East Texas Naturalist Blog

Information and photographs mainly about nature in east Texas. Our authors have widely diverse backgrounds and write on a variety of topics.

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Yakety Yak - Don't Talk Back, Mockingbird

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Just a quick note this morning but I had to share it.

As usual, I started my day on my steps looking out over the lake watching the morning come alive; listening to the birds call; watching the egrets glide along the water looking for a place to feed; enjoying the cool air; and sipping my coffee.

There is a mockingbird that will sometimes land on my knee or on the little table next to me when I am sitting in my big chair by the feeders, especially if I have a bowl of mealworms. Today, he came and landed on one of the shepherds hooks and made some unusual calls. Then I made the little clucking sound that I make anytime the birds or squirrels come around. It is meant to be an identifying sound so they I am there (they don’t always notice me if I am still) and that they are safe around me. I have always done that and some of them respond to it – the squirrels will come get food; the birds just pose for me in a way.

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You Can Eat But Not You; Not You Either, Squirrel, Get Back - Selective Feeding

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When I decided to get some bird feeders, I really didn't put a lot of thought into it.  I just went to Walmart and grabbed a bunch on inexpensive feeders.  My main criteria at the time was cost, perceived effectiveness to attract birds, and ease to use. 

I ended up buying 1 hummingbird feeder in the traditional red and clear plastic, 4 plastic tube type of seed feeders, and 3 suet wire feeders.  Grand total was approximately $40, not including feed.

I started off attracting some interesting species: chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, house finches, hairy woodpeckers and a red-bellied woodpecker.  Before long there was lots of activity on the feeders with the addition of cowbirds, mockingbirds, English sparrows and squirrels.  Lots of squirrels.  

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Get Back! No Pictures For You

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I try to have a picture with each of these little messages, blogs, stories or whatever they are, but this time I was not fast enough to take one.

I was grilling butterfly pork chops and turned to go back in the RV to get a plate when I saw a large bird out of the corner of my eye.  I looked up and there was a Pileated Woodpecker flying from one tree to another just about 100 feet away.  I stepped inside and grabbed my Nikon D60 with a 200 mm lens on it.  I walked slowly towards the tree but only got a few steps when he took off for the far beyond.  No chance to get a picture.

Hopefully I will get another chance.  I believe he came from the woods across the highway where I usually walk and perhaps I will catch up with him there soon.  I haven't been walking over there lately because of all the rain.  It is really muddy over there with the slightest rain.  With the nearly constant rain for the past 3 months, it is really sloppy over there.

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They're MINE ALL MINE!!!!! The Mockingbird's new song

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My bird feeders have been sort of a neutral zone all Spring.  There has been a wide variety of birds frequenting them and there have been very few skirmishes.  Not at all like the hummingbird feeders which are the scene of daily wars between the various hummers.  The seed and suet feeders have been relatively peaceful.  Of course, there have been some issues.  Some as simple as the bigger birds chase off the smaller birds, but even that was relatively calm.  I have not seen much really aggresive behavior.

That all changed when the first mockingbird fledgling appeared.  All at once the parent mockingbirds have claimed the feeders.  No other birds are allowed to feed without being harassed.  That includes the seed feeders which the mockingbirds don't use.  Any chickadee or titmouse that dares to try to feed will get a fast rush from one of the parent mockingbirds.  The rush is like a bullet.  It is the fastest flight I have seen by them at any other time.   The suet feeders, which the mockingbirds do use, are in the middle of the seed feeders but they don't care if the other birds are on the seed feeders or the suet feeders, the offending birds are chased away.

Their viligance is not continuous.  There are long periods of time when the mockingbirds are not in sight.  So the feeders are still available for most of the day, but when the mockingbirds return, they stay at least a few minutes chasing the other birds away. Once the other birds quit trying to feed the mockingbirds fly off.  The mockingbirds are there fairly constantly during early morning feeding times and near dusk. Inbetween running the other birds off, they spend a fair amount of time feeding the fledglings.  The fledglings fly to the parents and bob their heads up and down while making a soft screeching sound as they wait for the parent to drop some food into their mouths.  

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Second Followup on the Mystery Bird and More

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Well, I solved the mystery.  The Mystery Bird mystery.  I found a new tool that is really quite incredible.  It is the Merlin Bird Id by Cornell Lab of Orintholgy.  This is an app for iPhone (and other smart phones).  Easy as can be to use and zeroes right in on identifying birds.

In this case the bird was a Ruby Crowned Kinglet.  The first I have ever seen.  

If you are a birder, you likely already know of this tool, but if not check it out.  Just Google "Merlin Bird Id".

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