Balcony and beyond – A day in the life

posted in: Bird Canada | 6


With all good intentions, I was going to get started on this post earlier. But then I got knocked down by a bad cold, and am still recovering, so this may be a shortish effort.

About a week ago I spent a gorgeous early fall morning on my balcony, binoculars, camera and coffee all close at hand. There was a great flurry of activity, more than I’d seen or heard for a while. I hadn’t seen many European Starlings around for a while, or Common Grackles. Suddenly that morning they chose to visit my oak trees, especially one. You’ll see why.

Fluffed up in the sun


The Starlings are in their non-breeding plumage, which at this stage is absolutely beautiful. The little chevron tips remind me of fine embroidery stitches. I actually like Starlings, pests though they are. I know that they’re aggressive and drive out other birds from their nests. So I really shouldn’t like them, but they’re a little goofy and definitely feisty, lots of fun to watch. I also really enjoy hearing their vocalizing, from raucous to whistling to muttering. So I was pleased to have a few of them visit that morning.

The tree that was of interest has several holes, some natural, and one that was definitely created a few years ago by a hard working Hairy Woodpecker. In fact, Starlings did take the hole over from the Woodpeckers that first year, and came back to it the second. After that, a squirrel gnawed at it to make it bigger but didn’t use it. I don’t think any birds nested in it last year or this year.

Investigating the big side hole


Downy Woodpecker taking a look


There are 3 holes along a branch higher up. They were used this spring by House Sparrows as a nest. At least, they brought nesting material into the hole, but I don’t think they actually laid eggs and raised babies, as the logistics of getting in and out of the main hole required some fancy flying. This Starling is trying to figure it out.

Getting a better look
Once you let go, you have to fly


There are also, as far as I can tell, 2 holes at the top of this branch. Also worth investigating.

Love the feathers!


Starlings weren’t the only curious birds this morning. A few Common Grackles stopped by, some to investigate the branch, some just to look gorgeous in the sun.

Grackle silhouette


There were a couple of other visitors to the branch, but they weren’t interested in looking around. One was a Northern Flicker that came and went before I had a chance to take a shot. Then there was this handsome Blue Jay. I think one of my neighbours must be putting peanuts out for them. He sat for a minute to show his treasure, then took off.

Just passing through


In between all the intruders, the House Sparrows continued to act as if the branch was theirs. They have been using it as a hangout all summer, sometimes getting a little territorial but mostly sharing nicely. You can see how raising a brood and having them fledge from this nest would have been risky.

Using the tail to help brace against the tree


Must be another hole further up





Keeping an eye on the action


The tree with its fascinating holes wasn’t the only place to see birds. I often have Red-tailed Hawks fly overhead, likely the locals that live in High Park. I usually miss the shot, but this time wasn’t too bad as it soared right over my balcony.

Young Red-tailed Hawk


I took a quick photo of what I thought from the size was a Hairy Woodpecker. Although not as common as Downy Woodpeckers, I do see them pretty regularly. But something felt different, and I wondered whether it might be a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Everybody seems to be reporting them lately and I was hoping to see one, but didn’t expect it to be from my balcony! A first time balcony bird.

Immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


I did have a Hairy Woodpecker come by that morning, but she kept her distance.


I often hear Nuthatches out back, but they don’t usually sit still very long. Not a great photo, but I want to add it to the morning’s list!

White-breasted Nuthatch


I think I’m coming to the end of my morning’s cast of characters. I do feel so lucky to have days like this, when I can sit on my balcony and wait to see what comes along, and spend time watching the shenanigans of the Starlings and other birds! The big oak with the various holes has been a source of so much pleasure, with visits from many birds, and squirrels, over the years. As the weather gets cooler, I’ll have to bundle up more but I’ll keep it up as long as I can.

One final fun thing to share…I haven’t posted any photos of my view of the pond below, so I thought I’d do that. It’s still pretty hard to see much because of the trees, but once the leaves are gone, and then in the spring, I can see the water and ducks and sometimes herons, oh my! I use 2 cameras, one is a DSLR and the other a super-zoom. I took the next 2 shots with the super-zoom.

Catfish pond


Note the curving broken branch in the middle of the first photo…this is what’s sitting on the log. The edge of the curving branch is on the left of this picture. The zoom has been great for shots like this, or to ID far away birds.

Wood Duck


That’s it for this month. I guess my post wasn’t so short after all! Thanks for sharing my ‘day in the life’ of my balcony. Next month, more ‘beyond’, as the fall brings in migrant waterfowl and who knows what else!

Thanks for reading, and good birding.

6 Responses

  1. Monika Croydon

    Thanks, Gilda. You’re right, I’m in a wonderful location.

  2. Monika Croydon

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I’m lucky to have the balcony!

  3. Gilda Blackmore

    WOW! Thanks for this. You have a very well-placed balcony and a very good eye!

  4. Garry Davey

    Excellent and fun article, great photos, bringing out the best in these curious creatures, thanks!

Comments are closed.