A Surprise Visitor!

I’m back! I had hoped to get this post up this morning but it took a lot longer to go through all my photos than I ever anticipated. I’ve saved the best part for the end, a surprise visitor, so no peeking ahead!  🙂

With spring here, my backyard feeders have been going gangbusters. I always have a lot of birds visiting but it’s busier than ever. It can be tricky photographing birds because if there’s one thing I have learned in my attempts to shoot them, it’s that they never stop moving. They are continually moving some body part and often it’s their heads as they scan for predators or more aggressive birds.



They are also very wary of humans bearing cameras. I was able to capture a few pics worthy of sharing here on the blog but most of all, I can’t wait to share my surprise visitor!

I always have wrens stopping in…they are cute little butterballs.

Wren at Birdfeeder


I’ve been covered up in Goldfinches the last few weeks. I used to buy nyjer seed for them since that’s what birding books recommend, but I’ve found they enjoy safflower seed every bit as much, maybe more. That seems to be their fave food to pull from my feeders. I’m not sure if this was a female or a baby bird coming in for a bite.

Goldfinches at Feeder_wm


He/she was keeping an eye on the male Goldfinch that was already eating at the feeder so I’m thinking it might be a baby.

Goldfinches on Feeder


So adorable!

Goldfinches Feeding at Birdfeeder


I have a lot of bluebirds visiting. They are nesting again in the dovecote so they are frequent visitors to the feeders. A bluebird was eating at this feeder when a Goldfinch flew in. They kept skirting around the perch, kind of chasing each other a little. The Goldfinch eventually flew up to a branch on a topiary on my deck. It was funny watching the Mr. Bluebird trying to figure out where she went. You can see her there on the branch while he’s looking to see where she is on the feeder.

Eastern Bluebird on Feeder


I’ve also been putting out mealworms for all the birds but the bluebirds are the ones that seem to really be going for them.

Bluebird on Feeder


Off in the trees I could see a beautiful Cardinal.

Cardinal in Tree


He eventually flew down to eat, too. 

Cardinal on Feeder


All the birds are absolutely loving the heated bird bath. Adding a bird bath to my deck was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It has brought in so many more birds. It got really cold last night so I plugged it in to make sure it didn’t freeze over. I’ll unplug it for the rest of the spring and summer.

Goldfinches on Birdbath


Someone else is really enjoying the bird bath these days.

Squirrel at Birdbath


After he chows down on the suet pellets I have on the table…

Squirrel Eating Suet Nuggets


…he heads over to the bird bath for a cool sip of water.

Squirrel Drinking from Birdbath


My suet feeder gets a fair number of visitors, too. Downy woodpeckers visit it all the time, as do the Red-bellied woodpeckers like the one eating here in this picture below. But this week I got a jaw-dropping visitor, someone I’ve only seen in the birding books and once while on a birding trip to Jekyll Island. Ready to meet her? 🙂

Red-Bellied Woodpecker on Feeder


A Pileated Woodpecker! I think I set a land record running upstairs to my office to grab my camera!

Pileated Woodpecker in Georgia


These birds are soooo big, they make special suet feeders that are big enough to handle them. They can range in size between 15.7 inches and 19.3 inches in length and have a wingspan of 26-29.5 inches!  If I had known she was coming, I would have bought a bigger suet feeder!

The larger suet feeders will hold two suet cakes and have a long “tail prop” so the Pileated Woodpeckers have a place to prop their tail while eating. I was amazed the Goldfinch was brave enough to come to other feeder nearby while she was eating just a few feet away.

Pileated Woodpecker on Feeder


Fortunately, I have this small suet feeder hanging against one of the pergola supports so she was able to prop her tail on that. Isn’t she amazing?!

Update: Ms. Pileated Woodpecker is coming back each day so I just ordered one of these suet feeders with large openings and a tail prop. I think the bigger openings will make it easier for her to get her large beak inside for the suet, plus the longer size feeder will allow more space for her tail.

Pileated Woodpecker eating suet


After she stopped in, I was doing some Googling and found the most amazing video! Be sure and watch this on “full screen” mode for the full effect.   To watch full screen, just click on the box down in the right hand corner, then hit escape when you’re finished. Turn on your sound, too. It’s so funny because he keeps swinging his head right and left to look up. I think the camera must have been a recent addition and he was checking it out.

I had never heard of a GoPro camera until I watched this video, now I’d love to have one. So many things you can do with it!   Are you seeing a lot of birds this spring? Do you have Pileated Woodpeckers in your area? I’m wondering if that’s who made the big hole in my dovecote now?   Pssst: You’ll find additional posts about birding here: For the Love of Birds


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  1. I too have been enjoying an abundance of birds this season. I luv it. No pillaged woodpecker as yet this season though. I live a=one street away from a HUGE preserve and we see them a lot So fr the on,y woodpeckers I have seen are the red headed ones and a few downy ones. Yesterday while eating dinner in the sun room, we had the pleasure of a thrush for the first time this season. He was so pretty.
    Enjoy tour visitors. I sit in my sun room or sorting room and enjoy mine daily.
    Hugs, Gee

  2. Awesomes, Susan! (but I already saw it on your FB page, so I knew what was coming). I really love the bluebirds too, which I rarely get. I quit feeding the birds for the most part now, and will be putting out my hummingbird feeder within the week to attract the first arrivals. That squirrel is skinny – he needs to eat!

    • Yep, I can get stuff up there more quickly than a full blog post. 🙂 He does look a little skinny…maybe I should buy some peanuts for him although he tries to raid the feeders when he can.

  3. Susan, these pictures and the video of the woodpecker were wonderful! I am a faithful follower even tho I haven’t posted before. Love your posts about china, christal, silver and birds the most, altho I do enjoy the house tours. Thank you for all your interesting posts and tutorials as well. Each morning I so look forward to visiting your site to see what is new. I feel as if I am following a daughter on-line. My very best wishes to you.

  4. We have all kinds of birds too, however we only have our Humming Bird feeder out. Great post. I enjoyed all the pics. Hugs, Marty

  5. I have holes in the side of my house clear into my attic big enough for birds to fly in thanks to a woodpecker! And they are protected.

  6. Peggy Thal says

    Love all your beautiful bird photos +squirrel. You have your own wildlife park in the backyard. My husband and I have been watching all the birds outside this last weekend. We live on the golf course so we have quite a few. We have many geese and water birds flying by. The most surprising birds we saw was a pair of bald eagles.. We live close to many waterways and the Pagan and James River. I only got a picture with my IPhone. Never seem to have the camera when I need it. They were a beautiful sight. Kind of scary too.( I kept an eye on my cocker spaniel) –Isn’t wildlife so amazing?? Thanks for sharing- your Woody is just gorgeous. You sure are treating them all to a smorgasbord.

    • Oh, Peggy…so wonderful that you got to see a pair of Bald Eagels! I’ve only seen them once in person…on the birding trip I took to Jekyll Island. I love the pictures I’ve seen online of them…just magnificent!

  7. Susan, what amazing photos of your visitors! I saw one of the pileated woodpeckers in our yard a few years ago. I could not believe how large he was! Maybe I should get one of the large suet feeders to lure him back!

  8. Oh Susan your birds are beautiful, especially that big woodpecker – he is stunning. I never knew that they got that big. We do not get Cardinals here in So CA, but I do have wrens, sparrows, goldfinches, parrots (green) they sure make a lot of noise, and black capped chickadee’s .
    I have Sidney the squirrel and he loves to get on the phone lines and shake is his tail at the dogs and of course they are going wild trying to get him, but they can’t as he is to high up.
    Have a wonderful Easter. How is that beautiful baby grandson?

    • Squirrels are so funny…they definitely love to taunt doggies. I think the dogs secretly love it, too. 🙂 He’s doing great! Starting to making lots of baby cooing sounds, very alert…sweet boy! I need to make a trip back that way to see him again sometimes this summer. Have a wonderful Easter, Mary! XO

  9. Bonjour chère amie,
    Ce merveilleux billet est un ravissement… Mon ami, Léo le toucan en est enchanté !
    Que du bonheur en photos !
    Je vous envie d’avoir pu admirer et capturer ces sublimes oiseaux… Et ce petit écureuil pas très farouche est incroyable.
    Sur le toit de mon atelier, très souvent à l’automne lorsque les glands de mon chêne sont présents ils viennent faire une sarabande joyeuse !
    Je vous fais de gros bisous et vous souhaite de joyeuses fêtes pascales.

    • Say Hello to Leo for me Martine! 🙂 The squirrels here are brazen, they will come right up and eat with you near by. Oh, I bet they do love the acorns! Happy Easter to you!

  10. It’s been a long cold winter here in Ontario Canada
    Food must be scarce in the forest.
    We have had wild turkeys (14) at our bird feeder each day for weeks.

  11. WOW!!!!!!!!!!! That is amazing post – love your goldfinches, but you know they are a favorite, heh heh.
    (Finch Rest)

    That big woodpecker – stunning. Never saw one before. Absolutely gorgeous.

    We haven’t liked woodpeckers since a few years ago one put 5 holes in my house. Big holes right in my cedar. Not good. But sure look good on a monitor, haha.

    Hope you continue to share your pretty birds with us, Susan. Thank you.

  12. Susan, your photos are wonderful, and the video was so delightful, I watched it twice. That is a huge woodpecker! I just love that you were able to capture him on film.

  13. That was a neat video! My son has a go pro…he puts his on his car. He said he’s going to attach his to our hummingbird feeders this summer! What fun! Who knew? 😉

  14. Great pics and great camera you have!!! We have many pileateds here, they nest in the big woods. Last year when I had trees removed in the back yard, I left two of the stumps, planning to set pots on them this summer………well, a few mornings ago, the pileateds were there drilling at one stump, must be infested with insects or worms……anyway, the stump has one side that is completely collapsed now!!! That’s the woodpecker that ‘Woody Woodpecker’ is patterned after….
    The finches also like the seed heads of the coneflowers, I never dead head them so they have some food in the winter, they will also eat lavender buds. We also have blue birds, ours seem larger than yours. We have a lot of warblers now because the fruit trees are coming into bloom. We had an apple orchard at the ‘big’ house and I would sit for hours under a tree with my binoculars and bird book!!!!

    • That is so interesting, Cleo! I read someone where that Woody Woodpecker was modeled after the Pileated Woodpeckers…never knew that until now!
      I should grow some sunflowers this year…would love to see birds eating at them. I need to put more “bird-friendly plants in my yard. Oh, the birdwatching you did sounds wonderful!

    • Cleo, I just realized one of the birds I’ve been seeing and didn’t know what it was, was a black and white warbler…pretty sure. I just watched a video showing them. 🙂

  15. Susan… enjoying your bird photos so much. We have many birds coming to our feeders also, all the same ones you have. Love them so much! We have two woodpeckers who actually come to our feeder in the kitchen window on the back (it’s one of those where you can see them, but the glass part is treated on their side, so they can’t see you)… those two woodys come up several times a day and hang on the edge of it by their feet and eat the bluebird nuggets (they LOVE those) and the smashed peanuts I put in it also. They are so beautiful up close like that. I enjoy seeing them so much. I was surprised the first time one of those fellers came there!! We have a large suet feeder like yours, also… specifically for the woodpeckers so they can balance and brace themselves with their tail feathers. I have a tiny clear glass bowl I put in the window feeder off to the side, that I fill with live meal worms. The bluebirds come for them, but the chicadees and the tufted tit mouses come for the meal worms also, although we have a regular cage meal worm feeder for them as well, hanging down in the yard. The birds are all such a delight. Thanks for sharing your photos! I’ve taken a few from inside when there are birds eating in the window feeder, while they can’t see me. They are all always such fun to watch.

  16. The Woodpecker is a beauty. We occasionally have them here and the smaller downy woodpecker. The goldfinch are not appearing much yet, but we have a pair of chickadees who may rent the box hubby made for them, he saw the female go right in today. Oh can you imagine how tiny their babies are?
    We had robin last year build a next in our honeysuckle, the nest is still there, but I guess they do not return to the same site, anyone know of this?
    You are so lucky Susan, to have the red cardinals, I would love to see them, we have bluejays here.

  17. Norma Bethea says

    We have them around our woods but never to the feeders! I would have fainted!! Great picture!

  18. Gloria in Pgh says

    Susan- Love, love, love your photos! We have been getting lots of birds this year, mostly cardinals (my favorite), blue jays, robins, goldfinches, wrens, sparrows, and of course chickadees. I saw a few tufted titmice this weekend. I have never seen a pilated woodpecker. he is a big fellow! We have downys and red capped woodys here. Your squirrel looks like he hibernated all winter!! Our squirrels are chubby, chubby darlings! Thanks for sharing your backyard aviary with us!

  19. Had to chuckle seeing that Pileated Woodpecker…we had one yesterday “pulling the stuffing out” of one of the (man) bird houses outside my bedroom window!! I had never seen one do that before…he was a………… pecker-wrecker!! franki

  20. FABULOUS!! (TOTALLY understand setting that ‘land record’ running up the stairs for your camera…have done that a few times myself!) I’m in awe of all the beautiful birds that visit your feeders and (at least at our house) absolutely CHANGE the day with their arrival!

  21. Great photos! We have all those birds here in NE OK, unfortunately, my cameras are not equipped with the correct lens for lovely close-ups like yours. I must buy a new lens (and clean my windows)! Last Saturday we were sitting on the deck and saw our first hummingbird of the season at the feeder. Then a few minutes later we saw two bald eagles soaring high above. So fortunate to see both ends of the bird size spectrum in one sitting! The Eastern bluebirds always come and check out our houses but have never nested. We have never seen them at our feeders either. I am just thrilled with all the wonderful signs of spring!

  22. So, here I am patiently reading and scrolling through your post, getting more jealous by the minute. We do not have bluebirds or cardinals here and I just love them. Then I got to the surprise visitor and was indeed surprised because they are very common in my neck of the woods. I am so familiar with their cry, hearing them swoop through the woods, listening to the tap-tap-tapping on the trees. How fun for you to see one!!

  23. I put out many bird & squirrel feeders and enjoy watching all the “critters” in my small yard. Yesterday for the first time I saw a beautiful bright blue bird that I had never seen before. I called the Wild Bird Center and they said they are Indigo Bunting birds and will be in this area (Mandeville, LA) for 2 weeks. They are so bright and pretty they look like Easter Eggs sitting in the trees. We even have a Racoon that comes by every night, I love watching him too. We have one lost board on the fence and he actually move the board over with his “hands” crawls through the hole, eats, drinks and goes out the same way. Sometimes he brings a female with him, have not seen any babies yet. I was going to fix the fence, but now that I have seen him I don’t want to. Happy Easter everyone!

  24. SharonFromMichigan says

    Oooh, he’s a big boy and a beauty! Sparrows, robins and bluejays are what I have so far. I’m anxiously awaiting the hummers! Heard a woodpecker a couple blocks away. They seem to like the wooden utility poles the best, which is ok with me as long as they leave the house alone – lol. Oh yeah, the pesky seagulls are back too!

    Happy Easter!

  25. Hi Susan, Love your site and photos!! I usually see these magnificent birds, several times a year, mostly in the summer. We must “grow um big” here, as ours are quite a bit larger than your buddy!! We live in a log home in the woods, and I actually had one pecking on our house. It sounded like a jack hammer. Always a thrill to see them or just hear them. Happy Easter!!

  26. Caroline G says

    Ah yes, the pileated. This may be who has been doing that damage to your bird house. They’re rare here in central North Carolina as well, being more common on the coast. But my property is host to at least two, who have seriously torn up some of my ancient trees, ughhhh. Don’t get me wrong, I still think they are beautiful birds –don’t they look so prehistoric, like dinosaurs? But do check around your area for big fresh holes up on the trees. You’d be surprised at what kind of damage they can do…I certainly was.

    • Caroline, that’s exactly what I was thinking…they remind me of the Pteranodon. 🙂 Yeah, it is scary the size holes they can make!

      • Caroline G says

        Yeah, sure is! And the number of holes. Once they start in on a tree, they keep coming back . Until it looks like Swiss cheese, and is practically hollow inside. They’re persistent things!

  27. Susan,
    I love seeing the bird visiters and even some of the squirrel antics.
    We have the same heated bird bath and it does bring in a crowd. We have seen 5-6 cardinal pairs around our yard. They nest in our 30 ft pines and in the neighbor’s trees too. They sing alot but I notice they don’t sing in their own tree? maybe they want to keep that quiet. I read somewhere they like pine sap too.
    Last summer I was cleaning out dead branches and weeds under the pines and had a youngster “cussing” me out 3 feet above my head. Priceless.
    My inlaws put out dried field corn in a cob feeder for the squirrels so the eat that and leave the rest of the feeders alone.
    We have Chickadees, Wrens, Cardinals, Bluejays, Red headed Woodpeckers Morning Doves, and a Nuthatch on occasion. We had a pair of Ducks make a nest under our front evergreen and Geese will land in our yard to eat and then fly over to the pond 2 blocks away. We see humming Birds at our neighbors Quince and our Honeysuckle. they are too fast to photograph unless you are ready with camera in hand.

    • Rick, the bath really does make a difference! Too cute about the youngster letting you have it! 🙂 Sounds like we have all the same birds, although I don’t see near the number of chickadees that I used to. I wonder if it’s because I had all the bad looking Leyland Cypress trees removed. I have the ones you listed and also the Tufted Titmouse, House Finches and Robins. I bet you have those, too. Oh, we also have the Brown Thrasher…he’s our state bird. He’s a big bird! I once saw a Kinglet but I’m guessing he was migrating through since I’ve never seen another one. He was perched in a Pyracantha bush. Sounds like you have a lot of Cardinals! That’s amazing. I’ve seen two pairs here earlier in the spring…lately I’ve only seen one pair. Just this spring I had a starling and Red-winged Black bird stopping in. My birding store said Starlings can be a problem because they come in flocks and clean out the feeders. So far, I’ve only seen one. I was shocked to see a Red-wing Blackbird since I’ve only seen those in the marshes at a local nature center. Love hearing about your birds! Are you in the state of GA?

      • Susan,
        I near Madison WI. You are right about the robins. We had one that was here in late February. I thought I was seeing things. The photo (After land speed record getting the camera) didn’t turn out clear enough. Every so often we have a hawk or crows in the yard. We try to chase them out so they don’t hurt birds or nests.
        I read that many birds watch Chickadees because they are very cautious and aware of surroundings. If they are by feeder it is safe. I have my feeders close to my Privit hedge and maple trees so there is a safe place to dive to if safety is needed.
        I forgot to mention the Whooping Cranes are migrating now too. What a sight seeing the gangly birds fly with their long legs hanging down. Not very elegant 🙂 They have a very odd sound they make too.


        • That is too funny about the Cranes…what a sight that must be! Good to know about the Chickadees. I miss them. I hope they start appearing again more often at my feeders.

  28. Do the suet pellets help keep the squirrels off your feeders? I have to admit – NOT a fan of squirrels – They always eat all my seed and eat the wood trim of my mom’s house!!!

    • They still try to get on the feeders but not as much. I’m surprised they like the suet as much as they do. I may buy some dried corn for them, although I hate to encourage them since when I run out of corn they’ll probably go for the feeders again.

      • I may try the pellets…wouldn’t bother me if they ate what I bought for them! 🙂 Loved all the pics of your birdie friends.

  29. Marianne in Mo. says

    I’m new to your blog. We live about 35mi. N.E. of St. Louis. Our town is big on keeping trees, even dead ones, and we have Pileated Woodpeckers in our neighborhood, but they mostly visit down the street from us. I did get a good shot of one the first time he visited – he walked/hopped right up to the back door on the deck and sat facing me long enough for me to snap about five shots of him. We get an occasional visit from two, but not often. We have cardinals, chickadees, titmice, finches, doves and others I forget, as well as downys and others. Got a visit of mom and two baby raccoons a few times too, climbing up the feeder stand and emptying the seed, just like the squirrels do. We also have coyotes, deer and my neighbor got an early morning shot of a cougar walking up the street past her house. So much to see around here!

    • Marianne, that’s amazing that he came right up to your door! I have a raccoon that visits me, too. They can def wipe out the seed! Unfortunately, we have coyotes here in my area, too. I keep reading stories in the paper about them attacking small dogs and cats…not good. My neighbors cat was attacked but survived. Wow, a cougar! I would freak out! We don’t have those, that I know of…scary! Wonder what they eat?

  30. We have a wood pecker who hits on our metal fireplace flue on the roof. Noisy as all get out. And that little pecker only does that at 6:00 a.m. on Saturdays. It’s like he knows we want to sleep.

  31. Was watching the little bird on the ground did not expect the woodpecker, almost scared me to death! lol

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