What I did on my Newtonmas vacation

…was, mostly, having houseguests. And falling behind on my writing, but in a good way. One of the perks of living next door to a National Park is that there’s an easy default option for entertaining friends who come to visit. It’s especially good if that National Park has climbable rocks to allow visiting kids to burn off a little energy.

It took some doing to get out of the house, though, because my guests were birders, and we’ve got some here.

Sharing a nectar feeder

A migrant and a resident meet at a bar

Hummingbird on Joshua Tree


Always make sure your houseguests have better camera equipment than you do.


  1. eyeroll says

    Hummingbirds! Mine won’t be back untill May 20. Five months till hummingbirds, six months till asparagus.

    I have about a gazillion redpoles now, and pine grossbeaks, chickadees, blue jays, hairy and downey woodpeckers, nuthatches, evening grossbeaks. The purple finches will come in Feb and the juncos in March. Then goldfinches when the lilacs are blooming.

    This is all very boring for a non-bird type of person.

  2. billgascoyne says

    Always make sure your houseguests have better camera equipment than you do.

    Does that mean only buying crappy camera equipment, or only inviting really avid photographers?

  3. says

    chigau@#3, that’s a ladder-backed woodpecker eating from the hummingbird feeder. I have a woodpecker suet feeder that the quail eat out of. Not one of these birds seems to be able to follow simple instructions

  4. chigau (違う) says


    Not one of these birds seems to be able to follow simple instructions

    and rude, too.
    How would that woodpecker feel if the hummingbird started eating her bugs?

  5. steve oberski says

    Those downey headed woodpeckers have quite the range.

    We have some in our backyard up here in south western Ontario.

    They love the suet blocks, and you can approach to within a few feet of them when they are feeding.

    They never land on the suet directly, always on a branch or pole near the feeder and then hop over to the suet.

  6. Artor says

    How exactly does that woodpecker get anything out of a hummingbird feeder without punching holes through it? Does he have a long tongue I’m unaware of?

  7. evilDoug says

    Barefoot Bree, I wasn’t thinking in terms of a caption but it really looks like the house finch is holding forth on something of great import while the white crowned sparrow listens intently and contemplates every word.

    eyeroll, sounds wonderful to me! My three loud mouthed blue birds (blue jays) reappeared today after being absent for about 3 days. I think they must have decided they needed to restock all their stashes of peanuts, ’cause they sure flew off with a lot of them (they have me trained – if they yell loud enough, I come a runnin’ with some peanuts)

  8. evilDoug says

    Chris, can you tell us something about the rock the kids are climbing on? It looks like it is probably fairly soft, but it also looks like it would grind you down to the bone before you could say “ouch” if you fell against it.

  9. rq says

    I miss hummingbirds!
    And I see you have not posted signs as to the proper usage or expected clientele at specific feeders. How do you expect the birds to follow instructions if you can’t post them in a visible location in large, legible letters??

  10. pHred says

    Okay, you guys need to work out color coded headers or something. I glanced at those pictures and wondered what in the hell global warming had done to Minnesota. Sheesh.

    In western NY we have over a foot a snow and the birds have all sensibly fled for warmer climes. My daughter is learning how to jump from footprint to footprint following someone else to get anywhere, since the snow is over her knees and she can’t take more then three steps or so before falling over.

  11. eyeroll says

    pH, I was a little confused at first, too. I thought what in the world are hummingbirds doing at PZed’s feeder in December.

  12. viajera says

    Beautiful photos, Chris!

    How would that woodpecker feel if the hummingbird started eating her bugs?

    Probably like “meh”. Because hummingbirds do eat bugs all the time. Though they mostly catch them mid-air or in flowers, rather than in/under tree bark.

    @Artor: check out the picture here. Woodpeckers have really long tongues – they wrap all the way around the skull and attach at the base of the bill near the nares! Plus they’re covered in little barbs, perfect for snagging bugs or droplets of nectar.

  13. chigau (違う) says


    Because hummingbirds do eat bugs all the time.

    What’s next?
    Dogs and cats living together?

  14. says

    Oh wow, they’re beautiful. Thanks for posting this Chris. I’m up in AK right now, and we’ve had some sweet little snow buntings (I think, I’m not really up on my western birds) and the usual town ravens, but not much more than that. I’m a bit spoiled for biodiversity back home in NC, so when I’m up here I miss the birds.
    Also, climbing on those rocks looks like so much fun. I’ve got to go somewhere with real rocks one day.

  15. Rob Grigjanis says

    I had a friend who tried for years to get hummingbird pictures. He ended up with an excellent collection of pictures of hummingbird feeders. He was obviously doing something wrong.

    Looks unseasonably warm there.

  16. chigau (違う) says

    Hummingbirds stealing spiderwebs to line their nests is totally charming.
    There is a nice idea for an illustrated children’s book.

  17. evilDoug says

    Do the hummingbirds try to chase the woodpeckers off the feeder? Hummers can be cantankerous little so-and-sos.

  18. great1american1satan says

    Hummingbirds are a year round thing – at least some of them. And they hide in plain sight, as small as they are. In Seattle we have lots of Anna’s, here for the feeders, and you can see them on the right kind of day with ginormous snowflakes on their tiny heads.

    I love white crowned sparrows! If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t pay so much attention to bird calls these days. One year I noticed I was hearing the same tune all over the place, and I got curious. Now I follow bird calls to spot goldfinches and Anna’s hummingbirds too. Wouldn’t have had half the sightings without that.

    Urban birding!

  19. opposablethumbs says

    The photos are so beautiful.

    We don’t get hummingbirds here, but my OH gets robins to hover by locating tasty food for them with cunning artifice. Got some nice pics of them – robins! Hovering! (well, for a few seconds at a time)

    We get woodpeckers, though, right in the middle of the huge city ….

  20. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    Ohh the woodpeckers are a familiar sight, not terribly common to see but you can always here them drumming away if nearby. The house finches are clever buggers, I never see any until I fill the feeders, then they suddenly come out of the woodwork. Right now I mostly just have mourning doves and California quail (I make sure to have feed on the ground, ’cause I love those fat lil critters) and some varied finches that I don’t have names for, along with chickadees. The goldfinches will be around in the spring, and I’ll see the occasional blue heron frogging in the creek out back. And of course our resident raptors, hawks and kestrels and falcons are here year round, but I don’t want them near my feeders ;)

  21. says

    eyeroll- this is an unusual year for hummingbirds. We currently have a well documented “pair” (adult male and immature male) of Anna’s hummingbirds in Pasco, WA. We haved snow on the ground, so it isn’t ‘warm’. They typically long gone by this time. They are visiting a feeder regularly.

  22. StevoR, fallible human being says

    Well I spent this morning, New Year’s Day, in a National Park ripping out plants.

    Invasive weeds with the friends of the park that is.