Monday, February 20, 2012

Time to Count the Birds

With bird reference books, binoculars and camera, I was so ready for this year's Audubon's Great Backyard Bird Count following my great disappointment last year. I was ready then, too, only to be whisked off to the cardiac unit on the day the Bird Count began. What a difference a year makes. I am totally recovered, thanks to a brilliant surgeon, wonderful hospital care, and the love of friends and family. Time erased some of the horrors, and as I watch the beautiful, winged visitors to my garden, I am making happy memories to replace the bad ones.

I begin with a set of bird books that I acquired over the years. At the end of this posting there is a bibliography of my favorites, and a brief review of the gardening book, Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife by David Mizejewski.

I spent most of the 'count' sitting in my favorite armchair in front of the French window which looks out onto our one birdfeeder and a water dish. H.H. keeps the feeder filled, year-round, with a quality bird seed mix that he purchases from our local conservation district's environmental center. He heats the water in the dish in the winter. I was blessed to see dark-eyed juncos, cardinals, downy woodpeckers, American goldfinches, nuthatches, titmice, bluebirds, chickadees, a Carolina wren, and one sparrow. I photographed some of them ...

Of course, the bluebirds are still my favorite, and I'm always glad to get new pictures of them.

Eastern Bluebirds

Clockwise from top left: female cardinal, bluebird, cardinal, goldfinch, wren.
For the Bird Count you need to record the highest number of each species you see together on one day. The dark-eyed juncos won in my garden, as I saw as many as nine scratching away under the bird feeder at one time.
Dark-eyed junco waiting for his turn at the bird feeder.
The American goldfinches came second. They enjoyed the pond, and loved eating the seeds of the purple cone flowers near the pond. I counted seven of them there, but couldn't get them all in a picture at one time.
American goldfinches wearing their olive-green winter coats, by the fishpond.
American goldfinches eating the seeds of Echinacea purpurea.
I recently posted about Purple Cone Flowers and you can read about them by clicking here.

Time passes so quickly. I can't believe we are in year two of the Eastern Pennsylvania Phenology Project. Reading their blog and mine reminds me how different is this year compared with last. Last year on this date the garden was covered with snow, and the snow had a layer of ice on top, which made walking treacherous. Today, there is no deep snow as I stroll through the Woodland Walk, and am amazed to hear bird song. I can identify the cardinal and the mourning dove, but I'm sorry to say I don't recognize any more. The clock in the garden room plays a different birdsong each hour, but that hasn't helped me, as I can't carry a tune myself. The crows are cawing away, and a red-tailed hawk flies overhead making quite a din. Of course, I recognize the sound of the Canadian geese honking their way north.  I count 37 in the flock. H.H. saw three bald eagles fly over our lower field, yesterday. How I envy him, as I have yet to see an eagle. A mile from our house, there is a 'Fish and Pay' lake, and the eagles live on the wooded hill behind it. There are often sightings, but not by me.

Again, what a difference the passing of time makes! Last year at this time, there was no visible sign of plant life.  As I walk around my gardens now I find snowdrops, hellebore buds, leaves on the honeysuckle, and I spot the green of ferns and foxgloves.

The angel blows a fanfare to herald the emerging snowdrops.
Christmas Fern
The blue sign lies; the bluebells are definitely awake...

Clockwise from top left: snowdrops, daffodils, heuchera, honeysuckle.
A dusting of snow in the Woodland Walk and top field. Hellebore buds.
It's the last day of the Bird Count, and I have a big surprise -- an unexpected visitor to the water dish! Do you know what it is? ...

I didn't recognize him immediately -- good thing I have my trusty collection of bird field guides. The Northern Mockingbird can stay in the northeast all year, but usually winters further south, so I was very excited to see him here today. What a wonderful ending to the Bird Count.

I am linking this posting to Donna's Word 4 Wednesday at Garden Walk Garden Talk. The word this month is TIME. And to Holley's Garden Book Review at Roses and Other Gardening Joys Be sure to check out these two wonderful blogs.

Think spring! It wont be long now.
Pamela x


Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife by David Mizejweski
This book was produced by the manager of the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat Program. USA TODAY Magazine says, it "...describes in full and fascinating detail how to get the varied citizens of Mother Nature to set up shop on your property ..." It teaches how to restore wildlife habitat in your own yard, by providing the conditions that birds and butterflies need to thrive. Reintroducing native plants is key. The book includes several fun projects for the whole family. The wildlife photographs are outstanding!!


Birds of Pennsylvania by Stan Tekiela
Birds: Eastern Region. National Audubon Society's Field Guide.
Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region by Donald and Lillian Stokes.

I recommend all of these books.

P. x

~~ I love reading your comments. I hope you leave one so I’ll know you visited!
I look forward to visiting your blog in return.


  1. Pam, I saw your news item come in while looking at my FB page and clicked through to your blog post. Yes, what a difference a year makes. I am so glad you have recovered.

    I knew your bird was a Mockingbird immediately because it is my favorite songbird. I love to hear them when I'm outside in the summer. I can't wait for summer. What a winter we are having. I hope we get a very early spring!

    I owe you an to you soon.


    Mary Anne

  2. Hi Pam,

    I so enjoyed reading your post. I was excited when I saw it, because I published a similar post on my blog yesterday, and a previous one about a month ago. We have two feeders outside our kitchen window, and we've seen all the birds you mentioned except the bluebirds. The eastern bluebird is probably my very favorite bird. My MIL says we need to put water out and we'll probably start getting some bluebirds.

    I don't remember if you mentioned chickadees or not, but we get lots of those. They're so sweet! Also, we live in North Carolina, so we have lots of Carolina wrens and mockingbirds. We have the Downy Woodpeckers and we now have a Red-bellied woodpecker as well. Such fun to watch them all. :)

    I've been a follower on your blog for some time now. I hope you'll get a chance to visit my blog and see the bird posts.

    Hope you have a great week!


  3. I have not see any mockingbirds around...perhaps they are out there but scarce at the moment. I see lots of them in spring and summer. Blue birds are my favorite as well. I never tire of seeing them.

  4. Such a beautiful reminder to stop and admire our little garden guests! My son is on mid-winter break and is an avid bird watcher, or as avid as one can be at 9yrs old. We will start counting our birds and documenting. LOVE the little blue birds, we don't get anything like those they are gorgeous! Glad you can enjoy the bird count this year...Here's to health and many twittering visitors!! Cheers Julia

  5. Hi Pam! It is so nice to read your blog again. I, too, am enjoying the birds at my feeder. I have seen some of the same ones you have. Additionally, there are Blue Jays that love the peanuts in my feeder. The only bad thing about having nuts in the seed is that my 2 resident squirrels love them, too! I hope you have rested over the winter so you are ready for the spring thaw. Be well. Pat

  6. The juncos won at our house, too! We participated for the first time today, and my little kids had a ball, too, pointing out any birds they saw. (Good think we were indoors, or all the excited noise would have scared them all away!)

    We have a mockingbird that I see every so often here - it took me forever to identify him, though! I need to buy a good bird id book - thanks for the recommendations!

  7. Time and gardens go hand in hand. Thanks for joining, my post will be on Wednesday. Love all the birds, but I love the the bluebirds the most. I have not seen them since I lived in PA.

  8. I was very impressed with the number and different types of birds that you saw. I love the little bluebirds, too. So colorful and pretty. I also love the little goldfinches, and what a great pic of them feeding off your purple cone flowers! So glad you have recovered completely. Thanks for linking in!

  9. I enjoyed the photos of your garden birds, especially the eastern bluebirds. In my garden I have seen only mourning doves, hummers, blue jays, and an occasional crow, although my husband saw a hawk a few weeks ago. Thank you for the book review, and as obvious as it seems, I am ashamed to say that I never thought about the advantage of planting native plants to attract birds!

  10. What a difference a year makes! Glad to read you're better now. We don't have those birds in the UK, though are gardens look quite similar.

  11. I much enjoyed reading your posting and love the pictures of all your emerging plants - I love this time of year - full of surprises of plants forgotton about from the previous year. You've also some really pretty birds - not ones we get in France but great to see...Thankyou - Miranda

  12. I'm so pleased that you're back to full health now, Pam. My dad suffered a heart attack at the end of April last year, he had to have stents put in, but is fine again now. It's amazing how far medicine has come and just what they can do nowadays. I missed our Garden Birdwatch this year as I had other commitments, but I do love to watch the birds feeding in the garden any time. You have some wonderful birds where you are, especially the bluebird, that would be my favourite, but how wonderful to see a mockingbird.

  13. It's amazing how many different species of birds there are around when you actually take the time to count them. The bluebirds are a fav...

  14. We missed out on the bird count this year, we are visited by many, none so colourful though. Those bluebirds are just amazing and as for a mockingbird in your garden, just takes me back to the early 60s with Gregory Peck and Mary Badham.

  15. Alistair -- Atticus and Scout! To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite movies! Thanks for visiting. P.

  16. I am so glad that you are happy and healthy for this year's bird count. All your plants look good too.

    I will try to decipher your new word verification but generally I am not going to comment on blogs with this new system because I can't read it. Now I am on try number two.

  17. I love to watch the birds through my french doors in my sewing room. I get a few pictures but they mosty fly away when I walk up to the window. Enjoyed your blog.

  18. Great assortment of birds and how wonderful to see a mockingbird at the end. Mostly it's just nice that you're here with us this year to enjoy the birds.

  19. Hurray, I got rid of that awful word verification! Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful comments. It should be easier for you to post them in future. P. x

  20. Pam,
    I am so glad that you are in a happier state this year, as well as the garden! Nice that they coincide.

    The last time I spotted a mocking bird, it was in eastern PA. It took me a minute because he was crooking like a toad from the high tree top! Funny thing to hear. But he soon changed his tune, as they always do.

    I hope your count turns up more fun this week!

  21. I was at our farm for the weekend and the bluebirds won there. I saw two pileated woodpeckers which was exciting!

  22. We counted for the first time this year - it was great fun! I need to look for your wildlife book - sounds like just what I need.

  23. Yes Pam, what a difference a year makes, so take care very well, be happy, exercise and eat healthy, and you will be fine. I love all your photos, let's all join together in praying for each other. God bless.

  24. It's good to know that the year is treating you right. I enjoyed reading your post and viewing the photos. I am a bird enthusiast myself, and I love bird feeding the most. I typically use bird feeders in feeding the birds, primarily for the reason that the device greatly attracts them and easily provides food.

  25. You need to waft some of these beautiful birds back here to ol' Blighty Pam! x

  26. Pam, you have to keep looking, the bald eagle is going to fly over your field one of these days! Your garden is looking all new and "springy". Lovely and exciting.

  27. I love watching birds in winter too, especially when I'm warm and snug inside watching them through the window. We don't have anywhere near the variety you do, I love your photos of the bluebirds and cardinals.. so pretty!

  28. Pam my favorite is the bluebird as well and they were numbering the most for me during the count....sounds like a great book i will check out!!

  29. Neither the bluebells or bluebirds were sleeping here Pam. Some great observations and always good to catch aspects of your garden. I liked the bench in the woodland - looks like the gardener is preparing to be busy again soon

  30. It's lovely to see some of the different species of birds you have - quite different to the ones in England! Your bluebell sign is gorgeous by the way!!

  31. Watch the birds maorning and night.
    Can't be without them.

  32. Pam, my parents had that clock! My dad loved bird watching. You have some great photos and some great birds in the back yard! Jeannine

  33. Can it be a whole year? I am so glad to see you are recovered and making fresh happy memories!