Birds of Snowpocalypse

For those like my mother who lives in Indianapolis (who are getting Rainmageddon) and cannot experience the white Christmas we are enjoying in the Twin Cities, I thought I'd put out my Wingscapes cam to get some photos of birds and the falling snow. I forgot that I had it set to take video, so here is a cardinal in the snow:

I love the crow who seems to be on cue giving periodic two caws for ambient noise. Love the little dome over the tray to keep the seeds dry and uncovered.
Happy Holidays to everyone--however you celebrate it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my blog throughout the year and a special thank you to everyone who sends to that read, "I've never really noticed birds before reading your blog, but..." and then you send me your bird story. That's what makes sharing my bird stuff so fun.

Signs of Spring

So I headed out to Mr. Neil's today to check out our bees supplies. They have been shipped, sans bees (we won't get those until April) but I tried on some of the gear and looked over the hives. They need to be put together, which looks like it's going to be an all day project that I will put off until next week. The instructions say that I am to use nails to put the hive together, but I'm wondering if I can use screws instead? I like screws because A. I have a tendency to split wood and put nails in crooked when using a hammer and B. I tend to smash my finger tips. Plus, who doesn't love using a power screw driver?

Mr. Neil's yard had ample helpings of snow, but if I aimed my camera just right I could get photos that reminded me of summer. Check out this tufted titmouse, that background could pass for green summer foliage. The weather today was terrific, a perfect day to play in snow. It was in the forties and bright and sunny. These are the times when we think, "Wow, winter really isn't that bad!"

Because of Non Birding Bill's rehearsal schedule I haven't been out and tending to the bird feeders as often as I usually do. When we arrived, I swear the birds recognize our vehicle and started swarming the feeders. This bird in the tree (above) caught my eye, I haven't seen one since last winter. This is the female of the species, can you guess what she is? Here's the male:

Purple finches! Early on in my birding career I was just frustrated trying to tell purple finches and house finches apart, but now I just know them as soon as I see them. Female purple finches always look like mini female rose-breasted grosbeaks to me.

The finches were just a delight. They were all over the sunflower chips. Look at this guy above, you can see some of his yellow starting to come in--breeding plumage--whoot!

On this little dude you can see the black cap starting to come in on top. It's weird, these are one of our latest nesters. Goldfinches don't get busy with the eggs until July but they start getting patches of their breeding plumage in February. By July, some house finches will be contemplating a third brood for the summer.

I finally get to go back to banding tomorrow--it's been weeks between snow storms and my travel schedule. And then this weekend it will be off to a weekend course in beginning bee keeping.

Per advice from the comments section, we have named the hives after two other friends that were visiting at Mr. Neil's today: Kitty and Olga. I wonder which will be the better honey producer? I just hope I don't kill them.

New Feeders for 2007

I'm impressed with how well all of you blog readers were able to id Lillian Stokes from the back. You guys are good. I'm sure she and Bobby Harrison were talking all things ivory-bill, but I did like the suggestion by one commenter that they were actually discussing Cinnamon.

Okay, I think I have figured out a way to divide up all the fun stuff I saw at Bird Watch America. I'm still getting emails with photos and information so some reviews are waiting in the wings. I just want to say for the record that products I talk about are ones that tickle my personal fancy. I'm not paid to talk about items. I have been hired by companies to consult on marketing and product development but I'm fortunate to be in a position that I only work with a product (and people) I genuinely like and one that I personally would use.

I'm tough on bird feeders and squirrel proofing from my years working at a bird store. I can spot a loophole for squirrels and raccoons at first glance. It's hard to impress me with feeders. I try to avoid talking about products that don't appeal to my personal sense of style or that I think will not work well--unless it's potentially harmful to birds. But just because I don't care for something, doesn't mean that it won't work well for someone else, so it's just best I keep my mouth shut.

There weren't too many bird feeders that really bowled me over in innovation. One that really sticks out is the Squirrel-Off, the solar powered bird feeder. There have been solar powered squirrel proof feeders in the past, but they were very expensive. I believe this one will retail between $150 - $180--which isn't bad for what this feeder does and how much food it holds. It has a solar panel on top and when a squirrel touches either the two bottom perch bars or the roof and one of the perches it gets a zap--nothing lethal, about like licking a 9-volt battery (yes, I've done it). Birds will not get zapped by the feeder due to their biological make up in their feet.

It has many of the features I look for--comes apart for easy cleaning, holds lots of seed and can see if the feeder is full or empty, can be hung or pole mounted, has an attractive design that allows for several types of birds to feed. The company has been making solar powered feeders for years, I carried one when I was at the Minnetonka Wild Bird Store but I want to say that it was about $500. It's nice to see it has come down to a more affordable price. The electronics have a one year warranty which is pretty standard with that type of feeder, but I know people who have purchased solar feeders in the past and they last a long time.

The other feeders that caught my eye were the Happy Hour Hummingbird Feeders at the Woodlink booth. I have to hand it to Woodlink, they are working their hardest to come up with interesting and different designs in feeder. The designs don't always appeal to me, but it's nice to see someone getting away from the traditional design and working hard to be creative. This year, their new hummingbird feeders really struck my eye--they are designed to look like martinis and daiquiris!

Here I am with Dalia Hussein of Wild Republic (more on their stuff in a later entry) sharing a couple of hummingbird feeders at the Woodlink Tiki Bar. I love these things, I can see them showing up at Urban Outfitters and what's nice is that Woodlink has been making feeders for years so they have a good idea of how to make a decent feeder that looks very unique.