Outside our kitchen window.....


      Our blogs are about the thing we see outside our kitchen window as the year changes.  The things that keep us looking when there are other things for us to do.  Sometimes we dream of beautiful gardens where we see weeds and sometimes we see birds and wish we could fly away with nothing to do.

     What do you see out your kitchen window?


Plant a Hummingbird Garden


Small as a thumb and weighing as little as a penny, the Hummingbird is one of the smallest species of birds. This most loved bird is often mistaken for a large insect. Short legged, the Hummingbird, shuffles along but is able to scratch its head without losing its balance. Beautiful, charming, delightful are just a few of the words used to describe the Hummingbird and just about everyone wants them in their yard.


Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are the ones you will most likely find in your yard.  As they travel up and down the Eastern Coast and West to the middle of the United States.  A flash of light like a jewel in sunlight will tell you they have arrived from their Winter homes in Mexico and Panama. 


Hummingbirds feed on the nectar of red or orange tubular flowers such as trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, honeysuckle, jewelweed, bee-balm, red buckeye and red morning glory, as well as, hummingbird feeders and sometimes, tree sap.  They also catch insects in midair and remove them from spider webs. Thier favourite insects include mosquitoes, gnats, flies, spiders and aphids. 


A while back I started a Hummingbird and Butterfly garden without a clue of knowing what I was doing. I read endless articles and still did not know what to plant for sure. I planted the above plants I listed and they did well but they were small and some did not make it through the first Winter. The next year I planted plants I knew would grow and are native to where I live. I spent one afternoon on the edge of a sinkhole gathering small elderberry bushes that grew beautifully in my backyard and was loved by Butterflies and Goldfinches, but no Hummingbirds.


The following year I became a little bit smarter and I planted perennials such as columbines, daylilies and lupines. Next came the biennial such as foxgloves and hollyhocks. I finished the garden off with many annuals including sunflowers, clones, impatiens, purple petunias and anything I liked.


To my surprise, the purple petunias really paid off. (See my August 26, 2016, Blog. Just click on August on the right to read). They grew beautifully and all birds and butterflies loved them. I planted the petunias in hanging baskets


My last plants (which should have been my first) were a butterfly, raspberry, and blackberry bushes and milkweed. All of these plants are good and important starters for any gardens if you want Hummingbirds, Butterflies, Goldfinches and other birds.


This year I am going to try growing a birdseed garden. I don't know if it will work, but it will be fun to try. And who knows in a couple of years I may be selling Yesteryear Bird Seed in our store!


Photo credit: Blackcat Photography.  Many thanks

Purple Finch


     If you see a Sparrow that looks like it has been dipped in a jar of raspberry jam ....you have a Purple Finch at your feeder. 

     The male Finch is purple pink on top and brown with a touch of white while the female is brown and white with large white eyebrows and looks more like a House Sparrow. 

     Both have a fairly large head, plump body, deeply notched tail and conical bill.         

       Purple Finches are found living in the South during Winter but are native to the North East and lower Canada. Old timers say that when the Purple Finch leaves the South you know for sure Spring is truly here. 

       They love black oil Sunflower seeds and will enjoy them at your feeders. But, in their Northern home, they will eat some insects and the seeds from fruit. Because of their bill, they will crack the seed instead of eating it whole.... so plants will not be spread by their eating.

        Most Purple Finches travel in groups of fifty and at times with House Finches.

         Mating and nesting will happen in the North. The male will begin to sing softly while hopping, fluffing his feathers and holding a twig or grass stem in his beak. If things go well they will mate and the female will start to build a nest.

         It will take her 3-8 days to build the nest. She will make it out of twigs, sticks and roots. The cup-like nest will be lined with fine grass and aminal hair. When finished the nest will be about 7" wide and 4" tall out on a branch of a 5 to 60-foot tree.

        Together they may have 1-2 broods with 2 t0 7 pale green eggs with brown and black marks on them. The female will incubate the eggs for 12-13 days and the young will leave the nest in 13-16 days.

        The Purple Finch is the state bird of New Hampshire, but a true Winter favourite in the South


Thanks to those who provided photos to Pinterest and those who captured the Purple Finch in nature: Bill Thompson, USFWS, David Magers, Tom Murry, Jay McGowan, Mark Johnson, Kimberly Mason, David Jawvin, Gary Mueller, Roy Brown and others. Your photos are beautiful.

Eastern Towhee

     The Eastern Towhee is the "Drink Your Tea!" bird seen all along the East coast, the deep South to Florida and in Winter west to Texas. It gets its name from its Tow- Heeeee call. When heard by a number of Towhees it sounds like an invitation to have tea. 

     The male and female look very different from each other. For a while when I saw them visiting our platform feeders I believed I had two different birds hopping backwards around.

     The female as shown above is mostly light brown with rusty red-brown sides and a white belly. The male is mostly a suetty black with dirty red-brown sides and a white belly. Another oddity besides the different colours is the bird has white eyes in the Southern states and red eyes elsewhere.

     Tne Towhee is 30% larger than a Sparrow but smaller than a Robin. They are insect, fruit and seed eaters. In the Summer you find Towhees under bushes looking for insects and dropped fruit. In Winter they will come to platform or ground feeders filled with plenty of seeds and they will eat seeds off the top of dead flower heads in your backyard.

     Mating in the Spring starts when the male begins his hunt for a female singing a soft whispered version of the tow-hee song. Once paired the female will build a cup-like nest no higher than 5 feet off the ground in a thicket of some type. In their nest, 3 to 5 creamy white to pale grey with brown spots on the larger end eggs will be found with the female incubating them 12- 13 days.

     Both parents feed the nestling with the young leaving the nest in about 10 to 12 days after hatching. Some will stay with their parents for a time. Most Towhee pair will have 2 broods a year except in the deep South where a 3rd brood is possible.

     The Towhee population has sadly declined in the Northeast in recent years. However, it has remained somewhat stable elsewhere. 


Thanks to those who provided photos to Pinterest and those who captured the Towhee in nature: Bill Thompson, USFWS, David Magers, Tom Murry, Jay McGowan, Mark Johnson and others. Your photos are beautiful.

Downy Woodpecker


    The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest of all woodpeckers and the most acrobatic. Hoping from tree limb to smaller branches to tall dry grass the Downy is always on the move.                       

      It is sometimes hard to tell the Downy from the Hairy Woodpecker as they are often mixed up because they look so much alike. But one way to tell if you have a Downy is to look at the size of the bird and its beak. The Downy is just about 6 inches tall and the Hairy is 50% larger. Also, the Downy has a shorter beak.  

      Just about everyone in the United States will have a Downy except for folks living in the aired mid-Southwest. They can be found in local parks, wooded fields and your backyard.

      In Winter you will often find them joining roving mixed flocks of Chickadees, Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens and other small birds coming to your suet feeder and or your platform feeder for black sunflower seeds and some unsalted peanuts. 

      In the Summer you find them in your trees or hunting insects like ants, caterpillars and gall wasp to name a few of their favourites. Don't be surprised if you see one taking a drink from your Hummingbird feeder.

      Male and female Downy spend much of the year alone except when Fall and early Winter comes. Then you will hear them pecking on dead trees. The male with his red patch of feathers on the back of his head will advance and the female will accept and together they will start to build a nest.

       Chance of ever seeing a Downy nest is pretty slim unless you cut down a dead tree. Most nests are  6 to 60 feet in the air and are 6 to 12 inches deep with a camouflage of fungus and lichen around the opening. The nest is larger at the bottom and will hold 3 to 6 white eggs.

       Both parents incubate the eggs for about 12 days and when hatched both will provide the young with food. In about 2o to 25 days the young will leave the nest and stay with their parents for a year.

        Dowey Woodpeckers have 1 brood a year except in the deep South where they may have a second brood.

        The Dowey is not the state bird of any state .... which is a great mystery to me!


Thanks to those who provided photos to Pinterest and those who captured the Downey Woodpecker in nature: Bill Thompson, USFWS, David Magers, Tom Murry, Jay McGowan, Mark Johnson and others. Your photos are beautiful.

Carolina Wren

      The Carolina wren is one of the more brightly coloured wrens found in your backyard or at your feeder. With their bright cinnamon-coloured breast, darker brown body and white broad stripes over their eyes. they are easy to identify.       When not at your feeder during Winter enjoying safflower and black sunflower seeds plus suet you will find them busily exploring brush piles and low tangled undergrowth. In Summer you will find them hunting insects like spiders, stick bugs, leafhoppers, beetles, grasshoppers, cockroaches, lizards and fruit.

     The adult Carolina wrens live in pairs all year, and they may "duet" at any season, with the female giving a chattering note while the male sings.   Together they are quite musical.

      The fun thing about the Carolina wrens is where they build their nest. Old boots, pockets in an old jacket hug in a barn, watering cans, wooden boxes, under roofs, holes in a fence post, windowsills and just about any place that is open and 3 to 6 feet off the ground.

      Together the Carolina wrens build a rather bulky nest made up of twigs, leaves and grass plus moss, aminal hair, and feathers. The nest is domed build so that the parents can enter it from both sides.

        In the nest, you will find 5 to 6 white eggs with brown blotches on the larger end of the eggs. The female only will incubate the eggs for 12 to16 days while the male will bring her food. When hatched both parents will feed the young for 12 to 14 days. Each Carolina wren pair will nest 2 times a season except in the lower South where they may nest 3 times.

         This very active small bird may find it hard to make it through Winter when snow is piled high and last for a long time. Providing one unsalted peanut to their diet of seed and suit will provide more than a third of their metabolic need. Using a platform or pan feeder makes it easy to add a few unsailed peanuts to other seeds.

            The state bird of South Caroline with his teakettle, teakettle voice is a real charmer that lives along the East coast to mid-America and one you will want to get to know.




Thanks to those who provided photos to Pinterest and those who captured the Caroline Wren in nature: Bill Thompson, USFWS, David Magers, Tom Murry, Jay McGowan, Mark Johnson and others. Your photos are beautiful.

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 Flea Land, Bowling Green, Ky

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