My New Book


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.

8 comments to Signs of Spring

  • Peggy

    The finches always looked to me like they’ve been eating raspberries.

  • Maureen

    Since Neil likes to grow a beard every so often, do you know if he’s going to try the bee beard look? Or will we have a Bearded Birdchick?

  • Maureen

    Hmm… it seems Blogger likes to mangle URLs. I’ll try that again, if it still doesn’t work, the address is:

  • Megj

    There is cute disapproving rabbit top ten list on the MCRS website.

  • Old Drone

    Naw, don’t use screws. Not at all necessary. Just exercise a little care when you put the nails in. They will go okay. Take your time.

    Al Needham

  • Yoga Gal

    I’m always pea green with envy whenever I see the colorful birds you get in your part of the nation. I only get gray sparrows, crows and wild green parrots visit my backyard. But I love them and there is a family making a nest in one of the bidhouses in the backyard. Can’t wait to see the little family grow! Good luck with the bees. Tell Neil to grow lots of wild flowers in his backyard. Different flowers yeild different flavor honey. It’s like why Dutch cheese taste so sweet because they feed their cows tulips. Good luck bee keeper! Namaste.

  • katdoc

    I’ve never built a bee hive, but bird house directions always suggest screws instead of nails. Nails, they say, will pull out easier and screws will keep the house tighter longer. I am not a carpenter, this is just what I have read.

    Loverly Purple Finches – I didn’t get any this year. This is one species where I think it is actually easier to ID them by the female instead of the male. I think the problem with differentiating the male red finches is that people get too hung up on the shade of red. Male House Finches can be so many degrees of red, from a nearly Purple Finch shade through various reds to orange. I even had a yellow variant this winter. Instead of trying to make the red be “raspberry,” look for brown streaking on the flanks. If you see any at all, it is a House Finch.


  • Larry

    I’ve seen female Purple Finches but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the male. I’ve tried to turn a few house finches in to one before though.