Seasonal Bird News

Fall Wood Thrush Shop Notes

Right on schedule we are beginning to see birds returning to feeders. Yesterday, I had a nice group of Goldfinches appear at a feeder with Wood Thrush Shop Finch Blend. Of course they were in their drab winter plumage. Be on the lookout for Pine Siskins mixing in with Goldfinch flocks. Downy and Red-bellied woodpeckers were visiting the suet, and Chickadees, Titmice, and Nuthatches were busily making repeated trips to the black-oil sunflower feeders. Cardinals are showing up, too, but usually very early and very late, before first light of day and just before night. If it wasn’t for their “chipping” calls indicating their presence they could easily be missed.

 Goldfinch in winter plumage.

Goldfinch in winter plumage.

 Pine Siskin can mix with goldfinch through the winter months.

Pine Siskin can mix with goldfinch through the winter months.

We mentioned a couple of weeks ago to be on the lookout for some of our winter visitors. Sure enough we are seeing and getting reports of White-throated sparrows, Juncos, Purple Finch, Yellow-bellied sapsucker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Brown Creeper. Wood Thrush employee Eli got this great shot of a Brown Creeper in his yard. Brown Creepers are most likely to visit suet feeders. Suet is a great addition to your seed feeders and can attract some very interesting birds, particularly in winter.

 You can follow Eli on instagram at  lightorflight_photography

You can follow Eli on instagram at lightorflight_photography

If you haven’t given your feeders a good cleaning in a while now would be a good time. And if your feeders need a little maintenance keep in mind we stock parts for quite a few of our feeders and can usually make repairs on the spot, or in a day or two. If you’ve had seed stored in a container for a few months a word of caution. Open it outside because it may be full of Indian Mealmoths and you don’t want them getting loose in the house. They don’t go after your clothes but prefer things like dry dogfood, flour, crackers, cereal, etc.

And speaking of seed we have been getting questions about a seed sale. Typically we wait until the harvest is in full swing and new crop begins to appear. This will give us a chance to see if seed prices are going to increase, or decrease. Seed is a commodity and prices are subject to change based on supply and demand. At some point we will announce a “Seed Sale “and you will be able to buy multiple bags at a discount and to be stored here.

The holidays are right around the corner which means The Wood Thrush Shop is gearing up with new merchandise as well as some of the old popular standbys. As always we will be stocking the very popular

Mr. Bird Birdseed Ornaments and a variety of bird and wildlife ornaments. A new feeder or a Heartwood birdhouse always makes a great gift.

And look for weekly special through the coming months. Between Friday Nov. 2 and Thursday Nov. 8 all Droll Yankee and Aspects products will be 20% Off. That includes seed feeders, hummingbird feeders, baffles, weather guards, trays, and accessories.

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Winter Birds Arriving

 Dark Eyed Junco

Dark Eyed Junco

 White-Throated Sparrow

White-Throated Sparrow

Although things have been a little quiet at the feeders some of our winter visitors will soon begin to appear at feeding stations.  This is the time when I begin ground feeding more.  Birds like Juncos, White-throated sparrows, White-crowned sparrows, and Fox sparrows start to quietly sneak into the picture below feeders and near areas of good cover like the brush piles I’ve created.  This handsome group of little birds likes white millet on the ground.  Sometimes you have to look closely to see them as they can blend into the leaves.  

 Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

 Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Other birds we look forward to seeing are Pine siskins and Purple finch, which may be seen in good numbers at finch and sunflower feeders.  Pine siskins and Purple finch are here practically every winter but their numbers may vary greatly.  Pine siskins may go unnoticed at finch feeders, blending in with the Goldfinches in their dull winter plumage.  Siskins are the size of a Goldfinch and their plumage is described as heavily streaked with a touch of yellow in the wings and base of the tail.  Listen for the buzzy “shreeee” sound Siskins make.  A flock of siskins may sound like bacon frying.  Goldfinches have slowly been returning to my feeders this week, although at first they were almost imperceptible because of their lack of color. 

Purple Finch on the left. House Finch on the right.

Purple finches are often confused with House finches.  While we see House finches year round at our feeders Purple finch are typically here only in the late fall and winter months.  The male Purple finch has a more raspberry red color that is most prominent on the chest, head and rump.  The head of the Purple finch is slightly crowned too. 

Suet feeders often produce some of the best surprises of the winter.  Golden and Ruby crowned kinglets will visit suet, as will the Yellow-bellied sapsucker and Red breasted nuthatch, Yellow-rumped and Orange crowned warblers, and Bluebirds and Brown Creepers

You may have noticed a lack of Goldfinches at your feeders. This is normal for this time of year. Read our post on “where did all the Goldfinches go”.  And every winter there are a few folks that will enjoy an overwintering hummingbird, like the Rufous, Anna’s, or even Black-chinned hummingbird.  If you see a hummingbird in the month of November or December please give us a call.

As always, a consistent supply of water is a great way to attract birds, especially in the winter.  Birdbath de-icers are now in stock.

Attracting Warblers

Fall is a Great Time to Garden for the Birds

Fall is the best time to plant and perhaps you are thinking about adding something to your landscape that appeals to birds and wildlife. Fantastic! Adding plants is a great way to attract birds of all kinds but especially those that do not regularly visit seed feeders. I’m referring to the small tropical birds known as Warblers. This diverse and beautiful group of birds goes unnoticed by many backyard birders because their yards don’t have the habitat appeal necessary to pull them in. Each spring Warblers migrate into and through TN on the way to their breeding destination. As they travel they are searching for food, water, and suitable, safe resting areas.

Native trees and shrubs are critical to attracting birds of all kinds and especially warblers. Native plants attract native insects, an important food source to migrating birds. In spring when leaves are first opening the first caterpillars begin hatching which is an abundant and important food source for all migrating birds. In early fall native trees and shrubs are producing fruit that will help fuel their migration back to the tropics. The fruit also attracts native insects which then become an important source of protein. You can’t go wrong planting natives because they are, typically, less susceptible to disease and insect problems.

 Male American Redstart

Male American Redstart

 Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Here’s a short list of some of my favorite native plants and shrubs:

 Devils Walking Stick, Berries

Devils Walking Stick, Berries

 American Beautyberry

American Beautyberry

Serviceberry               Bottlebrush Buckeye            Devils Walking Stick

American Beautyberry  Redbud                                Dogwood

Hawthorn                       Persimmon                           American Holly

Winterberry                    Eastern Red Cedar               Mountain Laurel

Sumac                            Oak and Maple varieties       Viburnums

and there are so many more great plants to choose from.

But Warblers need water, too, and from my experience water is the x factor.  It is probably that my water source is very easy to see from in my home that I have seen more Warbler species there than anywhere else in my yard.  Bubbling, moving water is much more appealing than the standard pedestal type birdbath.  Keep the water moving in some way and birds will be drawn.  There are drippers and misters that run on water pressure provided by a standard outside faucet, and waterfall rocks powered by an electric pump that are quite effective at keeping water moving.  I recently hung a plastic jug with a pin hole above a standard pedestal birdbath.  When filled with water the jug will provide a steady drip for a few hours at a time.  The dripping and subsequent rippling effect is absolutely more appealing than a still source of water.

So, if making your yard more appealing to birds is on your mind think about native plants and water.  It is a combination that most definitely works.

For more information about native plants please take a look at the TN Native Plants Society website, www.tnps.org, or check out a local grower like Growild located in Fairview, TN. Their website is www.growildinc.com

Fall Migration Notes

Fall Migration is underway and while your birdfeeders will slow down as we approach October birdwatching will only get more interesting.  Have your binoculars with you and ready because warblers are pouring through middle Tennessee stopping to feed in the early mornings on insects and berries.  Mornings are the best time to see lots of different species of warblers.  And mornings after a storm tend to be even better.  Make time to visit one of the many great local birdwatching areas this fall to see some of them.  For information about great places to birdwatch click on the links below…

  • Tennessee Birding Trails is a great website for locating trails for specific types of birding.

  • Tennessee Birding Facebook group has an active community of birders who post often.

  • Tennessee Ornithological Society (TOS) Nashville Chapter is having their Radnor Lake Wed morning bird walks September 19th and continue each Wednesday through October 10th. Please meet in the west Parking lot outside the Visitor’s Center at 7:30am. Come rain or shine. With the exception of ongoing downpours or thunderstorms.

  • TN-BIRD email list is a free list that allows you to get updates of bird sighting from other birders in the area. to receive emails simply click on “find and join” at the top right of the tn-bird page, search for list name tn-bird, and follow the instructions on signing up your email.


One of the more interesting, easy, and fun things to see in the fall is the migration of Chimney Swifts and Common Nighthawks. In the evenings, particularly in areas where there is outdoor lighting, like high school football games and shopping malls, Common Nighthawks gather and feed on insects. Downtown areas tend to be very productive areas to see both.

The Common Nighthawk, a member of the Goatsuckers family, measures around 9 1/2 “in length. They are gray-brown with slim, long wings that have a distinctive white bar near the tips. They are most active at night but can be seen midday as well. They fly with long easy strokes but can quickly change direction and appear erratic as they catch flying insects. Male Nighthawks have a white throat and white band across a notched tail. Listen for the unusual “peent” call of the Nighthawk.

The Chimney Swift is a short swallowlike bird with long, slightly curved wings. Peterson’s field guide to Eastern Birds describes it as a “cigar with wings”. Always in motion, Swifts appear to continually fly never landing to rest and constantly “twitter”. They measure about 5 ½” in length and are uniformly grayish to brown. During migration Swifts have been known to roost together by the thousands in a single chimney. On more than a few occasions I have witnessed a “funnel” of swifts descending into the chimney of a downtown building while on my way to a Predators game. It is a fascinating sight.


And About Hummingbirds

We may see Ruby-throated hummingbirds well into October so keep your feeders out with fresh nectar as there may be several waves of hummingbirds still coming through TN on their return to Central and South America. The belief that feeders should be taken down to cause the birds to migrate is incorrect.  They will leave when they are ready whether there is a feeder present or not.  

Fall slow down at feeders

Many of you have already noticed a slow down at your feeders.  Sometimes it can be abrupt and dramatic.  You may even notice some species become practically non-existent.  Bird feeders in September and October are typically very quiet. This is surprising to some but actually normal and understandable.  With the conclusion of the breeding season birds are now in less need of a quick, easy food source... your feeders.  While raising their young during the months of March through July birds expend tremendous amounts of energy and will take great advantage of backyard feeders.  We sell more seed and suet during those months than we do in winter. 

Now young birds are independent and the lives of adult birds are at a much more leisurely pace.  On top of that nature is producing an abundance of food at this time.  Not only are insects still plentiful but every tree, shrub, weed, and wildflower has produced seeds, nuts, and fruit.  There is literally food for birds everywhere.  It is a great example of the fact that birds do not rely on our feeders but simply take advantage of them in times of more demand for food.  So, don’t worry that you are not seeing many birds around the feeders right now.  It is totally normal. About the time we get the first frost or two, you will begin to see a return of your favorite birds to feeders.  I don’t know about you but a good frost sounds good right about now. 

And you will begin to see our winter visitors, like Junco’s, White-throated sparrows, Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, Kinglets, and hopefully, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, and Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Keep this in mind while you are buying your seed next time.  It’s advisable to buy smaller quantities until birds begin visiting with more frequency in November.  Remember, the more seed you end up storing in a container over the next two months the more chance there is of having a bug hatch.   

And while birds take a break from your feeders take time to give your feeders a thorough cleaning.  Warm soapy water, a brush, and a little effort are well worth the effort to provide a clean, healthy feeding environment for the birds. 

 Disassemble your feeder if possible and soak it warm soapy water. Use brushes to clean caked on debris.

Disassemble your feeder if possible and soak it warm soapy water. Use brushes to clean caked on debris.

Store update: Item are still available on our 50% off table. Also all remaining mailbox covers, flags, and door mats are 50% off to make room for new fall and winter designs.