The Flavor of February: An Unexpected Flash Mob

I walked outside to get the mail yesterday afternoon and encountered an unexpected flash mob!

A mob of Cedar Waxwings (they’re really called an “ear-full” or a “museum”) was swarming the three front yard Holly bushes, scarfing down the berries. For a few moments I was engulfed in a cloud of frenzied flashing wings.

I stood there mesmerized for a bit and then hurried in to grab my camera. Having made quick work of the berries, these masked bandits were already darting to the treetops by the time I returned, but I managed to capture a few stragglers.

The dim lighting and the drizzle made it hard to get a decent photo. But honestly, I was happy to get any photos at all since these fellows are not frequent visitors to my yard.

I am hoping they will come back on a brighter day (sunny with some cloud cover) and pause and pose in a perfect picture taking spot. Maybe even a whole mob of them.  Hey, a girl can hope, right?

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The Flavor of February: Not Just Birds But Blossoms

Birds aren’t the only things adding beauty to the backyard this month, Camellia blossoms are out in abundance and the Daffodils are beginning to bloom.

Right in the center of our backyard, next to the fountain, we have a colossal Camellia bush that is overflowing with flowers.

A number of the blossoms end up falling into the fountain, which makes them extra lovely with their decorative droplets.

An even larger number of the flowers end up as Lab treats…who knew they would be considered such delectable delights! (And they are consuming such large quantities I had to check and make sure they weren’t harmful!)

The Daffodils are also beginning to display their vibrant colors.

I cut this one to take its picture.

Then turned it to get a different angle…

…but the next thing I knew, it was in danger of becoming a Lab treat too!

While I cut a few flowers to bring inside, this determined duo waited at the top of the steps to see if they could steal any more snacks before I got them inside.

I am happy to report that a lovely trio of flowers survived uneaten to brighten up my kitchen.

But I fear many more blossoms are destined for a different fate!

Ah well…the birds, the blossoms, and the labra-beasts all add to the flavor of February!

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The Flavor of February: Backyard Blues

The Eastern Bluebird and the Blue Jay are two year round residents in my backyard, though they show up more often in the winter months to take advantage of the fast free food.

Always a fan favorite, the Bluebird (especially the male) boasts a blue that is breathtaking in its beauty.

These guys are prolific mealworm munchers, but also eat their fair share of Bark Butter – especially once they have little mouths to feed.

The female’s blues are more subdued, but she is still quite lovely.

I am hoping they will have a brood of babies to bring to the feeders in a few months, but for now, I’ll keep enjoying the company of these adults.

Blue Jays are double the size of Bluebirds and are often thought to be brash and  abrasive.

Despite their bullyish reputation, I find them to do more squawking than squabbling. Perhaps that’s because there is such a plentiful food supply that there is not much need to fuss and fight.

These guys LOVE peanuts and will search them out wherever I hide them.

It is always fascinating to watch how many they can pack away in one sitting.

How about one final up-close and personal shot?

I am grateful for my backyard blues!


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The Flavor of February: Thrashers and Thrush

Today’s featured guests for our “Flavor of February” series are the Brown Thrasher and the Hermit Thrush, two birds with tones of brown that make Crayola jealous!

Let’s take them in reverse order of the title and begin with the one that is (by far!) the more timid of the two – the Hermit Thrush.

This beautiful songster (many consider his song one of the sweetest you will ever hear) usually lives up north, but will bless me with a visit during the winter months.

Although he typically stays hidden among the shrubs and prefers to feed from the ground, this one has taken a liking to Bark Butter and will hop up on the deck to partake of it.

Despite not being a lover of the limelight, he doesn’t tend to rush through his eating time. And often, before leaving, he grabs a super-sized to-go portion!

In this last photo, he is on the usually un-photographed end of the Bark Butter branch (hence the bungee cords) heading to the water dish. I just love this sweetie!

The Brown Thrasher, though similar in color tones, is not similar in temperament!

He is a year round resident who has no qualms about commandeering the Bark Butter branch when he is hungry.

I think his gleaming golden eye, which seems set in a perpetual glare, makes him appear more aggressive than he actually is.

Since this fellow’s hobby is sifting through leaf litter, it is rare to see one whose beak is not crusted with dirt.

The Brown Thrasher is bigger, bolder, and a bit bossier than the Hermit Thrush, but both are always welcome backyard visitors!

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The Flavor of February: Winter Warblers

The winter season tends to hold a lot of backyard bird activity, so I thought over the course of this month, I’d spotlight some of the birds that have been showing up…sort of give you “The Flavor of February.”

How about we start things off with my duo of winter Warblers?

First on the billing is the Yellow-rumped Warbler (a little bird I adore)  who arrives in late fall and stays til early spring. His markings start off with an abundance of beige and cream and dabs of yellow, but will blacken up when mating season rolls around.

Alert and active, he is quite territorial and is constantly dive-bombing other Warblers.

Occasionally, he will hop down to the Bark Butter branches and refuel, but he doesn’t tend to linger long.

Even when he pauses to pose, he is still looking about to see if any competitors need chasing away.

His sun-shiny, sweet-singing cousin, the Pine Warbler, is a year round resident in my neck of the woods, but he comes to the feeders more frequently in the colder weather.

More sweet-tempered than his butter-butt relative, these guys brighten the backyard with their vibrant colors and their cheerful warbling.

Occasionally another Warbler wanders through, but these two are my frequent February visitors and are always welcome guests.

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Once in a Winter

I was going to say every once in awhile, but every once in a winter would be a more accurate description of how often I have a Northern Flicker show up at my feeders. Usually, these wonderful woodpeckers opt for the abundance of available dead tree insect offerings, but on cold winter days they will sometimes drop by for some fast, free, and easy to obtain food – which is what happened this past week.

I had just finished putting out fresh seed (and putting a fresh battery in my camera) when I happened to notice this handsome fellow hanging out at the edge of the yard.

After a few moments, he ventured a bit closer…

…and then, since it wasn’t too chaotic at the time, he landed on the end of the Bark Butter branch.

Then he quickly hopped on over…

…and helped himself to some savory-suety-peanutty-spread.

I have found these beautiful birds to be a bit skittish, perhaps because they are large in size and vibrant in color which might make them a tempting target for a hungry hawk.
This fellow would scoop up some Bark Butter and then nervously glance about to make sure all was still safe.

Once he seemed assured that the coast was clear, it was right back to his regularly scheduled eating.

It was fascinating to watch him use his tongue in the food gathering process.

Now and then, a gust of wind would ruffle his front feathers, momentarily spoiling his well-groomed appearance.

When you really stop to look at him, aren’t his colors and patterns striking?

Once he had eaten his fill, he did the Hokey Pokey and turned himself around…

…and headed back to the end of the branch, posing for one final photo before flying off to who knows where.

I am hoping he will make my backyard a frequent feeding location and allow me the pleasure of taking many more pictures!


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Every Party’s Better With Planters

This afternoon, I (translate that to say “hubby”) filled the Dogwood cavity – aka, the peanut pantry – and waited to see who would show up.

The first to arrive, and therefore awarded the starring role in this post, was a handsome Red-bellied Woodpecker, who landed near the top of the tree trunk and carefully observed the area.

Then he proceeded to the end of the Bark Butter Branch, where he could get a birds-eye view (bad pun!) of the peanut stash and consider what competitors might also have their mind set on this tasty treat.

With no other birds opposing his approach, he landed at the cavity…

…took a peak inside…

…and made his selection.

Once the prized peanut was securely lodged at the base of his beak…

…he took off in a beautiful blur to enjoy his bounty.

I’ve heard it said that every party’s better with Planters, and I think this fellow would surely agree!

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