Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Day

My pet birds and I had a good Christmas. However, we didn't spend all day together because I took a ride out to the desert ... Joshua Tree National Monument to be exact. I had an important reason to head that direction on Christmas ... to pay homage to my Mom. My mother died in 1998 and my stepdad took her ashes there because she enjoyed her many visits to Joshua Tree so much. I decided to spend some "time" with her this Christmas. It was a good decision.

It was a beautiful and peaceful day and the desert scenery was dramatic as usual. All in all, it was a nice way to spend part of Christmas Day ... it made me feel good.

On Christmas Eve I made sure all the backyard feeders were full. So before leaving for the desert I watched the birds as they devoured their meal. There were a lot of visitors on Christmas morning ... the Goldfinches, of course and also Scrub Jays, California Quail (a family of 11), White-crowned Sparrows, House Finches, California Towhee, Plain Titmouse and our Anna's and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. No spectacular or infrequent visitors ... just good, dear and dependable friends. Oh yes, I shouldn't forget to mention the Cotton-tail Rabbit who comes occasionally to nibble the grass. It's always a treat to watch it hop around the yard. The ground squirrels were missing but I know they'll be back soon.

I thought I might see a few birds at Joshua Tree but we couldn't stay long enough to sit and wait for some to appear. It takes about 3 hours each way to drive from coastal San Diego county. There was only a lone Crow sitting on a dead iron-wood tree. He flew off as we approached. Actually, it is a little easier to see wild birds at Joshua Tree near the water sources. It makes sense, of course, and has been my experience.

Christmas was a perfect day and the peaceful journey we took made the woes of the world seem a little less. Perhaps next Christmas they really will be.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Feeding Finches

I love my newest finch feeder. Actually, it is correctly described as a nyjer feeder. It is a cylinder shape and large enough to feed quite a few birds at a time. Before getting this feeder I was feeding goldfinches with stocking feeders. Those feeders are just what the name implies. They are sacks that the birds can cling to and extract the nyjer seed through the mesh. Unfortunately, my experience with the stockings wasn't a particularly good one. Not that there is anything wrong with the best-made stocking feeders ... there isn't. I just chose the wrong ones and eventually the mesh gave way allowing too much seed to be lost. With that experience behind me, I decided to try a style made of metal. I'm sure one made of wood would be a good choice, too.

A picture of my feeder is shown above ... and just look at all the finches on it. Now you know why I love it. It is large enough to accommodate quite a few birds. The highest count I've made so far is 17 feeding at one time. With so many birds in the yard this feeder is perfect for helping me get an accurate count of the finches for Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project Feeder watch which I'm participating in.

As you can see, the birds love this sturdy type of feeder. And it is good that it has a roof over the seed to protect it from the weather this winter. Granted, we don't have that much rain in Southern California ... but when we do I know that the majority of my seed won't get soaked. This type,
or a polycarbonate feeder, would be especially welcome in the wetter parts of the country.

So I'm basically all set for bird feeding. I've got a great source for feeders, and
bird houses all the other stuff that makes my hobby so easy and fun. And even better, I no longer have to run to the store when I'm out of bird seed. I just go online and buy top quality seed, an important step in saving money and eliminating waste. But better yet, it doesn't even cost as much as it would if I went to my favorite bird store ... and the shipping is free, too! Hmmm! Now how could I find an easier, more convenient, and fun hobby than bird feeding. The bottom line: I couldn't!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Peacocks - Exotic Visitors

I really have no idea where they come from, or who they belong to ... if anyone. I'm referring to frequent visitors who've adopted my yard. I love finding them napping in the morning sun outside my bedroom ... the three of them ... all India Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus). They are commonly known as Peacocks, but that really refers to the males. The females are Peahens and the youngsters are Peachicks. Since I moved into this home nearly 4 years ago this peacock family have been frequent visitors ... sometimes staying most of the day.

Each year momma Peahen comes calling with one to three chicks tagging along. It is fun to watch them mature through the year. This year she had two chicks ... one male and the other female (mom and the young female are shown in the photo). The male is now sprouting irridescent blue feathers in his upper body, but he isn't old enough to have that beautiful tail the males are famous for. However, there is an older male that has adopted the wheel of my SUV as his own. It's pretty clear that he enjoys seeing his reflection in the metal alloy. And why not ... he is beautiful and has a long a gorgeous tail. This morning he ventured closer to the house ... in fact was looking in the window of my front door. No, he isn't tall enough to see in the typical high-placed window in some front doors. My door is almost all glass so he can walk right up and see his reflection very easily ... that is what attracts him.

These creatures sure lend an exotic touch to my bird feeding. I just didn't feel right about providing for the local birds that visit my yard, without including them. So eventually I put out a
ground platform feeder they can eat from ... but so do the smaller birds. In fact the smaller birds get the lions share since they are constantly feeding while the peacocks come and go.

I have several areas of ground cover planted in the backyard and it isn't unusual to find 3 peacock heads peeking out of it as they take their afternoon nap. What a life they have! Eat, sleep and wander around, unmolested.

Now, if they just weren't so clumsy. If there is something around they can break, they manage it. They've broken 2 clay pots sitting on the deck rail and another on the deck. So they lost my favor for awhile. But really the worst thing was breaking a major limb on a Plumeria. You know, that wonderful bush/tree whose blossoms are frequently used in Hawaiian leis. They smell just wonderful and remind me of Hawaii. So when I discovered they grow very well here in San Diego county, I made a special visit to a Plumeria sale to find a 2 or 3 good sized, perfectly shaped plants for my clay pots. The trip was worthwhile because I came home with some beauties. Everything was going well until one of the peacocks jumped off my roof and landed on the prettiest Plumeria and broke a major limb. Well, so much for a well-shaped plant. It was sad. And then, of course, there is their love of begonia flowers. The begonias I planted last spring did not last through the summer. The flowers were eaten and once devoured the peacocks decided the plant was just as tasty. So I was left with a few scraggly stems. I hope the plants regenerate next spring. I'll have to wait and see.

Oh yes, there is the need to hose off my deck from their visits ... if you know what I mean. It's a nuisance to be sure; but then I think ... how many people can enjoy such exotic visitors. So I try to have a little patience and be a tolerant hostess. The good outweighs the bad.