Backyard Birdwatching
We have been feeding and watching birds in the backyard for several years now. We started out nonchalantly, but after some reading revealed that backyard feeders are sometimes the only source of food that maintains a decent population of birds in major metro areas, we are into it seriously now, maintaining several feeders with mixed wild bird feed, black oil sunflower seeds, shelled and in-the-shell peanuts, peanut suet, and seasonally some other stuff. We also put out large amounts of cracked corn to try to divert the Bushy Tail Rats (a.k.a. squirrels) from our feeders, and some of the birds will eat that also.
We also want to try housing some birds. We have put up a bluebird house that has been completely ignored. It's not in the right place for bluebirds, but we thought that maybe some other cavity nester like the Chickadees would use it. This year we are also trying to entice some more Woodpeckers to the area with a Woodpecker house (from our friends at
Of course, the backyard is not the only place we practice birdwatching. We always have binoculars and a couple of bird books whenever we go anywhere. Since we pretty much stay in the Southeast, we don't usually see birds that we can't see at home, unless we go to the coast.
For the Birds
Tools for Birding
Our List
Bird Shots
Current Events
October 13, 2002: Fall is beginning. Almost all of the hummers are gone, but we saw a couple of stragglers even today. The Grackles are mostly gone, Thank God! They were eating us out of house and home, and scaring off the other good birds... not that they are agressive, but their sheer numbers would intimidate any bird, except maybe a hawk (where are they when we need them?). We've seen a couple of Goldfinches, so we are preparing to deploy the larger thistle feeders. And we have seen some Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, including several immature males. Hope the pictures turn out!
But the real news: another new bird, one that we shouldn't have seen. As Jan was pulling into the driveway about 6 weeks ago, she saw a yellow bird that wouldn't get out of her way. She dodged it, got out of the van, and the bird flew into a nearby pine tree. We got the binoculars, and decided it had to be a Parakeet of some kind. After researching it in the net, we determined it was a Yellow Parakeet, also known as a budgie. Definitely not a native, or even a migrator. Someone had either turned it loose or allowed it to escape. There's more to the story here.
August 10, 2002: It has been a good summer! We have seen baby birds of all of our primary species. One bad thing was we had to go to extreme measures to control the Starlings, but after we witnessed one chasing a Redbellied Woodpecker out of the yard, we knew we had to do something. We're dealing with hordes of Grackles now, but at least they aren't as aggressive as Starlings, and just banging on the window will run them off for a minute or two, so that some others can sneak in and grab a snack. We had at least two families of Redbellied Woodpeckers, and it looks like now one of them is working on batch number two, as a very immature youngster is again following pop around. The youngsters don't seem to follow mom as much, and we don't see as much of her... she may have some that haven't fledged yet. But what prompted this update was another new bird, and not a regular in this area. On one of the birdbaths, we saw what we first thought was a Carolina Wren, but it was quickly obvious it was not. It didn't stick around for long, but we might have gotten one picture of it. We have decided it was either a Northern or Louisiana Waterthrush. They summer in the far north, and winter in South America, so we could easily have had a migrator passing through. And another first for us... our first albino bird. It was a solid white Eurasian Collared Dove. Pat got a good enough look to see the characteristic red eyes, and we had some Mourning Doves in the area to compare it to. Although our books say the two species are the same size, our Collared Doves are noticeably bigger than the Mourning Doves.
May 19, 2002: The Redheaded Woodpecker came back the week before long enough for Jan to see him, and to grab a few pix of him. We also had a male Rosebrested Grosbeak show up for a picture, and another new bird: the Eurasion Collared Dove. There seems to be at least a pair of them, and they show no signs of leaving any time soon.
May 4, 2002: Over a hundred Cedar Waxwings were taking advantage of the berries that had fallen off a Holly tree in our front yard. They would fly into the tree a few at a time, then one adventurous soul would drop to the ground, soon to be followed by all of the rest of them. They would get to stay for at most about 30 seconds, before a Mockingbird would come run them off. We were able to grab a few pix... hope they come out! We also had a brief visit by at least two pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks the week before. We got some pictures of the females (it took us a while to figure out what they were... we didn't realize they were dimorphic!) but we never got any shots of the males. Maybe next season...
April 27, 2002: A most welcome first! A Redheaded Woodpecker made a brief appearance at one of the birdbaths. As he (she?) flew off, it looked like he was headed towards the peanut feeder, when a Grackle or Blue Jay scared him off. Hopefully he will be back... we have the camera at the ready! Our books lead us to believe that the Redheaded variety is one of the only species of Woodpecker that is not dimorphic (the genders are not colored differently).
March, 2002: Wild Turkey in Lawrenceville?? We mean the feathered kind, not the distilled kind! In the brush behind the house, around the creek, Jan got a good look at him in early March. Naturally, he hasn't come back to be photographed, but we hear him gobbling every day! It was always (mostly) amusing to listen to the local dogs start howling whenever a siren was sounded, but now it is downright hilarious when the turkey joins in! Jan also spied what we believe is a River Otter in the creek, but he is photo-shy also.
February 20, 2002: Over the past weekend we participated in our first Great Backyard Bird Count. Check out the results at All of our good birds showed up to be counted, including the Sapsucker and the Kinglet (only once, but he did show). And we decided we have a "new" bird that has actually been around awhile: a male Pine Warbler. These guys look a lot like the winter-plumed male Goldfinches and were very difficult for us to distiguish. But we finally had one stand still long enough at a good viewing angle that we could definitely ID him. The Goldfinches have a fatter beak, and the wingbars are a little different. We have decided that the "Goldfinch" on our bird shots page is probably a Pine Warbler also. Speaking of Goldfinches, we counted a max of 23 during the count. We have two six hole and one two hole thistle feeders up, and quite frequently see every available hole occupied! Thats one other difference between the Goldfinches and Pine Warblers also: you won't see the Warbler on the thistle feeders. We have only seen him on the suet feeders (we have three of those up now!).
January 19, 2002: Naturally, right after the long overdue update, another new bird! A male Ruby-crowned Kinglet hit the suet feeder three or four times while we were watching. It took us a while to decide what he was, but we are 99% sure of our ID. The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker also returned to the suet feeder at least twice this day. We have decided to deploy a second suet feeder!
January 2002: Current?? It's been almost a year since we updated this page! Significant things we have seen since the last update include a family of four Northern flickers that were with us for a while back in the summer: Mom and Pop and two young'uns. We never did find any feed they wanted, but we had enough ants in the back yard to keep them happy. The Goldfinches came back in the fall and started going through the thistle seed again. A few of them never left... we have had at least a pair here all winter. We had another brief visit from the Cedar Waxwings around Christmas. It looked to be at least a hundred of them. And a new bird for us: on January 12, Pat saw a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker hit the suet feeder! Jan wasn't at home at the time, but she saw him, again on the suet feeder, later in the week. We haven't seen any hummers wintering around us, but we are hearing more and more reports of Rufous Hummingbirds in the area, and now we hear of sightings of Calliope and Broad-Billed hummers. But we are hoping, and we still have one hummer feeder out.
May 19, 2001: A bit of a tragedy.
March 24, 2001: It looks like most of the Goldfinches have moved on, but not before they went through over 10 pounds of Thistle Seed! And the Carolina Wren apparently decided to build its nest somewhere more activity at the Bluebird Box, and still no residents in the Woodpecker house. Oh, well. A couple of weeks ago the Cedar Waxwings made a brief appearance. We saw about 50 at the peak.
Feb. 24, 2001: It looks like we have a Carolina Wren building a nest in the Bluebird Box! We have Chickadees and Titmice checking out the Woodpecker box, but so far no one has moved in.
Feb. 2001: They're baa-aack! The Grackles are descending in hordes along with a few of their buddies, the Red Winged Blackbirds.
Feb. 2001: We have tried for a couple of years to put out thistle for the Goldfinches, without success. This year Jan bought a throwaway two station feeder filled with thistle, for yet another try. They drained it in just a few days! She bought some more thistle and re-filled it...they drained it even quicker! We have added two more six station feeders, and can't keep them full. We wonder what the difference is this year...the extended drought, maybe?