Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wildlife Wednesday - January 2015

The new year is bringing new wildlife to my garden!  I'm excited to share my new visitors with you as part of Tina's Wildlife Wednesday over at My Gardener Says.

New Visitors

While I was out of town over the holidays, my husband remained at home in Texas and noticed some commotion in the yard one day.  After looking out the window, he noticed a hawk was swooping down into our bushes, looking to catch a tasty meal of the poultry type.  He quickly grabbed his phone and snapped a couple of quick pics for me (sorry for the poor quality), but props to him, knowing this was a sight I'd want to see.

The hawk was a bit small in size compared to other hawks I've seen.  And with his (her?) coloring, my best guess is that this is a sharp-shinned hawk.  Another possibility might be Cooper's hawk.  If I have any bird experts reading this post, I'd appreciate a confirmation or correction.  This type of hawk fancies smaller birds for meals, which made sense, since the hubby said the visitor was chasing some of the birds in the yard.

Just a week ago, I noticed a pile of feathers just a few feet away from the evergreen bush captured in the picture below.  I assume our new visitor had captured a tasty treat.  From what I could tell, the hawk appeared to have gotten a white-winged dove for its meal, which is fine by me, since there are a few too many white-winged doves hanging around my yard.

This guys was definitely my favorite visitor over the past month.

This past weekend, I noticed another hawk circling overhead.  I think it might be a different hawk, since the undercarriage looks much more red/rusty brown instead of which with rusty splotches.

Another new visitor to the garden this month were European Starlings.  They are considered an invasive species, competing with native birds and destroying crops.

Rare Guests

Given the colder months and scarcer food sources, I've noticed some visitors to the garden that I tend to see much more frequently during the winter time, including...

...the ladder-backed woodpecker...

...the Eastern bluebird...

...Inca doves...

...and the tufted titmouse.

I also had a large army of Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars in my dill and parsley over the past month (and yes, a group of caterpillars is called an army).  I started with at least 20 cats and last I checked over the weekend, there were still at least 10 out there in their last instar.  I'm not sure if they will survive the freezing temperatures headed our way this week.  I've certainly been impressed with the nearly- freezing temps they have already survived, so maybe there is still hope for them to make it through the looming cold front.

Common Patrons

That brings us to the visitors that I can see out in the yard almost every day...

...the Carolina chickadee...

...the Carolina wren...

...the Lesser goldfinches...

...and of course, the sparrows.  After a decent rain last week, the sparrows were really enjoying their time splashing around in all the impromptu bird baths.

Overall, here is a count of all the birds I noticed in the garden over the last month:

  • 40 white-winged doves
  • 20-25 sparrows
  • 12 yellow-rumped warblers
  • 6 Inca doves
  • 6-8 Lesser goldfinches
  • 3 Carolina wrens
  • 2 Carolina chickadees
  • 2 Northern cardinals (1 male, 1 female)
  • 2 blue jays
  • 2 Eastern bluebirds
  • 2 European starlings
  • 2 ladder-backed woodpeckers (1 male, 1 female)
  • 2 house finches
  • 1 red-bellied woodpecker
  • 1 tufted titmouse

Be sure to check out the wildlife other gardeners have found in their beds and yards at My Gardener Says!


  1. ...and a partridge in a pear tree! You hit the wildlife jackpot! Lucky you--nice hub who takes photos while you're gone and lots bird visitors. The smaller hawk is a Cooper's. I also saw one in a neighbor's tree, but didn't get good shots of it--he was upsetting the bluejays. I think the other is a red tailed. And the bluebirds--that's a real treat. I haven't seen any of those in a long time.

    Thanks for joining in--you had a great wildlife month!

    1. Thanks for the clarification on the Cooper's hawk. It was a bit tricky to try to differentiate between the sharp-shinned and Cooper's. I'm not too sure about the one circling overhead being a red tail (at least based on internet pictures). The one I saw has black/gray bands on it's tail vs. the red of the red-tailed and more of a red belly and neck than what the red-tail has. However, internet pics can be deceiving and mislabeled and I'm certainly no expert when it comes to hawks. Looks like I'm due for another book or two on Texas birds. Thanks for checking out my wildlife and hosting such a fun meme!

  2. You are a list maker after my own heart. I admire your willingness to keep track this way - I more typically make entirely unsupported guesses as to how many of any type, much less how many types of avian visitors we are getting.

    And you are right - hawks are particularly tricky to ID. Hopefully yours will visit routinely and you'll have plenty of chances to sort it all out at your leisure. Happy Wildlife Wednesday!

    1. I doubt I would be able to survive without making lists :-) I seem to make lists for everything! Whether it is to help me be productive, remember what I want/need to do, or just to observe and track changes. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the hawks. I think they realize just how many doves and sparrows I have hanging around my yard and know it is a great buffet place for them.

  3. What a great collection! Having so many birds visit is such a gift. I used to find weird piles of feathers in our yard and blamed the neighbourhood cats. But I couldn't help but wonder at them because they were always arranged in a near perfect circle. I tried to picture the drama that would make such a pattern but a bird trying to escape and losing tufts of down just didn't make much sense. Then one day I stumbled upon a description of how raptors prepare their prey. I spent the next week apologizing to every cat I met for the terrible slander I had been recklessly spreading. Gruesome.

    1. I also found a perfect circular pile of feathers in the yard and assumed it was the hawk, but wasn't very familiar with their preparation method. Your description made me curious and I YouTubed "hawks preparing their prey." Gross and awesome all at the same time. I would love to witness a National Geographic moment in my yard and see a hawk catch a dove, kill it, and prepare it. Does that make me dark and cruel?

  4. Beautiful pictures, Rebecca! It looks like you had a crowd of visitors the past month. I like your hawk photos. We also have starlings. I guess they've moved in for the winter. The goldfinches are nice, too. I wish we had them up this way. And the caterpillars! How wonderful! How do you go about making your bird list for a month? Do you check the site at the same time each day? Great post.

    1. I wish I had that kind of discipline and time to be more scientific about my observations! I usually do most of my bird-watching on the weekends while drinking a cup of coffee or while playing in the garden. I haven't been very good about keeping a bird list, so I'm trying to start writing down all the birds I see and their approximate numbers during the weekends that I get the chance to do some decent bird-watching. Thanks for stopping by!