Saturday, January 29, 2011

Birds in Review Part XII More Winter Feeding

American Robins are members of the Thrush family and are particularly fond of the Crabapple Orchard. They are often thought to be heralds of spring but here they reside all year round, certainly in part due to this little orchard. Robins live on fruit in the winter months and are seen during the growing seasons standing like sentinels one minute and the next running nearly horizontal to the ground searching for worms and insects. They are scattered in open areas throughout the gardens . . . sometimes in groups of fifty or more spaced a few feet apart making the land appear to be in motion. 

Come spring theirs will be the first song to fill the gardens and they will begin nesting earlier than other birds. Robins can raise up to three broods a year, though less than half of their babies will survive to become adults. They are preyed upon by Hawks, Crows, Bluejays, snakes, weasels and squirrels to name a few. Enough do survive, for I have read that some winter roosts can be as large as a quarter million!

Robins will also dine on the smaller rose hips in the garden . . .  favored as well by the Bluebirds. The Northern Cardinals prefer the larger Rosa Rugosa hips, which are in abundance just across from this Crabapple . . . the very direction the female Cardinal is facing. The Cardinals do not appear to eat the Crabapples and I believe that is why there is no contest here between the two birds.

A female Cardinal works hard to open the outer covering of the hips.

She appears to be examining this one carefully . . . 

clearly it passes the test!

When we hear the songs of birds, we might assume that only the males are singing and in most cases this is true. The female Cardinal . . .  along with a few other female songbirds . . .  also sings and her song can be more varied and last longer than the males. I have read that the more rose hips a Cardinal eats the redder their color becomes. I think it rather terrific that not only can my garden feed the birds but it may help to paint them as well!

This male surely has been eating tons of rose hips!

The couple is very conscientious and leave nothing to waste on the cold snowy garden floor. 

It must be pretty cold as this fellow shows . . . all puffed-up and holding one foot within the warm fluffy feathers. 

Now . . . where was I? 

There were two large shrubs filled with hips in 2009. This last summer due to the drought the roses did not produce as many rose hips . . . still there are a good many for the Cardinals to feed on complementing their diet of wild grapes . . . dried at this time of year. . . sumac and many varieties of seeds. 
Both the male and female will defend their territory from other Cardinals. It is very comical to see them relentlessly tapping their reflections in windows or even car rear-view mirrors during the season they are rearing their young. 

One day last winter a Robin was equally resolute in driving away the Bluebirds from the tiny rose hips behind the farmhouse. I am not certain of the identification of this wild rose but it may be the invasive Japanese multiflora . . . though the hips seem more oval in shape. The Bluebirds love the smaller size and enjoy dining on the fruits of the two bushes I inherited. The Robins will have none of it, however, and even when the flock is off somewhere else feeding, one will remain behind to watch over the nutritious hip filled rose bushes. 

The Bluebirds are always on the fly and I feel I must have a word with the Robin!

He does not appreciate my scolding . . . is not interested in sharing . . . but does finally fly off allowing the Bluebirds to feast. 

I have promised myself to find out exactly which rose this is and to replace it with a native rose that will provide similar hips. I will leave these until the new ones become established. Please let me know if you think you can identify this plant. It has lovely small white clustered flowers. I cannot bear to remove a plant that offers such important winter food for birds. 

Eastern North American Rhus glabra or smooth Sumac if very invasive but does have some redeeming graces. It has vibrant fall colors and more importantly provides berries rich in vitamin C that many birds love and which sustains them throughout the cold winter months. 
This morning Bluebirds are flying up to the barn windows and doors, as I cast out new born flies! Finally I find a beneficial purpose for those born inside during the winter. I am happy to report that I am seeing many Bluebirds today. In fact it is very busy out with Juncos, Cedar Waxwings, Bluebirds, Robins, Chickadees, Cardinals and surprisingly a few Pine Siskins darting about the naked trees and shrubs.
My next post will feature other plants and trees about the gardens that also feed the birds. 


Randi said...

These shots are amazing! I wish I could take such good photos of birds. I only catch them flying in the sky...Thanks for sharing these wonderful treasures!
Kram Randi

Ken and Elaine said...

Awesome photos! The Robin is my favorite bird he is only here in the spring and summer I cant wait for his return. Hubby and I went to our favorite camera shop and bought some new lenses .
I bought the Nikon Micro NIKKOR 60 mm 2.8 VR lens and the
Nikon NIKKOR 55-300 , Hubby bought the Sigma 150-500mm lens so now we can have even more fun with our photography ! Have a wonderful day

Eliza @ Appalachian Feet said...

Haha, oops! I'll come back later when there is text but the photographs are gorgeous!

sweetbay said...

The birds really love those crabapples! I especially like picture #4. That is stellar.

Susan in the Pink Hat said...

Don't worry! We love seeing the birds! I miss cardinals here. I always loved their little trill.

Tammie Lee said...

a lovely splash of color in the midst of winter!

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens said...

Carol, I did this once myself. It was quite alarming. I didn't even realize I had published until an email arrived in my inbox. I felt lucky I could then update the post. The template should put the save button and the publish button on opposite sides of the page. Don't they know we are engrossed in flights of literary genius and can't be bothered with mundane things like reading buttons? Carolyn

Kyna said...

I hate when that happens. I did that today myself, luckily I was just about finished what I was doing lol. Great pics!

Carolyn said...

Hi Carol,
I did enjoy your photos even without the story. We have lots of robins around our garden in spring but I have not seen one since last fall.Last Jan. we had dozens of them swoop in and eat berries on the mountain ash and old apples on the ground but I never saw them here in winter before and I think someone saw a cardinal at their feeder but that is not a common sight here.
Enjoy your weekend,


Beyond My Garden said...

Carol, most all of us bloggers have "been there, done that." Is the robin in a hawthorn tree? I heard robins this morning. I think they are happy to see our snow trying to melt.

jane said...

oh, you lucky soul .. you are in the presence of cardinals .. and is the other a female, or a cedar waxwing? .. your photographs are lovely .. what is the robin eating?

catmint said...

Dear Carol, the pictures say so much even without words to support them - I especially love the photo that shows the light and shade and patterns in the snow. And the first one with the ? bird and berry in its beak. cheers, catmint

Carol said...

Dear Readers,
Yesterday I was in a hurry and accidentally hit the publish button before completing this post. It is finished now. Thank you all for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

Kara Randi, Your photography is so amazing! Thank you so much!

Ken and Elaine, Thank you! Sounds like you are going to be able to get some great shots with your new equipment.

Thank you Sweetbay!

Hi Tammi, The birds do offer welcome color in our stark landscape. Thanks for visiting.

Thank you Carolyn! I wish we could go back and take the post offline when we make this mistake. I agree with your ideas!

Hi Kyna, Thank you!

Hi Carolyn! Thank you! I keep telling myself to get a mountain ash!

Hi Nellie, The Robin is in a Crabapple and then rose hips. There is an English Hawthorne growing nearby. Another great feeder. Thank you for visiting!

Dear Catmint, Thank you so much! The first is a Robin.

Marguerite said...

Carol, I continue to be impressed with how you feed your birds, not with seed bought from a store, but from native plantings. You've created a proper sanctuary for wildlife at your home and it's lovely to be able to see what you've done.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

So Very Amazing. You live in paradise - one of your own making, with the native plants and natural food sources for the birds. Lovely!

Commonweeder said...

Your photographs are always amazing, both for What your capture and How beautifully. We have lots of food for the birds on our land, but most of it is too far from the house for us to watch feasting birds. Especially with so much snow on the ground. I have all I can do to get out to the henhouse to feed those birds.

Donna said...

love the song of the Robin in spring....

Gerry Gomez Pearlberg said...

I love your blog! Your winter bird-feeding posts have inspired me to plant crab apple trees this spring to increase the food for wild birds.

I also wanted to put in another vote for the value of sumac. As a beekeeper, I am very aware of the important, if brief, nectar and pollen source the sumac provides my honeybees every summer. There's usually a week or so in mid-summer when the little stand of sumac in my driveway literally thrums with bees of all kinds. That process, of course, is what results in the pollination that brings those lovely "sumac berries" on which the winter birds dine.

So it all comes full circle in the marvelous way nature does!

Rebecca @ In The Garden said...

So beautiful! I can honestly look at Cardinal pictures all day long.

Jean/Jean's Garden said...

Carol, Here in southern PA, I've begun to hear birds singing in the morning. My walk to work is enlivened by the sound of the Cardinals noisily claiming their territory, and I thought I heard a robin singing yesterday while I was shoveling snow! Signs of spring. said...

Carol, now I know where all our Robins go.

The Violet Fern said...

I so love the Robins and was also surprised to learn that they do stay year round when I spied some at the local park here last Feb and inquired at Cornell. It took me three years to attract Cardinals at my house in Maine, and now (sigh) I begin again but I have hope since I have planted two native wild roses that should provide hips! Thank you!

The Whimsical Gardener said...

I'm just amazed at all the photos you're able to get of the birds calling your garden home! Also, I've been thinking so much about your story of the bear and why you no longer have bird feeders! Incredible! Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Gail said...

Carol, You have absolutely cemented my resolve to plant sumacs in the newly cleared sunny spaces. I've loved them for their brilliant fall color and their seedheads, but knowing they feed bluebirds~seals the deal. Their thuginess will be perfect as they battle the vincas! Wonderful photos and prose...gail

Carol said...

Marguerite, Thank you so much! Each day is a surprise . . . I never know what I might witness here. It has taken years of hard work and there is always more to do. I am adding more native shrubs and plants every year.

Thank you Debi! It is a humble paradise. I am so thankful for all the wildlife that live here with me.

Pat, Thank you for your kind words. I know it must be hard to get out to your chickens with all this snow and ice!!

Yes Donna, me too! Thank you for sharing!

Welcome Gerry! Thank you! Thank You! I am so happy you will be planting the crabapples! You will love them! So true about sumac too. I always leave a few stands here and there. Mostly they are soft and easy to manage but oh my goodness they would take over if I did not keep them in check.

Rebecca, Thank you! I could too!

Thank you Donna! I wonder??

Thank you Violet Fern! The Cardinals will find you again!! They will thank you for your rose hips!

Thank you Cat! I do feel lucky to be in the right place at the right moment! I love bears but not so close up! At least not while they are awake!! Another story to come.

Carol said...

Sounds like you have a lovely and musical walk to work Jean! Thanks for sharing.

Meredith said...

Beautiful shots, Carol! I'm especially in love with your description of the "ground in motion" effect of robins feeding in the spring. You are so right about how they stand utterly still and then scurry off running all of a sudden. Last year, I saw seven of them doing this in a forest clearing in my backyard, and I was amazed because they were all facing precisely southwest. I felt as if I were watching a military exercise -- but of course far more wonderful than any army could ever create, for there was no hate, no negative energy at all among these birds.

Thank you for the orgeous, heart-lifting post, Carol. said...

How lucky you are to have Bluebirds now and trained to come eat flies!

I always look forward to spring when I see the first bluebirds return scouting for their nesting site.

Amy said...

I always enjoy looking at your crisp, clear beautiful photos, Carol. The birds are all so beautiful! I love the little bluebirds.
Your photos truly help us all appreciate nature a little bit more.

Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

What grand photos--especially the first few with the Robin---the coloring in those photos is rare to capture.

I'm envious you have bluebirds and waxwings. I want some. I've been told I need to put up a bluebird box.

Kate @ Gardening and Gardens said...

Wow - what great photos. I don't ever get to see Bluebirds on Long Island for some reason. But we have a lot of Cardinals nowadays. They look so pretty against the white snow.

Orchid de dangau said...

Hi Carol.

Your post always amazing. I really enjoy it.

Carol said...

Meredith, Thank you so for your kind comment!

Jane, I am so sorry your comment was lost to me but I just found it! The text was not up when your comment came in . . . the Robin is eating a Crabapple. You are seeing a male and female Cardinal in this post. Thank you for visiting and sharing!

Thank you Heather!! The Bluebirds must take advantage of any bits of protein I guess.

Amy, thank you so much for those kind and supportive words! They mean the world to me.

Anna, You would have Bluebirds if you put up a house for them. I have seen where people put out mealy worms too and the Bluebirds come to their feeders. . . water is also an attracting element. The Cedar Waxwings will come if you plant crabapples, viburnums, English Hawthorne etc. They love berries and fruit. That is mostly all they eat! Good Luck!

Thank you Kate!
Thank you Orchid de dangau!!


Alistair said...

Carol, I enjoyed what you had to say, but if I had gotten there sooner I would have been happy enough with the photos. So, your American robin is related to the thrush, do you also get the regular, or do I mean European robin. I have just managed today to get my first bird pics with my zoom, just the common old chaffinch, but I am well chuffed.

Barbara said...

Hi Carol, I loved your post featuring these very North American birds. I really miss robins and cardinals, and every time I'm back in the states I keep an eye out for them. I didn't realize robins could overwinter in cold climates. I don't think they do in Minnesota, but I could be wrong. Great photography as always. Barbara

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens said...

Carol, The property manager at the Maine Audubon Society has come several times to the island I go to in the summer to talk about invasive plants. According to him, most native wild roses with small hips have pink flowers, and multi-flora rose has clusters of small white flowers. You don't need to worry about this potential food source either. He said that multi flora rose hips and invasive bush honeysuckle berries are the equivalent of feeding your child a steady diet of pop tarts. They do not have the nutrients supplied by native plants, especially protein, that the birds need and yet the bird thinks it has eaten---same effect as junk food or soda. I believe I confirmed this with further research on the internet so I could spread the word to islanders who were telling me they didn't want to remove these plants because the birds loved them.

noel said...

georgious carol, you inspired me today!

Jenn said...

Beautiful photos! I've always had a fondness of birds- 'bird' was actually my first word :)

debsgarden said...

You are making me want a crabapple orchard! I love how the personalities of the birds come through in your photographs. Your land is a blessing to humans, as well as the birds! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Here, sumac isn't invasive, but I can see where it would be in your state. It helps the birds and is so pretty in autumn. Those rosehips don't look like the bad R. multiflora (which I hate because of Rose Rosette disease). Perhaps, it's another wild rose. We can hope. Stay warm.~~Dee

Eliza @ Appalachian Feet said...

Your photos and wildlife facts are exemplary as always! I always assumed crabapples were named because the fruit is tart and less palatable than regular apples (though I personally like eating them). I think of them as "crabby" or grumpy apples. But I came up with that interpretation as a child and it probably has nothing to do with the actual reason.

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