All afternoon robins and starlings have been using a puddle on the roof across the alley as a birdbath. The robins are only using it for drinking, but the starlings are going hog wild and bathing up a storm. As soon as they finish, they head to a nearby chimney to warm up and dry off so I've yet to see any die right away. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvMnLHGZ2MU[/youtube]
Tonight is Birds and Beers at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park--with maybe a little bird banding. Should be awesome with all the migrants around. Starts at 6pm. Birds and Beers is an informal gathering of birders of all abilities to mildly interested to hardcore. It's a way to get together and talk some birds. Normally, we meet in a pub, but migration is so awesome, we're meeting outside...and Coon Rapids does allow alcohol if you would like to BYOB.
A huge flock of cedar waxwings have descended upon my neighborhood. It started at dawn yesterday, I sat up in bed and Non Birding Bill asked, "What's wrong?"
"Waxwings," I groggily replied, "they're everywhere, hear them?"
"That sound is a bird?"
And they've been covering the trees and using puddles on the surrounding apartment buildings for birdbaths. They were using the one that was further away, but I set my scope and camera over towards the pool that's closest to my window (it's the puddle that the Cooper's hawk used a couple of years ago).
And sure enough, just as I was about to hop on my bike for a lunch meeting, all the waxwings finally came down to the puddle in good light. I decided to be late and get a few shots--look at them, it's like a bunch of tarted up female cardinals. I took a video and you can hear the waxwings, a robin, my cockatiel, and my fingers typing a text message to my friend telling him that I'm going to be late to our lunch because of the waxwing photo opportunity:
I wondered why the waxwings kept avoiding this particular pond and if you noticed in the video, they all took off as if startled by something? Well, here's the reason why:
This male robin was not happy with anyone using this puddle. He chased off house sparrows, the waxwings, and other robins. His nest must be near it. I'll be curious to see if he tries to chase off that Cooper's hawk if she decides to use it again.
Wednesday morning as I was packing for North Dakota, I could hear a young robin in the neighborhood, begging for food. Throughout the morning it was figuring out this whole flight thing and getting fed large grubby looking things by its parents.
About a half an hour before I left, the young robing had found the puddle on the apartment building across the ally--the same one that hosted a Cooper's hawk last spring. I managed to get a couple of videos. Here is the young robin taking his first dips (you might hear a red-eyed vireo singing outside my window):
Here a second video with a rock pigeon joining and scaring the young robin...and that is the BarryTones doing HipShop in the background (a barbershop quartet singing a medley of popular hip hop songs):
Tonight, I was putting away groceries and Non Birding Bill was talking on the phone He came into the kitchen flailing his arms at me while still carrying on his phone conversation. After a few seconds of wild flapping, I finally understood that he wanted me to look out the window. Much in the same way Timmy would talk to Lassie, "What's that, girl? You want me to look out the window? Timmy's stuck in a well again?"
Lo and behold, there was a young female Cooper's hawk sitting in the puddle on the roof of the apartment building across the way. We had our screens down and I tried to take a few photos through the spotting scope as well as a video. She appeared to be nervous and taking her time with bathing. We slowly lifted the screen to get better photos. The above photo was taken after we lifted the screen, she appears to be aware that we are watching her.
The only birds we could hear out and about were chimney swifts. When they would fly over she would follow them--always an eye on potential food! She was so big and so close, I had trouble fitting her whole body into the frame with my digiscoping equipment--I was backed up against the wall as far as I could go and still could barely fit her whole body into the shot.
It was funny to watch all the squirrels hopping on to the roof to drink from the puddle, realize there was a hawk in front of them and then sprint off back in the direction they came from. Whoopsie! The hawk eventually was completely soaked and she flew off--albeit a bit unsteady into the trees.
We did get some videos of the Cooper's hawk bathing. She was doing this very weird kind of butt slap against the water. I apologize for the narration...you may want to just keep your computer on mute while watching the one minute video--I was just kind of excited and caught up in the moment.
I woke up to the sound of hundreds of robins outside my window this morning. I rolled over and looked out the window while watching flocks of hundreds of birds flying from the north descending into my neighborhood. All the trees were covered with robins.
Two of the apartment buildings next to mine have roof issues. This roof has water that collects like crazy in spring (this is the one that used to have the circular saw sitting there for years). The robins are drinking the water, eating the snow and flipping the leaves looking for insects.
The other roof has water too, but it's almost dried out at this point. There's all kinds of leaf debris and berries that's creating a sort of mush. The robins drink the water but then barf up the berries that take in with the water.
I'm trying to get ready for my shift at The Raptor Center and my neighborhood is covered this morning in robins and cedar wawings. They must have come in last night. This usually happens every year, but I didn't see the waxwings last year.
I'm trying to digiscope, but the morning light is still to dim and my images are dark. The waxwings and robins should be here all day so hopefully I'll get better shots this afternoon. Even Non Birding Bill looked through the scope to admire the waxwings.
Isn't this a lovely fall picture? Okay, I really am running super late to TRC. Good thing we don't have programs scheduled this morning. The crew leader will begrudge you being late for a good raptor sighting but not songbirds. Maybe I'll say the Coops came in and that will get me a get out of jail free pass.
We've had flocks of robins moving through the last few weeks. I enjoy seeking them out on my walks, watching as they move secretly through the trees with a soft high pitched whistle. The bad boys that moved in today are a bit more aggressive.
Robins surrounding a roof top puddle. The bird on the far right is a cedar waxwing.
On one of the buildings behind mine, the roof is very slanted and water is always collecting. In the winter I watch the owner break up the ice dams, but in warmer weather this area serves as a make shift bird bath. This time of year I usually see a flock of cedar waxwings descend on the puddle. Today they showed up en masse, but their drinking plans were thwarted when the hordes of robins arrived. Any time a waxwing would try to go the puddle, at least two robins would fly in and pounce on it. Even the starlings were afraid of these guys. The robins sat in the trees and flicked their tails in defiance while giving sharp "chirip chup chup" calls. No one was going to mess with this flock. The dominated the puddle for the afternoon. After they had their fill and moved on, one lone brave blue jay flew in for a quick sip and then scooted away. I never saw the waxwings return, but there's enough shoddy roof work in Uptown, I'm sure they will get a drink somewhere.
I went for a walk around the neighborhood and to a park near Lakewood cemetery. The park of course was full of robins. I walked down the path and swarms of robins flew off ahead of me. With my headphones on, I almost fancied myself an Agent Smith from the second Matrix movie when he walks in with a flock of raven to confront Neo with...and then I realize how geeky that sounds.
I found more juncos and even a brown creeper.
I watched my KARE 11 segment on cable access today. I need to do something about my eyebrows, they're non-existent with those studio lights.