Foam Lake Birding No. 162

No. 162
            After a week of dreary weather the sun has finally come out.  None too soon for my tastes.  If nothing else, the bright sun lets me get much better photos of birds. 
            During the week of interminable clouds and snow our bird feeders were the site of continual feeding frenzy.  Even Pine Grosbeaks which are usually hesitant to come to our feeders were competing for seeds with a horde of House Sparrows.  In addition, we even had a pair of Juncos that had not yet migrated south.  Finally, we simply had to stop filling our Black Oil Seed feeders for almost a week.  Once the feeders were filled again our resident half dozen House Sparrows returned but the fifty or sixty that were here before did not.  They probably found other feeders in town.  It was amazing at how much oil seed those sparrows could go through in one day. 
            Our peanut and suet feeders were busy also but not to the extent that the Black Oil Seed feeders were.  These feeders had the usual mix of regulars such as the Red Breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers and, yes, House Sparrows.  I managed to get an excellent photo of a male Hairy Woodpecker acrobatically feeding on peanuts on our first sunny day. 
            In addition to feeders, we also try to make our yard bird friendly as it were by selecting plants that provide birds with food into the winter.  For example, every year we plant sunflowers and leave them in the garden over winter and not removing them until spring.  The birds not only eat the seeds but the small mites and insects that are hibernating in the plant itself.  In our yard chickadees are forever clambering about the dried out sunflower stalks looking for insects. 
            My wife also has a fairly large planting of domesticated native plants.  Because the plants are domesticated they produce bigger and better flowers than their wild ancestors but to the birds this is not an issue.  They are simply native plants.  Overall, it is a win, win situation for both birds and us.  Some of the varieties include Delphiniums, Bee Balm, Joe Pye Weed (Milkweed), Thistle and Verbascum (bee plant).  The second photo of a Pine Grosbeak on a Verbascum stalk was taken during the stretch of overcast skies and snow.  I just missed getting some pictures of a pair of Redpolls feeding on the thistles.