I don’t feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them.
Sunday was a gray, chilly day here in the woods and the birds were quite active at the feeders. One group of birds, in particular, had my attention, the gorgeous Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have been back about two weeks. They make a stop of a few weeks every spring on their way to their breeding grounds further north (and in our mountains), and then again in the fall as they head to their wintering grounds in Central and South America. I decided to set up the camera and tripod in our bedroom, open the door to the deck, and record who came to visit the suet feeder mounted on the deck rail. I did something similar a few years back and shared images in
another post. This time, I sat for a little over an hour, and tried to take pictures of everything that came in to the feeder. Enjoy the view from our deck…
Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak (click photos to enlarge)
It started with a single male and we are now up to our usual number of 9 grosbeaks visiting the feeders – 7 males and 2 females. They tend to come in all at once and spread out between our two feeding stations. Their favorite treat seems to be the sunflower seeds at the platform feeders (they have trouble balancing on the tube feeder). But they are also frequent the suet feeders as well, especially the one on the deck which has a branch underneath where birds can perch and reach up to the suet. Because of our superabundance of squirrels, we use only hot pepper suet, which is a deterrent to mammals, but not birds.
Lining up at the suet.
Female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are brown with striping and a bold eye stripe.
The undisputed piggies at the suet are the Blue Jays. They can quickly take chunks away, but they are a bit skittish, and flush easily if we are outside or walking near widows inside.
A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (this is the female which lacks a full red head) are regular year-round visitors to the suet.
Downy woodpeckers are also regular visitors, but this spring we also have a pair of Chipping Sparrows feeding in the yard.
We have a gang of Tufted Titmice that make regular rounds throughout the yard.
Carolina Chickadees are with us all year.
A pair of Northern Cardinals visit the feeders every day, but it is mainly the male that feeds on suet.
Another of our special suet visitors is a pair of Summer Tanagers (we have only seen the male thus far).
Pine Warblers are common at our suet in winter but not this time of year. This one stopped by his old diner with a side dish of caterpillar.
I missed photos of two other birds that eat the suet this time of year – American Crows (who are too savvy to come in while I’m sitting there), and our local pair of Carolina Wrens. They are busy feeding their newly fledged young and don’t have time for an appearance.
There have been some other good bird finds this week away from the feeders as spring migration is in full swing and our newly arrived breeding birds are setting up territories or starting to nest. I stumbled across an Ovenbird nest with eggs down in our woods while clearing some invasive shrubs (the dreaded Eleagnus). She flew out of her dome-shaped ground nest doing the broken wing act to lure me away. And we have seen and heard a variety of migrants all week long, some that will stay with us through the summer…
A bonus visitor just off the deck – a Red-eyed Vireo, foraging for insects.
This is the best I could do with one of my favorite summer species, the vibrant Scarlet Tanager. They tend to be up high in the canopy but should come down lower in a few weeks when the mulberries ripen (a treat for both species of tanagers in our woods).
Remember how excited we were to see the Yellow-throated Warbler down low along the Roanoke River? Well, the other day one was hopping around in our garden. While this was happening we saw and heard American Redstarts, a Black-and-white Warbler, a Hooded Warbler, and Black-throated Blues. Ah, spring!