Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Song Sparrow Series - Water

I have had a water dish at the feeders this year and I've seen birds take a little drink and even step into the dish from time-to-time. There has never been the activity that I thought there would be, but I have seen the birds splash in puddles around here - so that's ok. 
However, we had a few hot days in the first week of July, and to my delight, this little mother sparrow....well, see for yourself!
She was drenched! I love the second photo - you can see her outstretched leg as she tries to get completely under the water. Not one other bird - gold finch, house finch, pine siskin, or nuthatch bathed, even in that hot weather, like she did. I thought maybe the cool water felt good on the back of her neck.
It was so much fun to watch her and she came several times a day when the temperatures were in the 80's.  I made sure that there was always fresh cool water and a couple of times, I would just get it filled when she would fly across the driveway and plunge in again! 
More photos from the next day: 
I don't know how she could fly with all that water in her feathers! 

Just a little post note: 
A couple of weeks ago I looked out and was happy to see another mother song sparrow with a fledgling at the feeders. BOTH of them headed for the water and splashed around! And, still, notably, other birds are not attracted to it as they are. Interesting....
(Next time: Activity at the nest...)
(Photos taken 07-07-2010 & 07-08-2010, Canon Rebel Xsi, 250mm lens - thru the window pane)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Song Sparrow Series - The Back of Her Neck

It was about ten or twelve days before I could get some good photographs of the problem on the Song Sparrow's neck. I had gone out to check the nest when she decided to fly up on that weed again - in full sun - perfect for photos. And, she stayed there - grooming herself - plenty of opportunities to see the back of her neck.
I didn't know what to think when I looked at the photos.

I looked up everything I could think of about why sparrows go bald, but nothing seemed to describe this kind of presentation. Then I emailed the local raptor center describing the situation and including photos. 
I got a reply that evening, 
"This looks like possibly an old injury of some kind, with a little bit of a scab left. With any trauma like that sometimes the feathers won't grow back, leaving the exposed skin." 
She also said that the fact that she was acting healthy was a good thing.  
This mother Song Sparrow was really getting into my heart. Now I had empathy for this tiny little creature whose home and "family" had been messed with, but even more so when I know that she deals with a physical problem, and has a clutch of eggs that she is responsible for that might yet hatch into even more responsibility! It was very difficult, at times, for me to let nature take care of nature - and not get too involved in the process, but I did manage to do that. 
(Tomorrow - Did you know that Song Sparrows LOVE water?)
(Photos taken 07-19-2010, Canon Rebel Xsi, 250mm lens)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Song Sparrow Series - Identifying the Mother Bird

The next morning, July 5th, as soon as I ate my breakfast, I went out to the rhodie to see if I could get any photos of the mother bird. It wasn't easy. I couldn't get very close when I would see and hear the leaves flutter as she was scurrying out of the nest and into the bush. I don't know if she was trying to distract me away from the nest, or if she was protecting herself from danger.
Finally, during one of my attempts, she perched up in the tall weed that grew above the top of the bush. Thanks to my 250mm lens, I got a few photos of her - here is one.

Then I watched her fly to the feeders and was able to get a few more photos good enough to compare with the field guides.

It still took me a while to figure out what she was - a very common Song Sparrow (Pacific Northwest flavor). I didn't realize just how common until a few days later when I saw a sign posted at the Railroad Bridge Park where a group of birders take a morning walk every week.

(Gosh, where have I been???)

One photo I had taken that morning troubled me.

I had never seen the feathers on the back of her neck stand up like that before, or was the back of her neck bare? I wondered if it was caused by an aggressive male? or Was something in the bush chaffing her? or Was it from mites or infection?
The one good thing was that she did seem healthy and was very busy going back and forth from feeders to nest all day.
But, now I had to find out what that was all about.

(Next: The Back of Her Neck)
(Photos taken 07-05-2010, Canon Rebel Xsi, 250mm lens)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Song Sparrow Series - Did Mother Bird Come Back?

After her world had been torn apart, and her home renovated and relocated, I wondered if the mother bird would return to the nest. I wondered how far along the eggs were in the incubation period and how long they might have been uncovered that afternoon. I even wondered if this was an abandoned nest?
All evening I watched, and about 4 1/2 hours after the nest had been discovered, I saw her (through the 250mm lens). I was so excited I could hardly keep still - but, keep still I must, or risk scaring her away and the eggs being uncovered longer.
She was very cautious as she checked out the new situation. I could see her looking over every aspect, and I think she even checked out the green wire I used to pull some of the branches together!
It still took a while before I could tell if she was actually getting in the nest and setting on the eggs. Every 20 minutes or so, my curiosity would drag me out to the rhododendron to see if she was anywhere near. At one point, after getting used to seeing only straw and eggs, I was startled to see a little bird head in the nest. It was her, laying so flat and deep into the nest, you could hardly tell she was there!
(In the following photo, you can see the brown tail feathers sticking straight up - looks like a branch at the far left of the nest.)
I was so relieved and hoped that she had been there more times than not that evening, and that I just hadn't been able to spot her.
Remember, this little bird has had my attention for quite a while at the feeders, and now, after that whole evening, I had "bonded" with her. She made me smile just to think of her safe and snug in her nest, and I knew I would sleep better knowing that her eggs were covered and warm.

Now, you may have been able to recognize this little mother, (and maybe the title of my series gave it away?), but at this point in the story, I still wasn't sure, so I was looking forward to the next day when I would be trying to identify what species of little brown bird she actually was!
(Tomorrow - Find out what this bird is, and something unusual about her ;)
(Photos taken 07-04-2010, Canon Rebel Xsi, 250mm lens)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Song Sparrow Series - July 4th

Vetch, vetch, and more vetch! My yard is being overtaken by this viney weed. As you can see, it is thick and it covers anything it can climb over - including the rose bush and the rhododendron in my front yard.
On July 4th, my son decided to attack the vetch, for which I was very thankful. Soon he came in to tell me that he'd found a "Robin's nest" when he had pulled the vetch off the rhododendron (which is about 5 ft. tall).

Of course, I had to go out and take a look! I wondered what bird would build a nest so close to the ground?
There it was - with four eggs in it. I could see why he thought it was a robin's nest. The eggs were blue, but they were also spotty. My immediate concern was, "How do we save the nest?" We could find out what kind of bird's nest this was later.
Just a few weeks before that, thanks to my bird blogging friends, I had read an article about what to do if you find a nest that has fallen from it's place. I got a plastic container, poked holes in it, put a piece of paper towel in it and went out to the nest.
The nest was bigger than I thought, so I wasn't sure if this was going to help or not, but I kept working at it. I had some green wire which I used to fix the nest to a rhodie branch very close to where it had been pulled from, and then I wired some of the branches together to form as much of a barrier against the world as I could.
After all of this, I still wondered if the mother bird would come back, and even though I had read that birds aren't sensitive to human smell on nests or babies, I still wondered if she would sit on the nest with all the renovations I had made.
(Tomorrow's post - Did the mother bird come back?)
(All photos taken with Canon Rebel Xsi - o7/04/2010 and 07/20/2010)

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Song Sparrow Series

I haven't blogged in so long! I can't list all the things that I've been occupied with, but there hardly seems to be enough hours in the day or enough energy to do all that could be done.
I haven't lost my love for birds, or photography, for that matter. I've been quite busy with both and want to post a bit of a series over the next few days about something that I've been following this summer.
I've been acquainted with the House Sparrow for a long time, and met the Chipping Sparrow in my journeys this year, but this spring, I've discovered a few more sparrow species that live here. The White Crowned Sparrow and the Savannah Sparrow are plentiful in this area. Maybe I just never noticed them before, but I've enjoyed taking many photos of both species this year.
On May 12th, I posted the following photo. I wrote that I had a difficult time identifying the bird. I thought it may have been a sparrow, but was so confused, I even thought it could have been a female blackbird for a while! After quite a few more photos and reading, I learned that it is a female Song Sparrow - very common in this area, from what I hear, though I had never noticed one in my yard before.
The little bird has enchanted me from the beginning. For quite a while, she was the only one, like herself, visiting the feeders. She is almost chocolate brown on her back, speckled down the front, a gray eyebrow and her tail often sticks up making her look alert and industrious. She minds her own business; eats from the feeders or the ground, and is very regular at the feeders. For some reason, she reminds me of old fashioned times and always makes me smile when I see her fly in.
(Tomorrow's post - What happened on July 3rd?
oops! I meant July 4th!)