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February 26, 2014 - 9:14am

We had a couple of unexpected visitors to our place last weekend. Being February and given the sort of winter we've had, it was more than a bit of a surprise to see a pair of bluebirds come calling last Saturday morning.            

A male and female alit in the apple tree and I never thought they'd sit tight with the powerful wind gusts whipping the branches about. But sit they did and I was able to get several shots of the male while the female was obscured by branches.

A female cardinal seems to be shrieking with delight, perhaps celebrating the sunshine and blue sky

This cardinal seems content to sample a snow-capped frozen apple.

A chickadee sticks close to brushy cover.......

while another helps itself to sunflower seed and millet.

Pileated woodpeckers have shown up quite regularly this winter......we often hear their raucous call long before they come into view.

How did this gray squirrel get a snow hat?

He and some friends were digging for the walnuts I had tossed into the briars last autumn. I knew the squirrels would find them, but I never thought they would wait till there were several inches of snow on the ground before doing so.

This guy, meanwhile, appears to be rubbing his paws in anticipation while eyeballing the bird feeder. 

Prior to last weekend, the last bluebird I saw was just before Thanksgiving. Winter set in on us right after that. I've never seen one this early in the year. I've heard or read somewhere that bluebirds sometimes winter here, it all depends on the weather and availability of food. Regardless, I know we've got some single-digit lows coming later this week, but I've always felt Mother Nature was pretty good at predicting the weather.....here's hoping!

April 25, 2012 - 8:06pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, bluebirds, chirping sparrows.

While the weather on Monday and Tuesday was a bit of a curveball for man and beast alike, by first light on Wednesday the sound of upbeat chirps and warbles once again emanated from the woods out back.

While the robins, cardinals and noisy flickers were all on hand, it was the bluebird that caught my attention. Unlike past encounters, the male, though it flitted from time to time, never strayed too far, allowing me to take its picture.

Shortly thereafter he was joined by this female.

While trying to focus on the male, I inadvertantly left her head out of the frame.

Meanwhile, in the front yard a lone chirping sparrow appears to be searching for a meal. 

It wasn't alone for long, as two others flew in to claim dibs. It's always nice to hear and see the songbirds, and good to see the sun shining again.

April 14, 2012 - 10:01am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, bluebirds, cardinals, robins, doves, coots, flickers.

We've evidenced prolific bird life so far this spring. This robin was perched in the cottonwood while singing its praises of the day as I snapped the photo.

A male cardinal appears to be on the lookout high in our apple tree. Actually he was listening for the whistle of a female -- after she made a flyby, off he went in pursuit.  

For the second consecutive year, the bluebirds are nesting nearby -- this female was flitting about in our backyard.

The telltale red marking on the back of its head gave away this northern flicker perched in the sumac.

He seems to be sizing up the sumac drupes...something I've not seen before. We usually see them probing the soil for grubs.

A lone mourning dove poking around the stubble

This duck-like creature is actually a coot, member of the rail family. Instead of webbed feet, it possesses three long pointy toes, which enable it to run across the water and matted vegetation.

Often seen with ducks, the coot is an excellent swimmer and diver, feeding mainly on aquatic vegetation.

September 5, 2011 - 6:15pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, bluebirds.

Whereas the orioles were easy to photograph, the bluebirds were quite timid, refusing to remain still for more than a moment or two and making photo opportunities difficult.

While the orioles nested in the woods to the north, the bluebirds -- at least two mating pairs -- nested in the small woods bordering the southern edge of our property. They made repeated forays to our mulberry tree, appearing to take a single berry and fly back into the woods. Moments later they would reappear on a dead limb of a white ash (as seen in above photo), making a brief stop before flying in for another mulberry.  

We had ample bluebird sightings in our backyard this year. While I was aware they were not around in great numbers, until now I've never realized how shy and retiring they are. Claudia and I have seen more bluebirds during the summer of 2011 than all previous years combined. Maybe it's nature's way of making up for a less than pleasant winter!

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