It's a happy day when we take time to savor the moment and reflect on the little beauties in plain sight. That's what the Great Backyard Bird Count provides. This annual celebration and scientific contribution just ended on February 21st this year but that isn't the end of bird watching. The Great Backyard Bird Count gives us permission to sit and reflect and to count the winged beauty right before our eyes. On the other hand, any day can be a backyard bird count if you choose to delight in these winged creatures.
As I sit here in the kitchen there are quite a few birds flitting in and out of the feeders. Of course there are the Carolina Chicadees with their high pitched peeps. They are abundant here in the south.
And then there are the Brown-headed Nuthatches that chide me as I go towards a feeder. These little fellows are really quite gregarious and have lifted seeds from my fingers if I stand very still. If you have pine woods near your house there is a great chance that you will see these little fellows creeping down the trees in search of food.
I'm sure you've all heard the voice of the Cardinal throughout the winter. It's colors are brighter now as mating season approaches and it dresses in its best mating finery. He's here on the right, while she is here on the left. Do you think she will pick him as a suitable partner?
The Pine warbler is still about with its golden chest that has little striations of brown to the left and right. Notice the wing-bars...and the gold collar.
When observing birds, it is important to look not only at the color of the bird but at the head; the eyes; the wings; and the tail. Do the eyes have white eye rings around them? Do they have a dark band through the eye? And do the wings have bars on them or not? Is there a cleft in the tail or is it straight across? Are there any bars on the tail? That little Chicadee above has a black throat patch and a black hat. Both the male and female of the Northern cardinal have a crest on its head - and the male has a black face mask around its eyes and beak. Did you notice the way it sang?
For the novice it is important to focus on one bird at a time and familiarize yourself with it. For example, take the Carolina Wren. It has a spring song that goes tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle. It is very common here in the south and will nest in your flowers just as well as your shrubs. Last year my Mom had one nesting in her garage. It flew in and out whenever the garage door was opened. This little bird has a light eye band over the eye, not through the eye. It's tail usually sticks up approaching a right angle to the body. The top of the body is a rich burnt sienna while the underside is a lovely buff. If you look at the wing feathers there are wing bars that are broken and that pattern can carry on the the tail of the bird. Try finding one of these today. They are here.