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Showing posts from August, 2012

Black-headed Grosbeak

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The Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) in the Cardinal family is one of our summer birds.  They breed in all of the western U.S. states and southern British Columbia, but spend their winters in Mexico.  Males are handsome devils, with orange breast and neck, black mask and a tortoise shell pattern on the wings and back.


Melanocephalus literally means "black headed" in Greek, but this refers specifically to the male's coloring.  Female and juvenile Black-headed Grosbeaks have paler buff undersides and white eyebrow stripes.  A thick bill is designed for cracking open seeds. They also like insects, spiders, fruits and berries.  They are one of the few birds that can feed on the Monarch Butterfly in their Mexican wintering grounds.  Monarchs accumulate noxious chemicals in their bodies from their milkweed diet that most birds avoid.


Locally, these birds can be attracted to feeders with suet, safflower seed, apple slices and peanuts.  They prefer a forest edge…

BirdCam Weekend

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Dies caniculares, the dog days of summer have provided warm, sultry temperatures to South Fidalgo Island.  After a week of hot weather, the weekend brought overcast skies and a cool down.  Activity at the two BirdCam stations brings the usual late summer pattern.  A lot of juveniles are making their debuts while summer and year-around residents are looking a bit past their prime.  In the morning twilight, an oregonusSpotted Towhee male enjoys some suet for breakfast at BirdCam Two.  In early morning and evening, I would hear calls that resembled a coach's whistle coming from the trees.  I finally figured out it was one of the Spotted Towhee's vocalizations.


A group of Chestnut-backed Chickadees is called a banditry.  These little guys are bold and energetic and their visits come with a lot of chatter.  I get dozens of them in the Madrona trees where they forage for spiders and insects.


The Black-headed Grosbeak is our only member of the Cardinal family.  The name actually desc…

Narcissus at the BirdCam

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The BirdCam catches a Townsend's Chipmunk (Tamias townsendii) getting a drink at the birdbath station.  He pauses to admire his reflection in the water evoking the story of Narcissus from Greek Mythology.

When Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool, he fell in love with it.  He lingered there admiring his own image until he died.


My little friend is not as vain as the guy in the Greek legend, but he seems to enjoy having his picture taken.  Their photos have been captured at the BirdCam stations several times.  Townsend's Chipmunks are year-around residents on South Fidalgo and are active through the winter here.  Where winters are colder, they will hibernate in their underground burrows.

Oregon State University provides some tips for attracting them to the wildlife garden.  Give them a source of water, some brush piles, rock piles, rotten logs and dense plantings for cover.  They enjoy berries, Salal fruits, conifer seeds, maple seeds and the same high quality seeds we provid…