For the love of Sparrows

There are so many birds that come to our feeders. The visitors come and go during migration and then there are the ‘old standards’ that stay with us year round. They know our habits just like the squirrels do. Every day we put out the food and water and wait for them to come just to know they are alright.

One of the issues that I have is identifying the sparrows. While the majority that remain are Old World House Sparrows just like this young man enjoying playing in the water today, there are other varieties and I want to learn about and appreciate them, too.

I love Sparrows.

This male House Sparrow had such fun playing in the water.

Did you know that House Sparrows were introduced into New York City in the 1850s to help with insect control? They didn’t help much because they are vegetarian preferring seeds and fruit. Today, most of the bird books indicate that they do feed on insects now. Birds adapt. House sparrows are not related to the other sparrows but, rather, originated in Eurasia and are a member of the Weaver Finch family of birds. In my province, they are abundant year round and we certainly love it when they are flitting about between the deck and the lilacs.

Not so common in my garden is the Harris’s Sparrow. This is an immature Harris’s Sparrow below. This one is just getting started on his black crown. Notice the pink beak and those lovely pink legs. He has a bib which also helps to identify him.

I am really grateful for one of our e-Bird ‘birding giants’ in my community for confirming the identity. The Harris’s Sparrow is not in Manitoba Birds. These sparrows migrate to their breeding grounds in the far reaches of Canada’s boreal forests near Hudson’s Bay and in Nunavat through Manitoba. They are arriving in Winnipeg now to begin their long journey to Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas (straight south of Winnipeg).

You have a long way to go little fella. Happy to help you fatten up for your journey.

Then there was this little cutie. If you look carefully you can see the spot of yellow between the beak and the eye. These are called lores. There is a white throat with a striped crown. The rusty underparts are just coming; there are no stripes on the light breast. The bill is grey. This is a White-throated Sparrow. It is known for its beautiful songs in the early morning. These lovely little sparrows visit from April to October. Their winter homes range from a line running through Kansas to Pennsylvania down to the very southern tip of New Mexico, Texas and across to Florida (and all parts within those borders).

Some were scratching in the grasses looking for invertebrates.

Others were taking baths.

You will notice that our grass is long and we are leaving all of the leaves. We not want to disturb the butterfly larvae, microbes, and worms. Leaf litter is where many of our butterflies and moths overwinter. It is a good excuse to put away the mower and the rake and those dreaded leaf blowers – which should never have been invented.

Oh, they are all so sweet. Each of them has been feeding on a variety of seeds that included insects and berries. Most of all they loved the water today. If you are reading this and live in a place where birds are migrating, please leave out shallow dishes of water for bathing and other dishes of water for drinking. Water is so important to them on their journeys. They can easily get dehydrated.

One of the favourite dishes for baths, other than the bird bath, is actually a shallow dish meant to go under a planter. You can see that it is not very deep. The depth is, however, perfect as the birds are not afraid of being drown.

If you don’t have dishes, check at your local secondhand or charity shop. They tend to carry lots of ceramic dishes that would be perfect for the birds at exceedingly reasonable prices.

The Dark Eyed Juncos are here, too. The numbers arriving on the deck are growing each day. I hope to get some images of the Juncos in the dill tomorrow. My goodness they seem to love the stuff! or maybe there are insects in there that I cannot see.

Juncos will not normally eat from the feeders. They prefer to scratch the ground for invertebrates, dig in my outdoor carpet for fallen seeds, or help the sparrows make a mess with the fruit, bug, and nut seeds that are left in bowls. Those that breed in Manitoba during the summer are the ‘Slate’ coloured Juncos. They winter throughout the US midwest to the southern most parts of Texas across the Gulf and up to Georgia. They seem to not winter in Florida according to Peterson’s guides. I wonder why?

They are certainly easily recognized and they come through in huge groups. We know that spring has arrived when the Juncos appear and that fall is definitely here when they leave. Something to look forward to again next April will be their return.

All of the usual suspects were here today. Mr Blue Jay would like it if more dry corn cobs appeared on the deck but, he did seem satisfied with his peanuts in the shell. Little Woodpecker has a new cylindrical suet and he and she are happy. The easiest to please these days are the Black-capped Chickadees and the squirrels. They seem to be willing to eat almost anything – the squirrels that is. It is doesn’t matter what species they are, each day they bring so much joy.

Thank you so much for joining me as I share some of the visitors to the garden with you today. Take care everyone. Stay safe!

Taiki to get GPS tracker

It is 9 September in Australia. My computer tells me that it is 17:34 on the Canadian Prairies on the 8th of September. In three hours, around 20:00. CDT, the NZ DOC rangers will fit Tiaki with the tracker. She is 228 days old and could fledge any time.

Here is the link so that you can watch. Both LGL and LGK were fitted with trackers. LGK’s is still working providing valuable information on where the adults forage for food for their chicks.

In other nest news, it has been confirmed that Z2 (Aeron) and his family have now all departed for migration. Aeron’s nest is the Pont Cresor in Glaslyn. At the same time, Aran is still at the Glaslyn nest. Many worry about his late spring wing injury but, he most often doesn’t leave until mid-September.

Wales issued a statement that due to the cold spring weather and misfortunes, their six nests produced only six chicks to fledge.

9 October is one of Cornell’s big bird submission dates. This year they are even calling it October Big Day. They want everyone to do a bird count around the world. Mark it on your calendar. I will give you more details closer to the day.

eBird submissions are very helpful. Some recent discoveries, sadly, include bird and plane collision information.

A photo of an adult Osprey yesterday leads everyone in Missoula to think that Iris is still in Montana. The image was taken from the Owl Pole Camera.

Let’s chick on where the Black Storks are today.

Pikne is in Moldova.

Udu is in Southwest Poland.

Udu’s area is full of lakes!

There was no data update for Karl II.

Julge, the only surviving chick of Jan and Janika, has made its way through Germany and looks like he is flying into France. This stork picked the Western Route! Julge is the purple line going into Belgium. It is nice to know he is safe.

The last time that Big Red and Arthur’s K1 and K3 were spotted was 3 September. If they are truly gone and starting their own lives, we wish them and those that are migrating good winds, food, and safe landings.

My original computer issue was fixed but now it seems that some of the keys are sticking. It isn’t fun to keyboard. I will leave you with a couple of images of ducks and geese from my excursion to the park today. It was quiet. Everyone was off tracking down a Green Heron that had flown into town!

A juvenile male Wood Duck.
Juvenile Female Wood Duck
Adult male Wood Duck,moult
Canada Geese

Thank you so much for joining me today. Don’t forget to drop in and see Tiaki get her tracker! My hope is that it is equipped with a 7 year battery. Take care everyone. See you soon.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cams or FB pages where I took my screen shots: Montana Osprey Project, Eagle Club of Estonia, Cornell Bird Lab and NZ DOC, and BirdMap.

Good News in Bird World, 31 August

The sky is blue, the sun is shining bright and it is 21 degrees C on the Canadian Prairies. Just a grand day for everyone. And it is a good day for our birds. Let’s dig into those good news stories.

Jan and Janika’s Black Stork fledgling, Juleg, is not in Russia! He managed to turn around. It would appear he flew because the speed is faster than a tanker but, does it matter? Juleg is back on course having spent the night at Jaroslawiek in Poland. Fantastic news!

The question now is whether ‘the brave one’ will continue going southwest or try to correct his heading heading through Greece and Turkey? We wait. He is alive and well. That is what matters most.

Hurricane Ida temporarily took out the connection to the streaming cam at the Kistachie National Forest in Louisiana. Everyone was worried. However, the winds and rain did not damage the system that the USFWS has put in place to watch the Bald Eagles, Louis and Anna. This is great news!

If you have been watching the Boulder Osprey Cam and were frustrated that it quit working, it is back on line today. The female is still delivering food to the fledgling. Everything is good.

Remember Only Bob? The only hatch of Dylan and Seren at the Llyn Clywedog Nest? the largest male Osprey ever to be born? Today the researchers issued the list of fish that were delivered to Blue 496. There were 354 of them! Rainbow trout were almost exclusively the fish at the beginning and end of the season with Brown trout making up the middle time slot. There were also 10 Grey Mullet that Dylan took from the Dyfi Estuary 15 miles away! —— Ah, you remember! Dylan is the one that flew 25 minutes one way, got a trout, and flew back 25 minutes with it. What a guy.

Here is Dylan delivering one of those whopper trout to Blue 496, Only Bob.

The arrival of fish at the Llyn Clywedog Nest in the Hafren Forest has puzzled some of the observers. It is now thought that when Dylan chased intruders away he sent them packing and instead of returning empty handed, he would stop and fish. Hence the reason from the Brown trout from Nanty Moch which is 7 km from the nest and the mullet from the Dyfi Estuary which is 12.7 km away. Dylan and Seren, Blue 5F, did a great job with their only hatch. Seren left and will be seen where she always spends her winters – in the Tanji Marsh in The Gambia.

Aran is still at the Glaslyn nest. Mrs G has not been seen since 30 August. Can you see him?

The tiny little birds all over the Glaslyn Nest yesterday have been identified as Mistle Thrushes.

Mistle Thrushes are common and are found all over the United Kingdom. They eat berries, earthworms, and insects. They would have had a grand time foraging in the Osprey nest!

Here is a short video showing the Mistle Thrust eating berries in the winter. Listen for their song.

All you have to do is look at the photograph of WBSE 27 and 28 – yes, that is 28 with that massive crop – to see that things are going quite well on the White Bellied Sea Eagle nest in Sydney. What a relief.

It feels like a good day. It would only be better if someone had a sighting of Tiny Little, Blue 463. White YW was seen on the nest today so he is still around.

Take care everyone. Enjoy the rest of the day wherever you are. I am off to check on the local Ospreys.

Thank you to the following for their streaming cam where I took my screen shots: Sea Eagles, Birdlife Australia, and The Discovery Centre, City of Boulder Osprey Cam, Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn, Carnyx Wild and Llyn Clywedog Osprey Cam, KNF Bald Eagle Cam, and BirdMap.

How can I help the birds and wildlife if I have little financial resources right now? I want to!

Yesterday for National Bird Day I wrote a blog about the many ways that we can help our feathered friends. This morning I had a wonderful letter from a former student just setting up her pottery studio and buying her first home. She wants to help but her finances, like many of you, are limited. So how can she help and how can you?

Here are some ideas that are either free or cost little:

  1. Put out bowls of water. Think of the depth of a bird bath. You don’t want the bowls to be too deep. I use my pottery seconds and have about nine or ten bowls lined up. I clean them and fill them often. Some are big enough for the birds to have a bath. It is wonderful to look out on a hot summer day and see them splashing about!
  2. You can speak up or volunteer to work with groups that try to stop cruelty to animals. You can also help educate your neighbours. Know someone who goes fishing and uses weights? Suggest they use rubber ones instead of lead. Educate them on how lead poisoning is killing birds.
  3. Adopt a block or a piece of highway. You don’t have to do it formally but help clean up. People still toss their food bags into the culverts and birds often go after these and are hit by moving vehicles and killed in the process.
  4. Make your windows safe from bird strike. You can do this by simply not washing them during the key periods of bird migration. Or you can use masking or painter’s tape to make a few lines. You do not need to purchase fancy decals.
  5. Go vegetarian. Not eating meat helps the environment. Cook your own beans instead of buying them in a tin. It is a whole lot cheaper (if you have the time). And you can ‘go vegetarian’ for a few days a week. It will help the planet and in turn help all the animals.
  6. Lead by example. If you are looking for a new pet, adopt an animal. Maybe you want to help by fostering.
  7. If you are going to plant a garden, why not include some sunflowers and let them dry? or other flowers that attract the bees, butterflies, and hummers.
  8. One site that I found suggested that we be careful with the language that we use. They said that language plays a very important part in shaping the view of animals. Do not use words like ‘chicken’ or ‘pig headed’.
  9. Do not go to entertainment that is cruel to animals such as the circus.
  10. Urge your city councillor to leave green spaces and plant trees.
  11. Find out the contact information for your nearest wildlife rehabbers. If you see an injured animal, learn what to do and phone them. You might also want to write down or put in your phone the number of the nearest veterinary clinic.