Watching - or photographing - birds in the country mouse garden

Most days, I sit out in the morning and take in the scene, with my first cup of coffee and a McVities. Lately I've been taking out my binocs and my camera and my notebook. I've gotten some good pics but - then I realize that in focusing on getting good pictures of birds, I've taken myself quite out of the loop, out of the scene - I'm not in an experiential mode any more.  I'm thinking about composing an image, sharing the photo, other photos I've taken and etc. I've decorated this post with some of those pictures.

I just came in from sitting outside with no acoutrements but the coffee and McVitie.

And Duncan. Though he is a (gigantic) rat terrier, he sits with me for a long time without running off to chase things. He is wonderfully attentive. Birds he is less interested in anyway - bunnies he can't resist. One time he did corner and kill a bunny and I think he got the depths of my distress about that. But he would do it again in a flash, I know. There are depths within his doggy brain that lie way below his relationship with his humans.

I enjoyed watching the thrasher drink from the bird bath, with his long strong downturned beak. He took several good drinks then hopped down to thrash about at the edge of the chaparral shrubs, and in the neighbor's orchard next to our fence.

Thrasher near birdbath

Then a tiny junco landed on the birdbath. He looked about this way and that for a good long time, his beak pale in contrast with his black hood, before assuring himself that the coast was clear enough to take many small sips.

The large coffeeberry that volunteered in our garden became filled with tiny twittering bushtits, who softly cheeped and infiltrated its branches, then flew off to the flowering cherry farther along the ridge.

Bushtits in the birdbath

In the elderberry along the fence I heard the bewick's wren buzzing. buzz. buzz buzz buzz. buzz. And saw him hopping in the lower branches, not clearly - but now I know his call, I could put the picture together.

Bewick's wren on manzanita

Another call - one I haven't put together with a bird yet. deedle DEEEE dum dum dum dum. where DEE is much higher kind of like ME DO FAAAAA RE RE RE RE, if you know the sol-fa way of notating pitch. or E C FFFF D D D D if you know the scale of C.  Just to give the relationship between the notes - maybe not exact.

I looked up at the sky periodically. It's cloudy this morning, but the clouds overhead are white and airy and fluffy in the sunrise blue. They are innocent and perfect and changing.  They made me think of my happy little granddaughter who is turning one this month.

And in the background constantly the sound of traffic on Highway 17 (dammit).

As I have mentioned before, the small road I live on bisects our property, on the south side, which I was facing. Along the road are strung the electric wires carrying modern life to the houses along the road. They are ugly. They do not beautify the view. But the birds don't care. The woodpeckers congregate on the top of the post (telegraph pole? is there a different name?)

And birds often sit on the wire. Mourning doves. Sparrows. Etc.

This morning three little sparrow types sat on the wire They are I don't know - four-  five- hundred feet? I'm not good at distances. Small silhouettes anyway.  The one on the left edged up boldly to the one in the middle, who edged away towards the one on the right. They danced along. I thought - ah, a fledgling being ignored by mommy. But that wasn't it. The one on the left hopped over the indifferent one in the middle and tried edging up to the one on the right. Then it fluttered on top. After a brief negotiation, quite a few moments of apparent passion ensued. More moments than I associate with bird love. Then they both took off and flew together - right onto the manzanita to the left of the bird bath! They sat in the bush, one near the top where he (?) could keep a lookout, one lower down. The one near the top fluttered down into the bush for a while, and much fluttering could be insinuated by the shaking of the leaves, then he (?)  came back up for air.

But what kind of birds? The one I could see had an orange-ish tint to his breast, but was otherwise an LBB - little brown bird - as are most of the chaparral inhabitants and visitors. I heard that song again - deedle DEEE dum dum dum dum. Was it those birds? Or were they a bit bigger than I imagined - were they brown California towhees?

Man! There they are outside my window right now - I think - two towhees, eating the nodding needlegrass seeds - I think they are the love birds! Are they going to nest at this time of year? I didn't know birds did that.

California towhee, among needle grass (and lupine)

But I'm not sure. And I may be reading the story all wrong in any case. And why do the juncos nibbling the needlegrass seeds nearby have very white tail featherss - they didn't used to have those... did they?

If I keep sitting and observing, I'm pretty sure one day I'll figure more of it out. In the meantime, I'm enjoying it all, and the wonderfully calm feeling that taking it all in induces. I can't think of many better ways to start a day.

house finches at birdbath

Spotted towhee near birdbath


You do have a lot of activity in the garden. It can be very challenging photographing birds! At least here, it's rare that I have bird, and camera, in the right place at the right time! I love the little hummer shot.

The Juncos do have some white in their tail. After raising young, most birds will go through a period of molt before the weather turns cold. It's possible the Juncos are at the stage of losing some of their tail feathers, so the white feathers may be a little more visible at the moment if the adjacent dark feathers have already molted out.
Country Mouse said…
Ah, molt - that must be it- I see the white at other times of the year - it flashes when they take off etc -- but never so obviously as right now. The needle grass seeds are drawing them in closer to where I can see them from my window.
Casa Mariposa said…
I'm rotten at photographing birds. I do very well with things that don't move, like rocks. :o) You have a lot of birds in your area. My heated bird bath is a pretty popular place in the winter. I keep it close to the kitchen door in the winter and it makes for great viewing.
Town Mouse said…
Oh, reading your description was almost as good as being there... Isn't it miraculous when the birds wake up?
Country Mouse said…
It is difficult indeed to photograph birds, and requires a lot more patience than I possess to do well! It is fun to try to paint a picture in words, though!
Thanks for visiting!
Jason said…
Love these pictures. What kind of woodpeckers are those? We get mostly downys, occasional hairys and red bellies.