Thursday, September 29, 2011

Examining Birds

I'm happy to announce that earlier this month I took on a new role in the online birding world - I'm now the official National Examiner for Bird Watching and the local Utah County Bird Watching Examiner on This gives me the opportunity to explore even more local birding as well as share my experiences with a wider national audience, in addition to my work as the Guide to Birding / Wild Birds. It may seem repetitive or redundant, but there is always more to learn about birds, and the more ways we have to share what we learn, the more we can share our love of birding with others. Furthermore, the two sites are quite different - my work on is much more robust, while the pieces are a faster read. Please be sure to tune in to whichever interests you most! Of course, I hope to continue with this blog as well - my backyard birds will always have a special place here, as will all my birding adventures - locally, nationally, and worldwide. Always more to learn about birds, always more birds to see, always more birding to be done - I wish you as much success with your birding endeavors as I have been experiencing!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cuteness Overload

I've been besieged with backyard cuteness recently; several coveys of California quail have discovered my extensive platform feeding station on the corner and stairs of my deck, complete with white proso millet and cracked corn, two of their favorite foods. The excitement starts with a flurry of chipping from the parents as they lead their brood into the yard - I can hear their calls from almost anywhere in the house, particularly with the windows open on these fine late summer days.

When they reach the feeders, the frantic feeding begins. At first the youngsters were just idly pecking about, but they've quickly learned from their parents where the food is best (on the big tray feeder) and how to get it most efficiently (quick scratches and pecks). Now, during any visit, I may have a dozen or more young quail and three or four adult birds enjoying the feast, jostling for the best positions, and taking advantage of what seed may fall through the deck into the safe sheltered space below. Given the relative sizes of the young birds, and the fact that some of the adults are snippier with some chicks more than others, it's clear that more than one covey is joining in.

I can't get enough of enjoying them, really. Quail are some of my favorite birds, with their round physiques, jaunty crests, and straight-line, fast running. How can you not be enchanted when birds such as this come high-stepping across your grass?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Negotiating With Neighbors

It was over a week ago that I had to be the hand of mercy at the end of a black-capped chickadee's life after it suffered at the paws of a neighborhood cat. I spoke with the neighbor who owns the animal, expressing my concerns and my wish that the cat was to be kept strictly indoors. While I disagree with their assertion that "no one can keep a cat indoors 100 percent of the time" (I know a fair few responsible, compassionate cat owners who do just that), I appreciate their willingness to do their best to keep the cat secure.

That said, in the past week I've twice seen the cat back in our yard. She may be learning her lesson, however, as she is not lingering and tends to skedaddle quickly as soon as she is spotted. I've seen no further evidence of her predatory instincts, and whenever I do see her I make loud, mean shouts and chase her off right away. She may, perhaps, be learning her lesson about not being welcome in my yard.

I'm going to give it a bit more time, and will likely be speaking to the neighbors again - gently, but with compassion I hope they will share. I will certainly speak with them should I find another dead bird that defies other causes (window strikes, disease, etc.). It is hard, negotiating in this way, for on one hand I want to protect my birds and it is their cat doing the trespassing - against both city and neighborhood laws - yet neighborly is another matter. I'm looking into other deterrent methods, but the mixed reviews motion-detector sprinklers and other devices have aren't promising. Perhaps my scare tactics on the cat will help her learn permanently that she needs to keep away, and I can keep away from less than neighborly conflicts.