Cowbird Buffet

by Donna Lewis

When the temperature goes down, so do the insects. Our birds have a harder time getting something to eat.  That’s when they need a little help from their friends.

That’s us!

So, I always buy a lot more bird seeds (I like the Black oil sunflower seeds), and dried mealworms for the Bluebirds.

Look at all the cardinals!

I put it everywhere, in the feeders and on the ground to accommodate the extra birds that come here in the winter.

There are my locals, the Cardinals, Titmice, Chickadees, Whitetail Doves, Bluebirds, and many others, who never leave our place.

Local bird friends

Then we have the “Hoard” of Goldfinch and Pine-siskins that visit in the winter. They eat a ton. Their mothers never taught them any manners.

But I love birds, so I try not to discriminate.

Patio buddies

BUT… These past few days my secret bird cafeteria was discovered by the Cowbirds!!!

Oh boy.  They descended on the seed area like the birds in the Alfred Hitchcock movie.

It was like a black cloud.

The cowbirds in action.

My other friends had no chance for any food.

I do understand they need food too, but I wish they leave a little for the locals.

What’s a Naturalist to do???

Be nice…

Colors Outside the Frozen Window

by Larry Kocian

Birds of different species gather outside this frozen window. They gather around water fountains and various feeders filled with a variety of seeds. On this cold, winter day, they gather in larger numbers as the frigid winds blow and frozen water falls from the sky.

Many birds make your home their homes too. Singing melodies in the trees, reproducing their species, maintaining a balance of insects around your garden. Some of these birds take up residence at your home the entire year. One such bird in the Cardinal. Others migrate to your homes at various times of the year, like the Pine Warbler. 

Last year in February, a catastrophic winter event occurred in Texas that brought Arctic-like weather to a place that does not see this type of weather. The Polar Vortex was very intense and unstable, causing cold air to shift unusually far south. In February 2021, several days of Arctic cold and deep snows paralyzed the way of life for all animals and birds. Many animals froze to death in the wild. 

Cold Northern Cardinals

I remember venturing outside with our family during that event to find hungry birds. Birds that became unusually friendly to gather food. Many Pine Siskins would land on our shoulders and hands, feeding on seeds that we had to feed them. 

Today’s winter event is a very brief taste of that time. Many birds visited the feeders today as the ground is covered with ice and sleet.  The following are birds we saw feeding today :

  • Cardinals
  • Chickadees
  • White-wing Doves
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Various Sparrows
  • Warblers
  • Purple Finches

Build it and they will come OR Landscaping for spiders 101

by Eric Neubauer

A special spider story: I’ve developed an interest in this Pardosa mercurialis partially because it’s the only Pardosa species in Texas that anyone on iNat can reliably identify. They have particular habitat preferences which make them more common in the hill country than on the prairie. I’ve been looking far and wide for them for over a year and had only found one colony in Milam County. Needless to say, I’d become pretty familiar with the habitats they like.

For the last few months, I’ve been piling up chert nodules around the outlet of a culvert under the driveway all the time thinking the spiders might like it if only they could find it. I could try importing some spiders, but it’s better to let nature do her own thing.

At this point there were about six square feet of nodules, and I was adding half a bucket more so any pioneering spiders wouldn’t laugh at my meager efforts and move on. As I was placing some rocks by hand, I saw movement and realized I needn’t have worried. A well grown juvenile was already there.

When I came back for the empty bucket 10 minutes later, it was sunning itself on a rock the way they do. I’d never seen one on my property or within 10 miles of it before.