Sunday, March 20, 2011

More Signs of Spring

Last year at this time I did a blog post with pictures of all the bluebonnets and other flowers in bloom, but this year they seem much less impressive. I wonder if it's because of how dry it's been. I actually planted some bluebonnet seeds in the front, but only a few came up, and they didn't make it. At least, I can't even find them right now, so I think they dried up and died. The neighbors across the street only have a couple blooming in their yard so far this year. I also had a lot more spiderwort and dayflowers blooming in my yard last year, but this year I've only seen a couple of puny ones.

There are a few spring-like things I have noticed. In the plant world, at least the trees are doing their things. The elm and ash trees in my yard are putting out nice, fresh green leaves. The live oak trees are losing their leaves and growing new ones, like they do each spring (live oaks are called live oaks because they keep their leaves through the winter, then lose them and immediately grow a new set in spring). The mountain laurels have also started blooming, with their large, sweet, purple blossoms. I don't have any in my yard, sadly. When I get my own place, I certainly want to plant a few.

There are also some new birds at the feeders that haven't been there before. Just about every day a flock of Chipping Sparrows has been hitting the seed feeder. There can be up to a dozen there at a time, with some of them on the feeder, and others underneath getting the seeds that fall on the ground. They're really cute, very small sparrows with a rusty-red cap on their heads.

This is one of the few times I've actually been able to identify any native sparrows, which have got to be some of the hardest birds for birders to identify. There are several species of sparrows that live around here, and all of them are streaky brown birds that usually like to stay on the ground in tall grass, where they blend in very well. Usually the only sign of them I get is hearing their "seet" calls, which sounds like some kind of insect (in fact, one of our sparrows is called a Grasshopper Sparrow because it sounds so much like a grasshopper). They make those calls to keep track of the rest of the flock while they're in the tall grass and can't see each other. If I hadn't been told those were birds I would have kept thinking they were insects. Then if they're flushed, well, then I just see a flock of little brown birds in a blur and never get a chance to get a good look at them. My ornithology professor was able to identify the species just by their "seet" calls, saying that some of them sounded more like "seet" and others sound more like "zeet", but I could never tell the difference. Usually the best I can do is just know there's some kind of sparrow out there in the grass and that's it.
The House Finches are have also started showing up at the feeder. I used to have a lot more of these on the feeder at my old apartment complex, but here on the edge of town they seem to be less numerous. Maybe they like more urban areas better and that's why they call them house finches. In the picture, the male is on the top, and the female is on the bottom. the females are more streaky brownish-grey birds and would be hard to identify if they weren't usually accompanied by their mates, who look like females that have been airbrushed with a bit of rosy red.

And of course the Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmice, doves (both White-winged and Inca), wrens (Bewick's and Carolina), and cardinals are still regulars at the feeders. I'm also still seeing a few Golden-rumped and Orange-crowned Warblers from time to time on the suet, but not any other warblers. I was hoping I would see some other warblers now that things have warmed up and other species should be migrating through, but no luck yet. I also haven't seen a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in a long time, so I think they may have moved on (they're supposed to only spend the winter here and then leave for summer). I've also seen blue jays and mockingbirds pulling up grass for nests and drinking at the birdbath, but they never eat any of the food from the feeders. I guess they're waiting for my tomatoes to ripen, so they can start pecking holes in them and then leaving the rest of the fruit to rot!

No comments:

Post a Comment