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Birdwatching 101

Posted Sunday, May 4, 2008, at 8:16 PM

This is the most recent addition to my wild birds - A traveling Oriole, who has come to my hummingbird feeder in the past week. I have been waiting 30 years to see one here!!!
Hahahaha! This blog is about BIRDS! At least that's what it'll START OUT being about. Knowing us, it'll go off on some wild tangent, and we'll probably end up talking about the price of gas. At least I think you can be pretty sure that we WON'T be discussing the "P" word! (Politics!) That topic is banned from my blogs... ("Banned from my Blogs.." Doesn't that have a nice ring to it??)

Anyway, as you can tell from my photo (I hope it's not too dark), I finally have my first ORIOLE, after all 30 years of feeding every bird and squirrel in the Tillman countryside! I am ecstatic!!

It took this pretty guy a while to get the "hang" of the feeder. (Get it, get it?) First, he tried to peck at the liquid through the glass.

"I can SEE it! Why can't I drink it??"

When that was unsuccessful, he tried to find a spicket of some sort underneath the feeder. No luck.

Finally, he reached over and discovered one of the holes. Voila! Success!

I'm pretty sure that the Orioles are just passing through the area and won't be here long. The only other ones I ever saw were at my sister's house in Springfield many years ago. She and Mom had regular Oriole feeders, which I think are a bit more accommodating for the larger size of the Oriole. Still, they adapt quite well to the hummingbird feeders, so I don't believe I'll rush out and purchase a special one.

I guess I could start a series in which I post some bird photos from my regular feeder, where I spend a veritable fortune on black oil sunflower seeds - but that would mean that I would have to wash my windows... Mmm...I shall have to ponder the issue to decide if it's worth it...

I shall list the birds which appear in regularity at my feeder in the yard under the big oak tree (high on a pole so my son's cat can't get them!): Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Yellow-shafted flickers, Titmice (or is it Titmouses?), chickadees, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Rufus-sided Towhees, (long ago) blue Grosbeaks, Hairy & Downy Woodpeckers (since the only difference is size, my sister simply calls them "Hairy Downy Woodpeckers" and that covers both...), doves, wrens (these catch bugs around the house), Phoebes (I don't see these at the feeders - They build a nest on my back porch light every year.)....

Birds I don't see anymore: Barn swallows. Mmm...They used to occupy the porch light nest and terrorized every moving thing in the vicinity, but I haven't seen them in recent years.

Birds I hear but don't see: Owls, Whippoorwills, Meadow larks, Bob Whites.

That is my Bird Blog!

I think it would be perfectly charming to talk about birds for awhile, don't you, girls? We can probably be sure that the guys won't bother us on this topic, since the only birds they're interested in are ones they can kill -- like turkeys.

Oh, I forgot turkeys. I have a sweet turkey hen who seems to live on my lane all by herself - except when she has a brood of adorable babies. I sometimes forego my morning walk, so that the dogs don't upset her. Today, my son's father-in-law said that he saw some white on her tail, which he says means that she's a tame bronze turkey gone wild. I never heard of that. I wondered why she was always by herself and didn't run around in a flock. Now, I'll worry about her even more.

From the charming, bird-filled hills of Tillman, Missouri, this is your bird-watching and squirrel-feeding rural journalist, Madeline, signing off on an absolutely GORGEOUS Sunday evening!

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Goat Lady:

I saw two beautiful male Orioles Saturday morning and was ecstatic. Such beautiful birds. Love my hummers and beautiful little Goldfinch. My neighbor has the downy woodpeckers, and she says we have a pileated woodpecker in the "woods" behind us. Enjoy the birds so much. God is so good!

-- Posted by sparkydexter on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 9:38 AM

Good idea for a blog, ms madeline.

The most recent addition to my bird watching was a Red Tailed Hawk who landed on the railing around my deck (where my bird feeder is located). He sat there for the longest time looking in my big windows. I don't know if he was admiring his reflection or wondering "if I could just get that big one off the couch, I'd be set for life." I'm sure he considers my back yard his own personal smorgasbord, he's a regular visitor but he doesn't usually land so close to the house.

Of course you can join our blog, dexterite. We always welcome sensible, well behaved gentlemen. You fit in nicely. Although we don't see him very often, i.b. letruth sometimes joins in. We miss him when he's away.

-- Posted by mokath52 on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 1:00 PM

Well, everyone, I was the one whining the other day because we never see hummingbirds out here in the "flatlands" until July....

Yesterday I was looking out the kitchen window and saw a hummingbird visit my flowers in the window box! I went nuts! I hurried and prepared my hummingbird nectar and hung my feeder out there!

Maybe they love me after all!

Also, yesterday, I watched a blue grosbeak at my regular feeder. I first thought it was a bluebird, so I rushed to Orscheln's and bought a bluebird house. I've always wanted bluebirds and thought this was my lucky day.

-- Posted by lovebooks on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 1:17 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I see bluebirds in the fields and up around the barn, but I've NEVER seen one at my feeder. I, too, have blue bird houses that my son made for me, but I think they're too close to the house.

Hey - do any of you have Martin houses?? Several years ago, the kids and I bought one for my husband, and he put it up in a RELATIVELY clear spot by the pond. He sat and watched it from the front porch, as sparrows came and built nests in it. Finally, he took the 4.10 out there and shot at the sparrows, which I'm sure wasn't too conducive to attracting the Martins, either! We finally figured out that our place is just too wooded to suit Martins.

Forgot...we have barn swallows out here every year. They've used the same nest for a long time. I enjoy them, even if they do dive-bomb me, because they eat mosquitoes!

-- Posted by lovebooks on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 1:20 PM

People often say my late wife and I have the prettiest red and white azaleas, hummingbirds frequent us early and often. And the biggest bumble-bees feed constantly.

-- Posted by changedname on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 1:47 PM

I've never been big on bird-watching. So I don't know the names of the birds. We do have a couple very large owls here though. When we were moving back here in March, it was about dusk, and an owl landed in a tree beside the driveway and watched us.

He was there for a good 10 minutes. I hope that we provided him some amusement LOL.

I have seen blue jays, and cardinals, but there's one bird I don't know what it is.

It's black with orange on his wing or very close to the wings. I had never saw one like that until a few days ago.

Anyone know what those are called?

-- Posted by sc1120 on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 2:40 PM

Is it orange - or is it red? If it's red on the "top" of the wing, and the bird is a shiney black, it's a red-winged blackbird, and they have a lovely call (unlike the other blackbirds!). They are also very protective of their nests, so they (like barn swallows) will dive bomb anything that comes near. One year my son and I had to avoid a certain part of the strawberry patch, because a red-winged blackbird had claimed it for her own!

-- Posted by goat lady on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 5:04 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Yes, I agree. Depends on what sort of red we're talking about.

MD, I'm hardly ever home since my dear wife passed away to feed the birds, I do set out fresh water, but I've traveled over 58,000 miles in 2 years searching for peace, I'll find it someday.

-- Posted by changedname on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 7:07 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Dexterite, I'm not sure you'll find peace in your travels. Look closer to home.

MD, why do birds exhibit so much diversity? Compared to birds the "differences" between humans (height and weight, eye color, intelligence, etc.) are insignificant. Yet in general birds seem to manage to get along. You don't see crows engaging in bloody wars against sparrows. Do you think more diversity in humans would contribute to more tolerance?

-- Posted by FJGuy on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 1:34 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
FJGuy, quit trying to turn my simple, pleasant, charming little Bird Blog into some psychological or sociological treatise!!! We're just talking about BIRDS here!!!


Ok guys...I have a bird question. The only birds I could point out are red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, doves, robins, woodpeckers, cardinals, bluejays, and hummingbirds, but those are pretty easy. I seen a bird today that was red-faced, red-breasted, with a red back covered by gray wings and tail. It was small like a sparrow, but I have no clue what it is. Can anyone help me?

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 4:24 PM

If it was small, and the red wasn't bright red (just sort of muted), it was a finch that goes by the names of "strawberry finch," "raspberry finch" or "purple finch".... They vary in the intensity of the red. The bird book calls them purple finches.

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 5:03 PM

MD, you're probably right about 'closer to home', but I really enjoy traveling and being on the road and visiting friends and relatives and seeing new and old places.

Amen, NO politics.

-- Posted by changedname on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 6:47 PM

Oh, well, if you enjoy traveling, then by all means, we ladies support your decision. As we get older, it seems that travel is even more appealing than when we were young.

So much to see and so little time to see it!

-- Posted by goat lady on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 9:05 PM

I figured they were some kind of blackbird, I just hadn't noticed before.

I think I should get a hummingbird feeder. I enjoy watching them, especially if there is quite a few. I saw one at my Mom's feeder the other day. I'm sure the kids would get a kick out of it too.

-- Posted by sc1120 on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 7:23 AM

Thanks guys...I know he/she was a cute little thing. I don't have any feeders up aside from my hummingbird feeder, so this little guy/gal was just passing by, but I may just have to get a regular feeder. The squirrels in my neighborhood are spoiled rotten by a lady around the corner who feeds them corn, and they have a "come one, come all" mentality...so I wasn't for sure if they would take over a bird feeder. How can I make a detour away from the feeders?

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 8:57 AM

Do not feed them corn!!! That's a good way to get a yard full of blackbirds and squirrels!

Of course, you'll get squirrels with black oil sunflowers, too, but your birds won't waste as much as they do when you have a combination feed with millet.

One approach is to get the regular finch feeders, which have TINY holes. You put ...darn!...what are those tiny, narrow seeds?? Ah....THISTLE!! I thought of it!! (Remarkable!)

Regular birds and squirrels can't feed at the finch feeders - so you can feed your little purple finch without worrying about the big bad bluejays, blackbirds and squirrels!

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 3:05 PM

Thanks so much GL!!! I don't want bluejays in my yard anyway...because they always seem to dive-bomb my dogs. They're pretty, and their song CAN be if they aren't squalling...but my dogs are more important. The blackbirds are already here. And those crazy squirrels...goodness. The lady around the corner has one of those squirrel feeders that you put the whole ear of corn on. When she goes out there to change it, the squirrels gather around it, waiting. They climb down to her and everything. Can you say spoiled?

-- Posted by mrsdolphin on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 9:22 PM

Hahahaha! I can't say anything about that! I've fed these squirrels for years! My daughter's boyfriend once looked out the window and said, "My gosh! I'll bet that squirrel is six years old!!"

Blue jays do more harm than fight with your dog, mrsd. They raid other birds' nests and EAT their babies!!! Nasty, nasty birds!! I let my son shoot them out the upstairs bedroom window! (Okay, so send the Mo Conservation agents after me!!!)

-- Posted by goat lady on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 10:05 PM

It's been my experience that there's very little you can do to keep squirrels away from your bird feeders. My mom once even tried greasing the pole and the squirrels were highly entertained by the activity. They still got the seed. There's not a seed you can put out that the birds will eat but squirrels will not.

There isn't a feeder made that's actually squirrel proof - although some make the claim.

My two dogs have gotten pretty good at relieving me of the dumb or slow ones. Of course, in a few squirrel generations they'll all be smart and fast - RoboSquirrels. They've gotten pretty fond of baby rabbits too. It's probably a good thing or I'd be up to my eyeballs in rabbits and squirrels.

-- Posted by Ducky on Thu, May 8, 2008, at 1:01 PM

Squirrel proofing bird feeders. We have a pump pipe in the ground, in concrete, with the pipe extending about 6 feet above the ground. Then there is a double shepherds crook in the pump pipe. The squirrels were getting more sunflower seed than the birds. I tried greasing the pole (had fun watching the squirrels slide down until they got enough of the grease off to make it to the feeders) tried stopping them by putting a slinky around the pole that worked until the slinky broke.


Hubby got a large disk blade (22 inches in diameter) that a farmer had discarded, fastened a bracket around the pole, about 4 feet above the ground then put the disk blade on the bracket. The feeders were near enough to a tree that the squirrels were jumping from a tree limb onto the feeder sooooo……..hubby cut the tree limb off. Now the squirrels feed underneath the feeders.

-- Posted by genbug on Thu, May 8, 2008, at 5:27 PM

Mmmm....I'd like to see a picture of this contraption, genbug. Though I like feeding my squirrels, it's always entertaining to see the devices that people invent to foil the little rodents!

I've seen film footage of elaborate obstacle courses that squirrels can conquer to get one measly seed!! But, of course, what else do they have to do with their time?? No matter how long it takes, the persistent creatures keep working at it until they figure it out!!

If my students had been like that, they'd be President by now!

-- Posted by goat lady on Fri, May 9, 2008, at 7:38 AM

GL, it has recently been reported that the platypus has bird DNA. Seems like it would take an unusual feeder to accomodate their bill!

-- Posted by FJGuy on Sat, May 10, 2008, at 1:51 PM

Well, well, I hadn't heard that, FJ. I did hear that bit about the dinosaurs being related to birds, though. Sure wouldn't want them at my feeder, either.

I've seen the most hilarious photos of a black bear hanging on a line to get at a bird feeder...

-- Posted by goat lady on Sat, May 10, 2008, at 8:49 PM

My wife pointed me to this blog! Very nice!

Just a thought to those that enjoy watching birds out the window, on your feeders or in the field at conservation areas or state parks. Put a bird guide on your Christmas or Birthday list. They are relatively inexpensive, and they will open you to a whole new world. There are over 300 bird species that live in or pass through Missouri each year.

I have, and use regularly, "The Sibley Field Guide To Birds of Eastern North America" by David Allen Sibley. I would recommend this guide to anyone interested.

The wonderful thing about bird watching, birds are everywhere! How many times have you gone fishing and been skunked, been stuck in traffic, waiting on a train, sitting in a drive through, I bet there were birds around!

I began watching birds in 2004; well, I guess I've always watched them but never wanted to know what their names, habitat, patterns, etc. were until 2004.

Did you know the Airforce enlists Peregrine Falcons? They do! They send a trained Peregrine into the air to make sure no birds are on the runway prior to a jet taking off. Since Peregrine Falcons feed on other birds, the other birds are frightened off the runway, and the jet can take off safely.

Just my two cents on how much more there is to birds than just out our windows in our yards.

-- Posted by Kestrel on Sun, May 11, 2008, at 10:52 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
Kestrel, good to have you with us! That's a very nice blogger name, too. Falcons are cool birds!

The only predatory bird I've ever seen at my feeder is a Sharp-shinned hawk who showed up there many years ago, looking for a tasty Titmouse to munch down on. Most of the daytime feathered predators in this area are Red-tailed hawks. I know the owls prey at night, but I rarely see them.

I use "The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds," which my sister gave me to replace an older birdbook that had drawings of birds. This one has the actual photographs, which I think make identification easier.

Years ago, my husband and I caught a glimpse of a Pileated woodpecker out back at the edge of the woods, but we never saw him again. That's a sight!

Great blue herons are not uncommon on my pond, but my dogs usually take notice and chase them off. White herons are less common. The neighbors often have Cattle egrets around their herds.

I love birdwatching, and when I see a new one, I'm not happy until I find out what it is!!

I didn't know that Peregrine falcons were employed by the Airforce!!

I read about the falcon patrols at some Air Force bases. How cool is that? The Air Force Academy mascot is a falcon. They have no trouble with people stealing their mascot before a football game, let me tell you. They turn the falcon loose in the field house the night before the game. If someone tries to steal it, the next morning the cadets find the falcon safe with little pieces of the assailant's clothing all over the field house. They'll only come to their handlers. Ha. That's an old memory from an old boyfriend who graduated from the Academy.

I agree with Kestrel about bird field guides. I keep several along with my binoculars close to my chair. It drives me crazy when I see a bird I can't recognize, and yet I love it. It's great when you can travel to different parts of the US and see new birds.

-- Posted by Ducky on Mon, May 12, 2008, at 1:18 PM
Madeline Dejournett's response:
I saw some cool birds when I took some students to Europe several years ago. In particular, I noticed magpies in London and big black and white crow-like birds in Berlin.

I would like to have seen more!

A fascinating book for bird watchers, and anyone interested in how far a person will take his or her obsession, is a book about three men who in 1998 traveled all other the world to see who could spot the most different types of birds during the year. The book is, "The Big Year, A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession," by Mark Obmascik. Powell's Books website with info about the book is, http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=07432...

-- Posted by FJGuy on Mon, May 12, 2008, at 6:28 PM

I observed a Western Kingbird at the Idalia Sub Station Thursday. I was able to take a photo of it through the heat shimmers at distance of about 50 yards. It can be seen here if interested: http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/54772...

Should you want to try and look for it, search the power lines, towers and the barbed wire fencing that surrounds the property. Take Hwy E East out of Bloomfield, and the sub station is on your left just before the train tracks.

You may need to bring a little patience to see this bird as I spent 20 minutes there not seeing it only to drive down to the power plant to turn around and see it flying from the fence as I crossed the tracks heading back toward Bloomfield. Good luck! It is a beautiful bird!

Good Birdwatching!

-- Posted by Kestrel on Fri, Jun 27, 2008, at 9:42 PM

I hope I'm not overstepping any boundaries here, but I thought I'd share a few websites that can possibly enhance your bird watching experiences.

For those that may be interested in expanding their scope of backyard bird watching or planning a trip to other parts of Missouri, there is a mailinglist that can be monitored (or joined if desired) that posts sightings made by other bird watchers.

Granted most of these sightings will be elsewhere in the state, as in and around Columbia, KC and St. Louis, but I do try to keep an eye out around the bootheel region, too.

The web address is: http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/MOB...

This website is set up as a forum-type format, but most use it as a place to post rare or unusual sightings as well as "first of the year species" observed during spring and fall migrations.

Good information is also shared regarding upcoming field trips that various Audubon societies may be having (should you be in their area on those dates).

There is another website that is very useful to our love of bird watching; it is:


The Audubon Society of Missouri has joined forces with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and some state parks to help make bird watching checklists for parks and conservation areas. "CACHE" and "SPARKS" stand for Conservation Area CHEcklists and State PARKS checklists. Maps of these areas are also available on this website as they link to the MDC maps.

This is a database that is also used to gather information to help naturalists and biologists understand more the changes we and our environment are encountering through our observations.

No fees and no manditory registration is needed to visit or use general levels of these sites.

Should you have questions regarding these sites, please respond. I hope I have not overstepped my bounds, but these two sites have helped me adjust in my recent move to Missouri.

On a separate subject, is there a local group that meets or goes on "field trips" to Mingo NWR or Otter Slough Conservation Area to watch for birds?



-- Posted by Kestrel on Mon, Aug 4, 2008, at 5:46 PM

Would there be any interest in a Bird Watching field trip to Otter Slough on Sept. 6th?



-- Posted by Kestrel on Tue, Aug 12, 2008, at 10:56 AM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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