Tag Archives: eastern bluebird

Bluebirds make me anything but blue

bluebirdsandfishbybrucestambaugh

Eastern Bluebirds take turns getting a drink at the little waterfalls of the backyard garden pond with an orange audience.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a familiar blue flash. A male Eastern Bluebird had landed awkwardly on the wooden framed feeder that held peanut butter suet cakes.

That same scene had been repeated in my backyard many times over the years. Intended for woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and titmice, Eastern Bluebirds and other avian species have also enjoyed the rich protein offerings.

The first time I observed the bluebirds attack the suet, I took special notice. Eastern Bluebirds dine on protein-rich insects and their larvae. Suet apparently helped fill the void when insects, or berries for that matter, were unavailable in Ohio’s cold season, which this year has lasted much too long.

maleeasternbluebirdsbybrucestambaugh

Even in the winter, the colors of male Eastern Bluebirds radiate.

In the springtime, the male bluebirds burst into an iridescent, radiant blue that glows in the morning sun. They are in their flamboyant mating plumage, brilliant on head, back, wings and tail feathers. Their orange breasts contrast nicely with the showy blue. A splash of white on their wing shoulders and a snowy fringe along the birds’ bottom feathers nicely accent the flashy ensemble.

femaleeasternbluebirdbybrucestambaugh

The female Eastern Bluebirds have a beauty all their own.

Even the more subdued and shyer females could hold their own in a bird beauty contest. Their dullness, of course, is for natural protection from predators. Bluebirds are beautiful to say the least, and their cheery chatter and lyrical calls only enhance their artistry.

Bluebirds are not designed to cling to a typical suet feeder the way woodpeckers do by bracing themselves with their firm tail feathers. I marvel every time I see the bluebirds lunching at the suet.

The bluebirds often land atop the wood-framed feeder with wire mesh sides designed for easy access to the nutritious food. They

bluebirdonsuetbybrucestambaugh

The bluebirds perch as best they can to steal a bit of peanut butter suet.

perilously cling to the sides or bottom brace of the feeder, flapping their wings wildly as they peck at the soft suet. Since they keep returning over and over, day after day, to the suet, I have to assume that they aren’t expending more energy than is gained in the tricky process.

As their main course, the bluebirds and other songbirds regularly down chipped sunflower hearts that are offered at other feeders. They apparently use the peanut butter suet as dessert, and then wash it all down with occasional visits to the little waterfalls of the garden pond.

A half dozen pairs of Eastern Bluebirds frequent my feeders, shrubs and trees in the yard. If they choose to inhabit some of the bluebird houses erected around the property, I rejoice and stay vigilant. It’s a never-ending battle with the pesky House Sparrows to keep the bluebirds nesting.

bluebirdnestbybrucestambaugh

The nests built by Eastern Bluebirds are usually made of soft grasses or pine straw, like this nest in progress.

In the spring, I check the boxes regularly. If I find a finely structured nest of soft grasses and pine needles, I know the bluebirds have won the battle. If the nest is disheveled and constructed with a junkyard of materials, I pitch it in hopes of discouraging the House Sparrows.

Often the bluebirds will perch in the large sugar maple in our backyard above the dangling suet feeder. After just a few bites of suet on this chilly April morn, this male bluebird instead took wing and swooped low across the wide stretch of open, freshly plowed farm fields, making a beeline for my Amish neighbors.

Were they using a different feed? Was the bluebird nesting in one of their boxes? The answers were really insignificant. What did matter was that the bluebirds were thriving for all to enjoy.

Watching that bluebird arch across those fields in the morning sunshine couldn’t have made me happier.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

8 Comments

Filed under birding, column, Ohio, photography, writing

The year in pictures

By Bruce Stambaugh

I had the grandiose idea to post photos I had taken in 2011 in four categories, people, floral and fauna, scenery and weather. As I sorted through the nearly 4,000 imagines I had taken this year, I quickly realized that the task was too daunting, especially given the limited time I had.

Instead, I chose to select a picture for each month of the year. Most were taken near my home near Millersburg in Ohio’s Amish country. Others were shot while on vacation or out of our area. What I assembled turned out to be an eclectic collection that ends up serving both as a through the lens summary of my year and a representation of each of the original categories.

Here, then, are my pictures of the month for 2011.

January

American Goldfinch by Bruce Stambaugh
Bird lover that I am, I enjoy feeding and photographing birds. This female American Goldfinch posed nicely for me on a porch post while waiting for an opening at a feeder.

February

Eastern Bluebird by Bruce Stambaugh
Though this shot is of another bird, this chilly female Eastern Bluebird served as model for both the birds that I love and the weather that I watch. With the stinging, horizontally blowing snow on a late February day, she sought food and shelter and found both in the hollowed out log peanut feeder that hung on our back porch.

March

Espresso art shot by Bruce Stambaugh
I chose this shot as a symbol of how the year unfolded. Taken outside a café in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, I couldn’t help notice the irony of the dark gray shadow of the white window lettering on the back of the chair inside the shop. The rest of the picture is busy and blurred with multiple reflections, much like my 2011 life experience.

April

Family photo by Bruce Stambaugh
Inscribed on my grandfather Stambaugh’s tombstone is the simple yet profound phrase, “He liked people.” Well, so do I, especially family. Whenever family gathers, like my daughter’s family did at Easter with us, we try to get a family photo. But with young children, getting a perfect picture is a challenge. I thought this imperfect one to perfectly represent that point. The middle child, the long-haired lefty on the left, distains set up shots about as much as me. His older brother enjoyed Davis’ tantrum while the boys’ father tried to settle number two. The granddaughter ignored the silliness and played with a toy, while our photogenic daughter stayed focused on the camera as best she could.

May

Two birds by Bruce Stambaugh
Yep, another bird picture. It wasn’t the subject matter as much as the color that made this the May pick. Plus, it’s a rarity to have a male Baltimore Oriole and a male Red-headed Woodpecker on a suet feeder at exactly the same time. Fact is, neither seemed to mind the other since they continued to feed for several minutes.

June

Floral and fauna by Bruce Stambaugh
June was a beautiful month, save the occasional severe weather. After a long, chilly, wet spring, June’s warmth and sun brought out beautiful flowers and insects, like these Sweet Williams and this Tiger Swallow-tail butterfly.

July

Shelf cloud by Bruce Stambaugh
I felt this picture embodied the year we had in northeast Ohio as much as any photo I shot. Precipitation records were broken throughout the state in 2011. Severe thunderstorms, like this one with its foretelling shelf cloud, pelted northern Ohio all spring and well into the fall. Flooding, damaging tornadoes and microbursts, hail and blinding snowstorms were all a part of the year’s complex weather.

August

Lush harvest by Bruce Stambaugh
Notorious as a hot, humid and often dry month, August fooled us this year. As lovely as June was, August was even nicer. I thought this shot of my Amish neighbor cutting golden oats between lush alfalfa and emerald field corn best represented the month’s congeniality.

September

Sept. 11 sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Like millions of other global citizens, September 11 is a special day for me. Mostly out of the desire for peace, I consider this day personally sacred. I tend to use the day for reflection and prayer. I thought the sunset on the 10th anniversary needed no words of explanation as to why it was September’s choice.

October

Fall sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh
Every photographer knows when he or she has taken the shot. On a foggy fall morning, I was fortunate enough to capture this shot two miles east of our home. I still smile when I see it.

November

Benefit auction by Bruce Stambaugh
Our church community is an important ingredient in my life. On the first Saturday in November, Millersburg Mennonite Church held a benefit auction for two couples in our congregation who either have adopted or are in the process of adopting children. Of course, the cost of that process is high. All the items in the auction were donated. Needless to say, the auction was an all-around success.

December

Christmas Bluebird by Bruce Stambaugh
We began this venture with a bird. I figured we might as well end it that way, too, especially when this male Eastern Bluebird came calling at the sunflower heart feeder and basked in the Christmas Day afternoon sun.

People, floral and fauna, scenery and weather all play important parts in my life. I feel fortunate to be able to regularly photograph shots representing each category. If I just happen to stumble upon some scene, bird, flowers, cloud or person that requires that I shoot a shot, I consider myself a happy and blessed person.

Happy New Year everyone!

Bruce

14 Comments

Filed under Amish, birding, family, Ohio, photography, weather, writing