Female and male goldfinch eating from sunflower plants

Female and male goldfinch eating from sunflower plants

A family of goldfinches has taken over the sunflower patch.  Luckily, the bees don’t seem to mind.  The birds flit from flower to flower, nibbling on the sunflower seed hearts.  There is usually at least one male and one female present.  Sometimes they bring Junior, who waits patiently on the top-most flower for mom or dad to feed him.  They have made quite a mess, leaving the seed shells all over the deck, but the show is worth the mess.  They seem to be the only birds interested in the sunflowers, but the squirrels enjoy them too.  This morning I found a half-eaten sunflower on the deck railing.

Between the bees and the goldfinches, I’ve found that the sunflowers are a good bang for your buck in the garden!

Click here for more information about attracting goldfinches!

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Fledgling Cardinal

Fledgling Cardinal

“We should all do what, in the long run, give us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.”

E. B. White

The grapevines at Dragonwyck Sanctuary were heavy with sweet, white grapes.  As such, we spent much of today picking (and eating) grapes.  And we were not alone.  In the early hours of the morning, a family of cardinals flew into the trees above the grapevines.  They stayed there all day long.  (In fact, it is 7:30 pm, and I can still hear those baby cardinals chirping away!)  The mother and father took turns joining us in the grapevines, taking grapes, and bringing them back to their offspring waiting in the nearby trees.  There were two fledgling cardinals—old enough to fly independently, but young enough to require assistance feeding.  We only saw them several times during the day, but we heard their continuous chirping throughout the day.  It was a big cardinal family event.

Baby Grackle Watching Cardinal Family

Baby Grackle Watching Cardinal Family

The cardinals were not the only birds partaking in the feast of grapes.  A catbird and a robin stopped by several times as well.  We also had a baby grackle come for a visit.  He seemed a little out of sorts.  He watched the cardinal family for a while, almost as if he wanted to join them.  Like the cardinals, the grackle was old enough to fly independently, but he was not very graceful.  He fell off a branch once, and later got tangled in a cluster of leaves.  He flew over to the People Pond for a swim, but one of the frogs jumped at him, and he immediately left with a squawk.  We never did see a grackle parent, but he didn’t seem injured or in any danger.

Overall, there was a lot of activity around the grapes today, but nobody seemed to mind that we were underneath those grapevines.  The birds enjoyed them so much that we ended up leaving half of them on the vines.

We picked over three gallons of grapes.  Tomorrow--jam!

We picked over three gallons of grapes. Tomorrow--jam!

Black-capped night heron waiting for pond access.

Black-crowned night heron waiting for pond access.

He’s baaaaack!

This morning, about 6:30 a.m., we crept outside to see if we could spy some very tiny frogs that we have been glimpsing as they dart away from us in a flash.  As we approached the Ponderosa, our friend the night heron flew into this tree.  He just sat there, staring down at us.  He was rather skittish during his last visit.  I am assuming he was waiting for us to leave so he could sample more of our wares.  After about ten minutes we waved our arms and chased him away.

We were able to get much closer to him this time.  I hadn’t appreciated the enormity of this bird until now.  He is huge!  It is hard to convey this in the photos.

I’m pretty sure that he arrived only when we were outside.  I didn’t see any evidence that he had been there earlier.  Last time all the fish were huddled at the far end of the pond.  Also, Tommy (one of our two large bullfrog residents of the People Pond) was sitting by the thalia plant, as he does most mornings at that time.  We didn’t see any other frogs, but that is pretty common for the early morning.

A Morning Surprise

July 12, 2009

Black-Crowned Night Heron

black-crowned night heron hunting for goldfish

This morning we awoke to find this guy hunting in the Ponderosa.  He had just caught a fish and flew up to a nearby tree branch.  We stayed inside watching from the window, and he stayed on his branch watching us.  He finally came back down and slowly made his way over to the edge of the pond.  Even though we knew he was hunting our fish, we couldn’t bring ourselves to chase him away.   He stood at the edge for a few minutes, motionless.  Then in two quick strides, he walked into the pond and plucked out our largest goldfish!  At that point we ran outside, hoping that we could startle him into dropping it.  He just flew off, screaming at us with the fish in his mouth.  He landed on the roof of the house across the street and watched us as he choked down the fish.

We were able to identify the bird as a black-crowned night heron.  Apparently, they prefer to hunt at night.  Hopefully he wasn’t hunting in the Ponderosa all night long!