Woodpeckers, Suet and Suet Sandwich Feeder

I mentioned earlier that I'm partnering with OpenSky.  It's an online store with birding products that I like. Part of my end of the deal is to make blog entries and videos of the product I like.  Non Birding Bill and I see this as an opportunity to create some short fun birding videos.  Below is one on woodpeckers and suet filmed in Mr. Neil's backyard. It's about four minutes long, safe for work and has a great photo of a woodpecker tongue. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJMZf472jmo[/youtube]

If you are interested in this feeder, you can purchase it here.  It really does work well to keep raccoons out and I've had great success chaining to to tree branches (with a lock) to keep raccoons from running off with the feeder and it's fatty booty in the middle of the night.


nuthatch staredown Usually, it is the hummingbird that is the best at communicating when the feeders are empty.  If you have a nectar feeder and it goes empty, one of the best clues is a hummingbird flying up to the window as if to let you know the nectar is bad or empty.  If you have studied bird behavior or worked with birds as an education animal, it's not a far stretch for bird--even a hummingbird with an incomprehensibly small brain to figure out that the large creatures in the building come out and fill the feeders.  The above white-breasted nuthatch has appeared to figure out the same strategy.  The other day, it was hanging around the suet sandwich (a great feeder if you are having raccoon problems, they can't seem to crack it).


I was out taking photos around this feeder still had a little bit of suet left in the center of it.  I was in deep inside, a woodpecker with a long tongue would have problem getting at the food, but a wee nuthatch with a short tongue would be SOL.  So, while I was out taking photos, this white-breasted nuthatch kept hanging out and just sitting on the feeder.  A nuthatch sitting still is immediate cause for suspicion.  At first I wonder if it sees a hawk, but no other birds at the surrounding feeders appear alarmed.  The nuthatch then worked around the feeder pecking the fake bark, the screw, any little crevice it could and then it would look at me as if to communicate, "I'd like to eat here, but there appears to be no fatty bounty on which for me to forage."

I filled the feeder.


I had some of what I would call "emergency suet."  Not the best stuff, it read "peanut suet" but had a ton of corn inside.  I filled both the suet sandwich and the suet log with the same stuff.  The nuthatch (and the downy and hairy woodpeckers) went for it.  I was really surprised at how they devoured it...especially when I think of all the times I have splurged on fancier cashew suets (that I made sure did not have corn).

nuthatch taste test

The nuthatch did appear to be perplexed with the corn.  I love the above shot.  It set the corn kernal down on the log, repositioned it, picked it up, set it down and repeat.  I think the nuthatch was expecting the usual nut chips and the corn texture surprised it. As I watched teh nuthatches comeing in for the suet, they didn't eat it right at the feeder.  All of them (both white-breasted and red-breasted) would take a hunk and cache it in a nearby tree.  I'm not sure if they will eat it later this winter or not, but it's interesting to watch their reaction to corn.

Anyone else have nuthatches eating corn?

Young Finches Learning The Ropes At The Feeders

goldfinch male As signs of fall migration make themselves achingly apparent, many of the goldfinches in my area are still holding on strong to breeding plumage.  As I was digiscoping this male yesterday, I noticed differences in the bird calls around me.  No indigo bunting singing on territory or red-eyed vireo--that was first this month.  There were contact calls of warblers.  I did hear a scarlet tanager giving the old "chick-burr" behind me and noted that while the tanager was here, all the orioles were gone.  I know most people in my neck of the woods have lamented our cold summer.  Wearing a jacket in August is crazy, even by Minnesota standards, but I have loved it.  Although, as much as I enjoy cool nights and several days without turning on the air conditioner, I look at all my friends who cannot get a tomato to turn red in their gardens this summer and wonder how this affects the seed crops and insects fall migrants need to head south.  I also wonder if this means an exceptionally long winter as well.

goldfinch molt

I did notice this male goldfinch on the long tube with kind of a reverse goatee.  He's bald around his beak.  I seem to recall seeing this before in a goldfinch either last year or two years ago.  I wonder if it's an odd molt or some sort of mites (not unlike the bald cardinals we see this time of year).  This particular male had at least one recently fledged chick following him around to the feeders begging to be fed.

goldfinch begging

The adult male is on the bottom of the sunflower tube feeder and the begging chick is on the upper perch.  The adult would dutifully demonstrate how to get seed out of the port, while the younger bird above continued to beg.  Eventually, the young bird left the adult alone and tried pecking around the feeder.  It ignored the gaping opening of the feeding port, and pecked at the plexiglass tube.  It could see the seed and couldn't understand why it couldn't get at the food.

goldfinch eating

Eventually, the adult male flew to a different feeder and what does the young finch do? Continue to ignore the open port with food and hang upside down towards where the adult had been feeding and unsuccessfully pecking at the tube around the port.  Not the brightest bulb on the tree.


The young finch followed the adult male over to the Nyjer feeder and begrudgingly began to eat the seed out of that port.  All the while, continuing to flutter its wings in a food begging behavior.


The young bird finally left the Nyjer feeder and flew over to a black oil sunflower feeder.  Soon afterwards, it was joined by a young house finch (who had just a hint of pink show up along his flanks).  Both birds fed in peace, but periodically the larger house finch would lunge toward the goldfinch if it got too close.  I wonder if these will be the last of the fledglings I will see for the year?

Chickadee At The Hummingbird Feeder

chickadee hummer For some reason this black-capped chickadee kept flying down to the hummingbird feeder today.  I don't think it was after the nectar. Unusual visitors like house finches, verdins, woodpeckers and even fruit bats are known to partake of the nectar, but I think this chickadee was going for either the water in the ant moat or insects hanging around.


The ruby-throated hummingbirds were not happy about it.  It was funny to see a hummer zoom in right after it and then hear the chickadee sputter in irritation.


As a blogger with good regular traffic, you will be approached with all sorts propositions and marketing ideas. Usually, it's amounts to an affiliate link that will get you a 3% interest on products sold--not very enticing. Especially since most people will see a blogger affiliate link and may keep that product in mind, but at the end of the day when the product is purchased, they go to the site directly or google someplace cheaper. However, if you love to blog and like to do it as often as possible, you need to find some way of supplementing your blogging habit and it's not easy to get paid to blog (and have total creative control of your content and own it at the end of the day). It's kind of like trying to find producers and advertisers for tv shows. I was recently approached by a company called OpenSky that asked if I would make videos about birding and products that I personally own and use. They will use the videos to create an online shop and if someone buys the item based on my video, I get a good percentage and at the end of the day--I own my own content that I created.

suet sandwich

I am under no obligation to blog about any product I don't like and I can make the videos as educational as I like. So, I'm going to give this a whirl, these will not be infomercial style videos (not like Vince from SlapChop).  Almost everything I post here already involves some birding product (especially all the digiscoping I do or birds that I get at feeders).  So, when I post about woodpeckers feeding on the suet sandwich and I mention that I like it because it's fairly raccoon proof, there might be a link to a video or other information that I made for my OpenSky shop. We're in the process of editing some videos now, they should be popping up soon.

I see this as kind of like the days I managed a wild bird store but I don't have to carry products I don't like. Back then, the motto I gave to all of my employees was, "We are a nature center that happens to sell bird seed.  Information first, sales second."

I promise this blog will not become all ads, but this is just a heads up that if you see OpenSky mentioned, that's my shop.  And if you like the blog and want to support it, you can purchase an item there.  All of the products are ones that I either use at my home, my friend's yards, give to family and friends as gifts for a particular bird issue and have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  There are some up now and we're hoping to add more soon (especially in the form of shade-grown coffee).

Indigo Bunting At The Finch Feeder

coy bunting I was walking by the kitchen window when a glimpse of blue caught my eye on the finch feeder.  Among the oodles of goldfinches was a male indigo bunting.  I'm not sure why, but he is usually a cagey little fella.  When I see him at the feeders, any movement causes him to take off in a panic.  You would think the other birds chilled out at the feeder would help him keep his cool.  I pressed myself against the refrigerator to try and blend my shape to get some photos of him. I even tried video and you can see in the video for the first few minutes, he is very suspicious.  He takes a few pecks, but then keeps a hairy eyeball in my direction, eventually, he gets a better perch (at least for me and filming):


He stayed for a few minutes this time, rather than me catching a streak of blue fleeing the feeder at meteorite speed as I walk by a window.


I love this time of year--a male indigo bunting next to a male American goldfinch.  There was also a male purple finch bebopping around, but couldn't work him into the shot.

Here's a bit more bunting for your viewing pleasure:


Aberrant Plumaged Goldfinch

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzESPoTl_LU[/youtube] That odd little American goldfinch is still hanging around, he showed up this morning on my sunflower feeder while I was making breakfast and I tried to grab a quick video (apologize for the Wayne Newton in the background).  I don't think that cap is ever going to grow in, it's almost time for the male goldfinches to return to their winter plumage.  I wonder if he will stick out in his winter plumage?

Filling The Feeders

This is the one time of year that my oh so trendy neighborhood goes insane. I live in an area of Minneapolis where people go for funky restaurants or to get pierced and tattooed.  It's a fun place to live...apart from this weekend--we have there's a huge art fair and a local pizza joint closes down our street for a block party. Fun events...unless they are in your backyard. It's even worse this year because one of the main streets is under construction so parking is already next to impossible. So, rather than sitting at home fuming about how the hippies and their late night drum circles are giving me writer's block, I am keeping Cabal company this weekend and Saturday Lorraine and I will head out to the fair to admire our blue ribbons on our honey. 1 ruby throated

When I arrived, I filled some of the feeders--the hummingbird activity has really increased in the last week, August is the best time to feed hummingbirds up here. The young are fledging and the adults need to bulk up for the coming migration.  As I crouched on the ground filling the HummZinger with home made nectar, I could hear impatient buzzing above my head, they were circling me like coked up vultures, anxious for fresh nectar in the feeder.


As I was topping off the feeders, Cabal was having a stare down with the gutter. Something inside was taunting him and it was his duty to rid the metal tubing of the small furry creature inside. As he would focus and salivate, occasional chitters echoed from inside, causing him to twitch with excitement. He slapped the metal a few times but the creature would not budge.


It set my camera at the opening of the the gutter and got a shot of Cabal's tormentor--a chipmunk.  All it took was for Cabal to be momentarily distracted by some other aroma carried on the wind and the chipmunk beat a hasty escape, ready to baffle the pooch another day.

Fledglings Crashing The Feeders

younguns Like rambunctious kids at a restaurant, young birds are learning the ropes at Mr. Neil's feeders. Above is a female rose-breasted grosbeak who I thought was an adult female, but she engaged in some begging behavior with a male and sat for awhile on the pole above the feeder watching the other birds feed, working out how to do it. Most of the adult females know how to feed--they are all business when they come to the feeder.  They perch on a branch, make sure the coast is clear of predators, land on the pole, take another look and then jump right down to the feeders.  This one seemed unsure of how the food came out of the feeder or what to make of the smaller birds around her.

young oriole

This young oriole ate some of the grape jelly, but also made a haphazard landing on the thistle feeder and took a few pecks at the feeding port.  I'm sure it had been watching the goldfinches and thought, "Well, if those dudes are getting food out of there, I'm sure I can too."

And much the same way I felt about catfish, thought to itself, "Seriously?  You think this is good? Bleh!"

young red belly

Here's a recently fledged red-bellied woodpecker.  They're just so awkward and bald (bald in the sense that they have no read on their heads, not that they are missing feathers).  The suet log was empty and he was watching another red-belly perched on a peanut feeder and wondering if it has the landing skills necessary to be able to land on the nut feeder too.  This young bird was very nervous and seemed a poster child for hawk bait.  It was continually begging in the trees, following the parent birds (who were over feeding it at this point) and then made all kinds of strange loud squawks as it flew.  I'm sure it's saying, "I don't know what I'm doing, why is this happening to me?  How to I move, I'm hungary, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

blue jay

Of all the boisterous youngsters visiting the feeders, the blue jays were the most refined diner.  I love this photo, I was shooting from the kitchen window and the young blue eyed me warily wonder what that sound was (and why my lens was aimed at it).

I have mixed feelings going through the woods right now.  Some birds have finished their territory songs for the season, others are going for a second brood, some are just getting started, but six months from now, the sounds at the feeder and in the wood will be softer, occasional caws of crows, sweet contact notes of chickadees, a few laughs of nuthatches.

I wonder if the winter birds enjoy the quiet of winter without having young birds crashing around at the feeders...the rowdy college kids leave the woods leaving all who stay with a peaceful neighborhood until the next breeding season.