buzz. I'm a bird lover . . . yep, that's me! This crazy fascination began years ago when my Dad brought home two pet cockatiels . . . quickly named Junior and Pancho. They were lovable, sweet and real characters. I was mesmerized. But it wasn't until years later -- I was in my early 40's -- that the fascination led me down a life-path devoted to birds. I brought home my first large parrot 20 years ago and since then my avian family has grown to 15.

But you're thinking this weblog is about backyard bird watching, so why mention exotic pet birds? Afterall bird watching is all about the wild birds that visit our backyards and those we search for beyond . . . not those that live with us. Be sure that I won't stray far from bird watching -- in fact the next weblog will be about the wild birds that are visiting my backyard this summer.

For now, I just wanted to say "hi" and tell you a little about my bird family. In fact, if you'd like to know more about us read
How 13 Birds Became a Family
. I believe there isn't a better way to appreciate bird behavior, intelligence and personality than living in daily contact with birds that bond with you. This daily experience is responsible for exploding my interest in identifying, feeding and watching birds in the wild.

If you love bird watching and feeding birds in your backyard, or have pet birds, or just enjoy animals and nature in general come back for another visit. I'll welcome comments about your interest in birds and animals. I'll do my best to help you find the answers to questions you may have, so be sure to pass them along. Again, thanks for visiting, it's great to connect with another bird-lover!