Archive for Burdz

Good Backyard Bird Dayz

(Ok, I meant to get back here 1 September and keep up with it, but failed.  Lots on the go ATM and I really mean to try to comment on it.)

… but what else would I come back with first but birds.

The wacky weather this Fall surely has made the birds weird.  Over the last couple of days in particular (but even over the last month) there have been unusual things happening.

First things: does anybuddy know what this weed is?  It produces small flat black arrowheadish seeds with two barbs at one end.  Anyway, hate them for sticking to me and the dog, but happy to see that they also serve as bird feed.

And this pic represents the return of the Goldfinches to the yard after an absence of about a month.  Dunno why, but they always disappear as they molt in September, then I start to see ’em around this time and thru the whole Winter.  Yesterday there were a half dozen of ’em, on this weed, at the freshly filled Niger feeders and the sunflower feeder too.

And just when I reckoned that all the Sparrows had fled, ‘cept for the American Tree Sparrows which have arrived for the Winter (en masse, it seems), I saw a Fox Sparrow in the yard (two FOUR of ’em today).

And, as my FB friends know, I was happy to see Rusty Blackbirds pass thru, one, then two, then four; today I have five.  Curiously, no sign of Brown-Headed Cowbirds (Die Cowbirds! Die!).  Grackles and Redwings are still around.

And there’s still plenty of Juncos – a half dozen still appear in the yard.

No surprise that multiple Mourning Doves are hitting the seed I scatter everyday, but since I noticed more than a dozen in the neighbourhood in Summer, it seems I’ll be obliged to care for more than usual over the Winter.

And, of course, throw out bunches of seed and the pigeons appear.  Oh well, whattaya gunna do?

Haven’t seen ’em in the yard lately, but out to exercise my franchise today, I heard lots of Robins in the area; if this weather keeps up, maybe I’ll count multiples of ’em in the Xmas bird count.

The resta the usual suspects are around – lots of Chickadees (still hopeful that a stray Boreal C might appear), I’m keeping a few Bluejays happy, and the Woodpeckers are appearing more regularly again  (heard a Pileated, but no sightings yet).

And speakina Woodpeckers, yesterday was the annual empty-the-freezer-to-make-birdfood day – 24 cakes, and a big bucket of ground goods to make more.  A little more perverse this year: beef, chicken, pork (plus a bunch of collected fat), fish, a boodle of boiled eggs, mixed up with seed and peanut butter.

Between my feed and the large amount of fruit on the trees, I’m hopin’ to see lots of good stuff this winter.  Not holdin’ my breath for Crossbills – never seen ’em here, and the cones on the conifers are few this year.  But once more, with feeling: cummon Snow Buntings!  Still, I’ll be happy to see Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings.

Finally, it’s time to make a plan (and follow thru this year) for Project FeederWatch.

Alright, nuff.

But, again, I plan to be back soon, bitchin’ about my betters (and worsers), bitin’ the hand that feeds, and, acourse, more burdz.  Expect more about:

  • Strategic Planning (and other reasons why my employers are DBs)
  • The Pitfalls of Curriculum Revision
  • The New Atheism (and the DBs for it and against it)
  • Love and Hope and Sex and Dreams


  • Burdz

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Now Subscribing to Margaret Atwood’s Blog

Of course, I’m totally on side with Citizens Against Lake Erie Wind Turbines et al. and their the opposition to the Southpoint Wind proposal: if this initiative is allowed to go ahead and it effs with the birds of Point Pelee, my country would have zero moral authority to lecture any other country on any environmental issues, and especially on conservation.  (BTW, don’t get me started on my government’s positions on the seal hunt or Bluefin Tuna fishing.)

via Margaret Atwood.

However, it’s not my main intent to draw attention to the potential environmental travesty here.  Rather, the graphic has reminded me of Marshall McLuhan’s assertion – which I heard in watching the old debate with Norman Mailer on the CBC – to the effect that “modern technology is so comprehensive that it has abolished nature.”

I’ve really got to go watch real live birds this w/e.

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I Just Might Buy a Songbird Magnet …

… and a bunch of other silly stuff from Birding Depot.

Well, the Christmas bird count was rather uneventful:

2 American Black Ducks
153 Mallards
17 Herring Gulls
9 Rock Pigeons
1 Downy Woodpecker
4 Hairy Woodpeckers
3 Americans Crows
3 Common Ravens
12 Black-capped Chickadees
2 White-Breasted Nuthatches
1 Red-Breasted Nuthatch

Week of the count

1 Canada Goose
25 Bohemian Waxwings.

And so far Project Feederwatch has been dull too.  Oh well, my office is finally adorned with something, in the form of the very nice poster they sent me.

So, the only interesting thing I’ve got birdwise is this article from The Smart Set from Drexel University.  And yes, I’m going to find some pinecones, smear ’em with peanut butter and roll ’em in seed.

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My First Year in the Christmas Bird Count

So, I signed up for the CBC this year in the area which includes my house.  It also includes like a third of the City of Sudbury.  Going on foot I knew from the get go I was not going to cover much of that area.  But since the CBC has gone without anyone counting in this area for some time now, I gather, I figured any part of it I might cover would be of some service.

The crude map below (with which I was supplied) and the route added to it by me don’t really help with a description of where I went unless you know the area, but perhaps I can make it clear enough.  Basically, following the blue lines from left to right, I left my house (1) and followed Lily Creek up my street.  The route is more or less a circle I made counter-clockwise eventually returning to my house along the creek: Lily Creek flows out of Ramsey Lake (outlined in orange), the north shore of which the map indicates is within my area.

So, I went up my street looking into the creek to the left and people’s yards to the right.  I saw a few things, the usual stuff, Chickadees, a Hairy Woodpecker, some Crows and Ravens, and Mallards in the creek.  Not the stuff I could hope to see with a little luck, White- and Red-Breasted Nuthatches, American Goldfinches, Common Redpolls, and Downy Woodpeckers.  I did venture right up to the creek’s edge in the usual spot right near my house and found myself in snow almost to the crotch; as a result, I skipped the patch of woods next to where Regent Street overpasses the creek and made my way right to the spot where everyone climbs the bank at the end of the the apartment building parking lot to get to street level to cross Regent at Ramseyview Rd. which from there meets Centennial.

In the middle of Centennial I went north crossing through the big sports field (2).  This was to be the big open area for me to observe (it occurs to me now that I should have spent a little more time there to see what might have happened by).  Additionally, the sports field had to be crossed in order to get to that part of Lily Creek between Regent Street and Paris Street where the creek flows through a big hunk of wetland upon which a long boardwalk has been constructed.

I don’t know what I expected to see there, but it didn’t take long to be rewarded.  A couple of people had been through there before me and so a bit of a path was cut into the snow.  About 15 feet before the beginning of the boardwalk I found signs of Vole – tracks and tunnel and a good smear of what had to be pretty fresh blood.  Without other animal tracks I had to assume that a bird had caught a Vole.  (I have to admit that my hope was to see an Snowy Owl.)  I started onto the boardwalk.  Not long after that, I spotted a bird at the top of a birch at the edge of the marsh.  Fumbling for gear I took some pix (not very good given the distance and cloud and fog).  Still, the pix confirmed the identity I suspected once I got the binoculars out and got a better look.  It was a Northern Shrike and its breast was still stained with blood.  He eventually changed locations, but I wasn’t able to get much closer to him.

From All About Birds:

It feeds on small birds, mammals, and insects, sometimes impaling them on spines or barbed wire fences …. The Latin species name of the Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, means “Butcher watchman.”

Maybe I should have spent some time looking for impaled rodent.

I then went east to Paris Street then north.  I crossed Paris to enter Bell Park (3) which is the large middle of the trail that follows the shore of Ramsey Lake from the grounds of Science North and beyond the rowing club.

The irregular shape of my route there (the blue lines on the far left) shows all the trail parts I followed.  Snow is cleared from the pedestrian areas of Bell park for the most part except they chain off the stairs meaning one has to follow the long drive way or walk on the hill to get in or out of the Park on foot.

I didn’t see much for most of the walk: Pigeons, Mallards flying over and Ravens.  But when I walked to the drive at the back of St. Joseph’s Hospital (4) I heard a birdcall that didn’t immediately register with me, but drew me in its direction.  Pigeons on the powerlines.  Then some Chickadees.  Then the birdcall again.  I looked up into a nearby tree, and spotting the bird I was pretty much struck dumb.  Snapping out of that I thought, “what is a Robin doing here?”

I hung out there for a good long time, even after Mr. Robin disappeared unbeknownst to me.  I got preoccupied with feeding Chickadees.  I’d brought a bag of Sunflower seeds and here I’d found a spot where the Chickadees didn’t hesitate to eat out of my hand.  There was about a half dozen of them and it almost turned into a frenzy with birds landing on my head to queue up for their turn at the seed pile in my hand.

After that, I left the park and made my way back towards my house.  Since this route was almost entirely residential streets I didn’t see much to count, a few Chickadees.  I did climb down from Regent Street just passed Lily Creek, instead of walking all the way down to the common spot.  This meant I found myself in waist deep snow (as difficult as that was to negotiate, it ensured that I wasn’t going to go ass over teakettle down the pile of boulders under the snow which were piled to build up the roadbed over the creek).  Again, not much to see in that wood where in summer I find lots of warblers and such.  But, since I still had birdseed on me, I filled up my Gain-laundry-detergent-bottle-feeder.

After peeling off all my excess winter wear, much of it turning wet since the deep snow caused my rubber boots to get packed, I ate the lunch I’d planned to eat ‘in the field’.  I kept an eye on the feeders front and back for awhile and thought I ought to go back out, at least to look for stuff around the house and by that see some of the birds I mentioned at the beginning.  But I didn’t.  I couldn’t stay awake and had a nap instead. 

And who can blame me: all that hiking, through all that snow, in Wellies!

These numbers probably make little difference to Sudbury’s count, but I guess every little bit helps.

Rock Pigeon – 26
Mallard – 33
Hairy Woodpecker – 3
American Crow – 12
Common Raven – 10
Black-Capped Chickadee – 24
American Robin – 1
Northern Shrike – 1
European Starling – 12

And seen during Bird Count Week

Downy Woodpecker – 2 (I know it was at least 2 since I saw a male and a female)
Common Grackle – 1 (my wounded Grackle whom I haven’t seen in a few days 😦 )

Anyway, I’m vowing to be more ambitious next year.  Hit all the park land and all the water in Area 15, and linger awhile in all those places.  After that I can take the bus to the counting place or back home (the middle of the northern limit of my area is where the city bus terminal is after all).



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Since I Haven’t Made a Weird Bird Post in Awhile

I know a certain birder who puts all manner of things out for the birds: He’s got a big suet cage into which he can crush the carcass of his Thanksgiving turkey!  And I’ve got very little literature that proscribes certain kinds of bird food possibilities.

Still, I feel a little perverse when I think about the food I’ve been putting out lately (which BTW the woodpeckers and chickadees are perfectly willing to eat).  Am I going to become ground zero for the outbreak of some new exotic animal disease created by Frankensteinian feeding the wild fauna  with factory farmed flesh?  (I’ve really gotta get over the alliteration thing.)

My leftover Thanksgiving ham made it into a couple of forms of animal feed.  Ham-lollies – pieces of ham in a suet cage – weren’t so successful although I do see the Chickadees pecking at some now and then.  Chopped ham with sunflower seeds, some bacon fat & a Dollarama suet cake*** has gone over much better: it brought Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers around almost everyday and now the last of it is in the suet log hanging off the front porch.

I was looking through the freezer on the w/e and there in the back I found a package of breakfast sausage which had turned a very unnatural gray-green-brown: Best Before Aug. 2007.  So I cooked the shit outta those – hopefully quite literally – and put them back into the freezer.

Today I took them out and, with some difficulty,*** gottem ground up.  Now, in the absence of Dollarama suet*** I wasn’t sure if I could make a mix that would hold together enough.  Though it being winter and all, firmness requirements are pretty low.  First I had to say to myself, “gunna need a bigger bowl’.

Into the bowl went ground sausage … coupla handfuls of Black Oil Sunflower seeds … handful of cat food the cats won’t eat … big spatula load of crunchy peanut butter (I winced, “Kraft Crunchy for bird food, why don’t I have cheap no name PB for this?”) … 2 coffee cups full of fat and cracklings collected on the counter.  Much mixing.

After the kitchen cleanup I had to wash my hands like three times to get the sausage and bacon smell off of me.

The results look good and I anticipate the Woodpeckers approval.

Otherwise it was a bit of an interesting bird day.  Of course, there have been Chicakdees aplenty.  (It always seems that they are very active around a big snowfall like we are having now.)

Weird and likely to have a sad ending, the Grackle with the bum wing that had been around at the beginning of last week suddenly flew up from the Dogwood below the front porch when I was out to get the mail.  He’s flying better obviously as he got himself up 30′ into the Poplar.  I came back inside the house; Grackle descended to below the porch.  So, I put on lots of clothes for hopping through knee-deep snow, put on light gloves, grabbed a fleece blanket off the couch and went out to try to catch the bird.  He sensed me pretty quickly and by the time I came out of hiding at the side of the house by the porch, he’d flown across the front yard to the Cedar at the far side of the house.  Then he flew off across the street and over the creek with what appeared to be little effort.  Still, he should be long gone and I have to wonder if he’d survive even if he left RFN.

Common Grackle - 11/12/08

Common Grackle - 11/12/08

Less dramatic, a pair of Goldfinches were around.  Still, it’s not like I see them every day.

***Sure, what’s actually going to happen is I’m going to kill the birds with Melamine tainted suet, assuming that it comes from China like everything else in Dollarama.

***I don’t want to get off on a rant here, but this kind of prep at home has cost me a number of appliances or gadgets.

***No really pressing need to pick more up as at least 2 of the 4(!) suet cages in and around the yard still a good deal in ’em.

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Speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring

I’m not the kind of birder with a serious life list or who otherwise desires to see particular birds on birding occasions.  But – and weird, I’d never thought of it before – having just discovered that the Snow Bunting is the actual species of the legendary Anne Murray song, and having never seen one though they should be around here, I really would like to see some this winter.  They’re pretty cute; they make me want to go up north to see them in their breeding plumage.

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