It’s challenging, it’s exciting and it’s one of the fastest growing hobby in North America – its’ … it’s … bird watching!
Our assignment, on this sunny 22nd day of November, is to distinguish between a male and female bushtit – not an easy task when you consider that these fuzzy grey, round dynamos are a mere 9 cm long (3 1/2 inches) and travel in flocks of up to 30 or more birds; not only that, but they will often mix in with other flocks of similar sized black-capped chickadees and kinglets. So what is the secret to telling the sexes apart in the bushtit community? Eye colour – yup – eye colour. Females have yellow eyes and males dark eyes; so I hope you have brought a good pair of binoculars with you!
Now, as for their nests – look up among the tree branches, or in bushes – if you see something knit together with grass, moss, lichens and spider webs – that resembles a long sock with a tennis ball in the foot area – you are most probably looking at a bushtit nest. This elaborate structure can take up to six weeks to build. Look closely and you just may be able to spot the tiny round opening at the top.
2 hours later
So did the six of us see any bushtits on this sunny fall afternoon? Nooooo, but we counted a whopping 239 individual birds, making up 12 species, saw 14 squirrels, one coyote and 2 dogs off leash … ooops ….
Upon arrival back at our cars Silvia was discouraged to see that once again her light turquoise jeep had been used as target practice by our avian friends. The navy Voyageur – parked behind hers was pristine – not one white streak to be seen anywhere. Hmmmm, do the birds have a colour or vehicle preference???? That my friends is the million dollar question!
Location: Stoney Creek Park, Burnaby
Date: Sat. November 22, 2014
Time: 1:30 – 3:30 pm
Temp: 9 degrees
TIP: Want to attract more birds to your yard or apartment balcony? Water is the secret. Nothing fancy here, an empty plastic sour cream type of container will do. Just make sure it is nice and clean. Place it up off the ground, if possible, (to protect it from cats and dogs) and near or under protection – a bush, plant or tree. None at your disposal? Artificial plants work! Clean your bowl everyday and fill it up with fresh water. Make sure you grab your camera and a chair. Then kick back and watch the show as your feathered friends take you up on you invitation to drink and bathe!
Want to join us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the contact list for our next birding adventure!