Sometimes it’s fun to go to new places and chase new birds. Sometimes it can be nice just to stay close to home and enjoy your local patch. For me, that’s the backyard. It’s so relaxing to get up just before sunrise, take a comfortable camp chair outside, let a cat or two out on the porch (I’m told I require constant supervision), and just photograph whatever comes in front of me.
Today’s treat was my Painted Buntings. Their numbers have grown since the recent cold weather (one advantage of temperatures dipping under freezing!) Five greenies and three males all together, they were hungry and happy to eat the millet that I put out for them. I do not believe in baiting birds, but I do occasionally put out an attractive branch near an established bird feeder to improve my chances of getting a good photo. Today the buntings were very cooperative and I had a blast. :)
The Painted Buntings are used to perching in my hummingbird bush and in the wild salvias that grow in my backyard. Most of the plants got knocked back pretty hard by the cold, so it’s hard to find a “pretty” perch right now. But at least the birds were not perched on the feeder!
The buntings were not the only show-offs. This Common Grackle flew into the yard at first light and tried to do the splits in a crape myrtle bush.
The sun doesn’t hit parts of the yard until 8:30 or so, so lighting can be tricky. The buntings continued to show off for me. Two of the males posed regularly in an open spot of my powderpuff bush. I never get tired of their bright colors!
I enjoyed just being outside and listening. A flock of 20 or so robins flew overhead. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher called hello from a neighbor’s yard. Overhead I heard the calls of the neighborhood Sandhill Cranes as they took their morning flight. My first-of-spring Purple Martins chattered high in the skies. A lone Killdeer mourned the loss of Bambi. Two eagles circled overhead and called to each other repeatedly. Mentally I begged them to lock talons. Instead they chased off the Osprey (and probably stole a fish from him.)
Palm Warblers were everywhere. Two in particular caught my attention as they fought, tumbling high into the air in a commotion of feathers. Then a warbler hopped right in front of me and grabbed a mosquito for breakfast.
It always amazes me how much variety there is in one small “postage-stamp” patch of backyard. I marvel at all the detail that I never noticed before I started birding. Now I can spend hours just sitting and observing. It never gets old.
Yes, more buntings. You don’t get tired of them, do you? I don’t think I ever will! This greenie hopped onto a top branch of my viburnum hedge. I wonder if he noticed all the aphids on the bottom of the leaf. Behind him is my neighbor’s house, with shingle boxes ready for a re-roof construction project. Luckily the crew didn’t work on Sunday and destroy the peace and quiet of the morning.
My little warbler continued to show off. He must have watched “White Christmas” one time too many over the holidays. He hopped over to a pile of feathers, grabbed one, and started doing his own version of a feather dance.
Last April I spent a lot of time in the yard, trying to get a male Painted Bunting to show off for my camera. The greenies were very willing. The males were not as cooperative. So it surprised me today how many males hopped out into the open. It must be a sign – wonderful springtime photography is right around the corner!
Find my birding list from today on eBird.