red breasted nuthatch

Spring Migration

Spring Migration is in full swing which means there will be a lot of interesting birds to see if you spend a little time looking around your yard, or at any of our wonderful parks and greenways. If you are going out for your morning, or afternoon walk don’t forget your binoculars because the neo-tropical migrants are passing through, or arriving in middle Tennessee every day on the way to their summer breeding areas. Warblers, Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Tanagers, Swallows, Hummingbirds, and many other species are there for the viewing if you try. Early in the morning, between 6 am and 10 am are best to see some of these birds because many of them migrate at night then settle down in the mornings to feed and rest.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Male Indigo Bunting

Male Indigo Bunting

The first Ruby-throated hummingbirds to arrive or pass through TN have already been sighted. Usually one, maybe two hummingbird feeders at this time of year is enough. Don’t bother filling your feeder to full capacity at this time as the feeders are of little interest to them this early.

In the coming weeks at your feeders expect to see the always popular Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings. Of course American Goldfinches are here in abundance year round but are now putting on their bright yellow spring plumage.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak

RB Grosbeak males are quite handsome with their black and white plumage and v-shaped splash of red on the chest, while females are brown and white with heavy streaking. Both have the distinguishable heavy beak. These birds may be seen in good numbers at your feeders. In years past I’ve seen as many as a dozen at a time, or some years just a few. They are fond of several types of seeds and feeders. Sunflower and Safflower are the more preferred seeds, while platform, hopper, and tube type feeders all work well. Let us know when you see one.

Purple Finch

Purple Finch

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Interestingly there are still good numbers of our winter visitors like Purple finch, Pine Siskin, and even Red-breasted Nuthatches in the area.

Reports of Bluebirds with completed nests and with eggs are sprinkling in. It’s still relatively early and plenty of time to attract Bluebirds to a nest box. In years past I would not see a first Bluebird nest until late April.

For daily bird sightings reports of migrating birds you may want to subscribe to TN bird e-mail list, or visit Tennessee Birding on Facebook.

Spring birding class

There is still time to register for Richard Connors bird identification class at Radnor Lake this spring. The 5-week class runs Tuesday mornings from April 9th to May 7th, and includes classroom sessions and morning bird walks. Radnor is a premier location for spring migrants and those migrants are often heard more easily than seen, so this spring class will emphasize "birding by ear". We will work on bird identification by sound as well as by sight. The class is open to beginners, but some prior knowledge of our local birds will be helpful. There is a fee for the 5 week class with part of the proceeds going to Friends of Radnor Lake.

For more information see this web page:

http://www.pbase.com/rconnorsnaturephoto/spring_bird_class_2019

To register for the class contact Richard at rconnorsphoto@aol.com or 615 832-0521.

Winter bird activity

We hope everyone had a great holiday season and many thanks to all of you who shopped with us and brought us baked goods. We greatly appreciate all of you. During the holidays we get so busy running the store our weekly blog takes a vacation. Many of you give us favorable feedback on our blogs, which is nice to hear, but if there is a subject you think we should touch on please let us know.

So far this has been a fairly uninteresting winter for bird feeding enthusiasts. Although people have seen Red-breasted Nuthatches at feeders sightings have slowed. If you live where there is a presence of pine or cedar trees keep a close eye on your feeders this cold weekend. Red-breasted Nuthatches show a preference for areas with pine and/or cedar. Since I have no pine trees I recently ventured out to Montgomery Bell State Park and only had to step out of my truck in the visitor parking area to see a group of 5 or 6 in the cedar tree I had parked near. By the way if you really want to see Red-headed Woodpeckers you will see them at Montgomery Bell. They, too, seem to prefer open areas adjacent to forest along with lots of pine trees. I enjoy golfing and birding at MB and marvel at the great numbers of “Red-heads “present.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

Red-headed Woodpecker.

With the fluctuations in temperature come fluctuations in feeder consistency. On warm days, anything in the 50’s or more, insects become active and your feeder birds may gravitate to the sudden availability of protein. Birds do not live on seed and suet alone and never will. Customers sometimes make the comment “the birds must be confused”. Not likely. They simply adapt to changing weather patterns and take advantage of whatever food sources become available. Although, on Tuesday when it reached nearly 70 degrees I heard some birds singing which is usually reserved for spring and summer. So maybe they are a little confused, or perhaps eager.

Some notable sightings around Nashville include numerous reports of Sandhill Crane flocks flying over, a Bald Eagle regularly seen around Hillwood Golf Course, and a Snow Goose at Radnor Lake. One sighting of an Evening Grosbeak in east TN got me a bit excited because it’s been 30 years since notable numbers of them have been seen in this area. And they like to visit bird feeders. But more sightings were not reported and the chance to see them here fizzled.

Sandhill Crane.

Sandhill Crane.

Evening Grosbeak.

Evening Grosbeak.

Bird Bio: Red-breasted Nuthatch

Male Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Females have browner caps and paler rusty underparts.

Hello backyard birders. The bird feeding action has gotten fast and furious with the onset of some cold, wintery weather. All over middle-TN there have been an abundance of great winter bird sightings. Pine Siskins and Purple Finch have arrived early and in good numbers. It is believed these species will show up here in greater numbers to spend the winter when certain food sources they require are lacking in more northern areas of the country. Look for them to go to feeders with sunflower, safflower, and finch feeders with nyjer or sunflower chips. The usual cast of winter characters is being seen around feeders as well. Look for White-throated Sparrow and Juncos feeding on the ground, and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Kinglets and Brown Creepers showing interest in suet feeders.

The bird we are featuring this week, though, is the Red-breasted Nuthatch. I consider seeing this beautiful, busy little bird as a real treat. It’s not every winter they show up in this area but so far this year is showing a lot of promise.

The Red-breasted Nuthatch is smaller than the more common White-breasted Nuthatch, about 4.5” in length, and has a broad black line through the eye and a white line above it. Its call is higher and more nasal than the White-breasted and has been described as being similar to a tiny tin horn. They are considered common in areas with lots of pine and/or cedar trees, so if you have any pine and cedar close to your home be on the lookout for these great little birds. They have been seen recently all around Nashville visiting seed and suet feeders. There have been lots of posting about the Red-breasted Nuthatch in the Tennessee Birding Facbook group. If you haven’t visited this group it’s one way to keep up on new sightings.

New seed crop is now coming in our deliveries. I always look forward to the arrival of the new crop. The seed is very clean and has a fresh, earthy smell. See you soon.

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.