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Birds of Winter

Posted by Pallida Zone 7b (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 30, 11 at 13:41

Winter is, apparently, on the way. The Hummingbirds, my Painted Bunting and the Red-winged Blackbirds have all disappeared. The white crowned sparrows and goldfinches are returning. Haven't heard geese overhead, so, maybe, we have a little more mild weather. Hope so, as I always dread the cold wind, ice and the color, beige!

Jeanie


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Birds of Winter

I am with you there. Just got elephant ears and bananas in and ready to put them back out.


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RE: Birds of Winter

The color beige (maize is closer) makes a real pretty backdrop to evergreen and the blue/grey plants, most of which keep their foliage. I love the contrasting textures in the garden in winter, the subtle colors and decorative seedpods. The cactus pads get very colorful. The ornamental grasses take over with textures of curling leaves and fluffy seed heads that catch the light, its my favorite time for them. Lots of red berries are putting on a show. I think I like the colors of winter better than spring because they are more subdued and each plant has its own shade and character. In spring its all grass green and sometimes gaudy with everything competing at once, the greens all blending in together.

I usually spend a lot of time in the garden in winter, there are always things needing to be done. We have lots of nice winter days in Oklahoma.


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RE: Birds of Winter

Today was a special bird day for DH and me. First, a mile and a half from home, as we were driving along the county road, we saw a bald eagle in an open field, no more than 40 ft from the road. It was eating a small furry animal. When we stopped, it turned to look at us, then flew away to a tree at the edge of the field. On arriving at my parents house, we saw a roadrunner cross the driveway right beside the house.

I am looking forward to the birds of winter, especially the purple finches that overwinter here. We have heard geese, but only the small flock that touches down on the neighbor's pond every year as they come through. Haven't heard or seen large flocks yet.

Dh and I went out yesterday morning and found 4 birds flying around inside the greenhouse. There was a cardinal, a junco and 2 goldfinches. We knew it was time to get it completely closed up so hurried and got it done.


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RE: Birds of Winter/2

Beerhog, good idea, bringing in the tender plants, as I think the weather is supposed to "bottom out" this week-end.
Mulberryknob, oh wow!, a bald Eagle. Haven't seen any here in South Central OK. Roadrunners, Cardinals, Juncos and Finches, I've got. I love them all. They make Winter much more interesting. I don't know if we have bald Eagles here, or not. Wonder if Dawn has them down on the river?

Jeanie


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RE: Birds of Winter

We've seen some flocks of geese overhead over the past few weeks, but the main bird I've seen over the past month or so is grackles. THOUSANDS of grackles. I don't think I've ever seen so many birds at one time. Whenever the flock decides to perch on a tree, the tree turns black with birds. One day I was driving home from work, and there was a flock flying in a ribbon above me that stretched off in the distance as far as I could see, which had to have been at least a few miles.


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RE: Birds of Winter

I've seen flocks of geese too, in the last couple of weeks. I love when those grackles collect like that. They look like smoke when they take off and change directions. Have you ever noticed how they space themselves out evenly on wires and rooftops? I saw a gable roof and it looked like they were part of the structure, they were so perfectly spaced. There is an intersection on May Ave where they collect every year in the hundreds. Its the exact same spot each year down by Aladdan Bookstore.

Anyone ever see roadrunners? I have seen one here in OKC on an empty abandoned parking lot going to weeds by Broadway Ext. Just the one in the entire time I have lived here. We have a friend in Arkansas who sees them on his property regularly.


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RE: Birds of Winter

I think that any day you see an eagle is a pretty special day.

We see eagles here fairly often, sometimes in pairs and sometimes singles. We see both bald eagles and golden eagles. In 2004, a pair of golden eagles must have had a nest pretty close to us because I often saw them out hunting when I was walking the dogs, and one day they flew right over our barn while our friend was up on the roof working on it. A friend of ours often observed a pair of bald eagles near his business a couple of miles northwest of us that same year. It must have been a really good year for the eagles here because some years we see them much less often.

I love the roadrunners and we have three separate areas on our road where we generally see them several times a month. We generally only see them on our property during the worst droughts, because we have cats hanging around the yard a lot. The roadrunners are pretty self-sufficient and normally can find their own food, but during the worst drought periods they will come to our yard and eat hen scratch or wild bird seed with the other wild birds. The places I see the roadrunners most often are the fencelines, where they run up and down the hedgerows of native plants that some property owners allow to grow along their fencelines. Baby/juvenile roadrunners are especially cute.

We have oodles of birds here year-round and keep feeders, waterers and birdbaths out for them. Right now we're seeing many different kinds, but particularly blue jays, juncos, black-capped chickadees, woodpeckers, flickers, cardinals, doves, sparrows, great blue herons and crows. I am not a huge fan of the crows, but the good thing about having them adopt your bird feeding area is that they relentlessly chase away hawks, kites, kestrels and other birds of prey. We've had a few owls around lately, but we hear them a lot more than we actually see them since they are active at night. We often have whippoorwills and Chuckwalla's Widows here, and I heard them a lot this summer but they must have migrated elsewhere for the winter because I haven't heard them lately.

I haven't heard or seen any geese yet, but we have had a lot of wild ducks showing up from points further north. They often overwinter on farm ponds here, but most of us with ponds don't have enough water to attract ducks right now.

We don't see grackles here very often but see them (and starlings) a lot on the Texas side of the river, especially in the fields between Sanger and Gainesville.

Later in the winter we'll have lots of goldfinches. I haven't seen many finches yet this year, but the amount of seed in the finch feeder is going down every day, so I know they're here.


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RE: Birds of Winter

We had two eagles in our neighborhood last year. I never did see them but my neighbor got some good pictures and sent them to me. We hear owls lots of nights but I never see them.


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RE: Birds of Winter

Dawn, I am seriously jealous. You have roadrunners. If you have lizards, I am even more jealous. All I get is toads.

I have never seen a baby RR. I want to see one.


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RE: Birds of Winter

Roadrunners zip across my yard every now and then, not nearly as much as I would like for them to. Imagine my surprise when, a couple of years ago, I looked out my kitchen window to see one standing on a metal chair on my deck, looking in the widow at me! He stood there several minutes, while I attempted to engage him in conversation, finally became bored, hopped down, ran across the deck, down the steps and across the lawn.
I had to run one off a few days ago, as he was pecking away at my Christmas yard lights and the wiring. Who knows what was on his mind or what he thought he had discovered. I've never seen babies. They must keep them well hidden.

Jeanie


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RE: Birds of Winter

Jeanie, Roadrunners kill snakes. I saw one running with a snake hanging out of both sides of its beak once. And when I mentioned to Mom that I saw the roadrunner again, she said that she and Dad had seen one with a snake there last summer. I wonder if yours thought the electric wire was a skinny snake.


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RE: Birds of Winter

When I was a child, my grandparents lived in very southern Carter County in a little community called Reck. No matter which way you went you had a few miles of dirt road to travel. It was the road where all of us learned to drive, I think. Even today when I think of that road, I think of roadrunners because we always saw them there.

Dawn, although that isn't far from your place, they had all sand instead of your red clay.

My favorite bird in southern Oklahoma was the Painted Bunting, and then the cardinals. Here I like the American Gold Finch, the Cardinal, and the Pelicans. I also enjoy the hummers.


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RE: Birds of Winter

I love the birds of winter, especially when it snows and the brightly-colored ones look like lovely jewels sitting on the snow-encrusted branches.

Most of our acreage is covered with woodland and we have birds in great profusion. We feed them year-round, although most summers they do not visit the feeders very much, except when food is scarce in times of drought. In the winter, our feeders stay very busy.

Jeanie, I haven't seen many geese flying over this year, but we have had a lot of ducks. Some years the geese fly over in great numbers and some years in lesser numbers. This year it has been the lesser numbers.

Our first year here, some of the animals acted like they'd never seen people before, though I am sure they had. The raccoons would come sit on a little patio table on the front porch and knock on the windows, apparently begging for food. We didn't feed them. The deer would come right up to the windows and look into the house. Now, thanks to the placement of trees and shrubs, they can't get quite that close any more.

Roadrunners are very opportunistic and will eat just about anything they can catch, including other birds, mice, snakes, frogs, insects, etc. I think we are seeing more and more roadrunners here every year, but we are seeing fewer and fewer tarantulas. I bet the roadrunners are eating them. I am sure your roadrunner wanted to determine if the light cords were nice little snakes or worms or something.

Janet, Our part of Love County sticks down into Texas and we have the Red River about 1/4 to 1/2 mile west of us, 2 or 3 miles east of us, and 9 to 10 miles south of us, so we are surrounded by a lot of Wildlife Management Land, verdant and usually green and lush river bottom land, and a lot of ranch land that remains pretty "wild" and natural. So, we have virtually everything here, except I've never seen buffalo, prairie dogs, alligators, bears or woodchucks here. Otherwise, we have it all, or at least have it in passing as it walks, slithers, crawls, creeps or swims through our land and waterways or flies over it.

So, yes we have the roadrunners everywhere and we adore them. Whenever we see them, we excitedly say 'roadrunner' and point at it....sort of like 8 year old children who are seeing Santa come down their chimney and into their house. Even if it is the second or third time that day that we've seen one, we still stop and watch and just enjoy the moment. We love the roadrunners and they are not something I really expected to find here. I've always thought of them as birds of the desert, and we're only desert here during June, July and August of most years, but they have adapted nevertheless.

We do have lizards, along with every kind of snake, venomous and non-venomous that you can imagine, and toads, frogs, tree frogs galore, turtles, horned toads, etc. One of my favorites is the glass lizard, which looks more like a snake than a lizard, and I'd never heard of them until we moved here.

Before you get too jealous, remember we have to deal with a lot of skunks, bobcats, coyotes, raccoons (they are vicious killers of poultry and tiny kittens), and lots of other less desirable types of wildlife. However, we also have the great pleasure of frequently seeing white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, possums, armadilloes, all kinds of birds, and sometimes we see the more shy and elusive wild things like foxes, ferrets and ringtails.

One of the favorite images of our land that is imprinted on my mind occurred this summer. I walked out the door of the house and at a little watering hole about 20 feet from the back door, we had a raccoon, a white-tailed deer, a cottontail rabbit, an armadillo and several songbirds all simultaneously drinking from the hole, which I kept filled with water from the hose since all the ponds and creeks had dried up. I've never seen that many different animals standing there together in peace before, and wonder if they always coexist that peacefully or if the drought gave the a new tolerance for one another.

I have had a few scarey encounters with wildlife, with the worst being 3 separate close encounters with cougars, being chased by a skunk and several very near misses with venomous snakes. You have to take the bad with the good, I guess, but I am definitely much more cautious now than I used to be. I used to run all over our 10 acres of woodland in the winter, clearing underbrush, etc. but now I never go deeply into the woods without another person, a couple of dogs and a gun.

Carol, If I had to guess, I'd say a lot more of Love County has sandy soil than clay, and I wasn't really aware of that in our early years here. I knew most of Thackerville had sand, and figured most of the river bottoms were sandy too, and they are. I didn't think the sand went all the way to Carter County, but then learned over the years that it does in some places. After all the years of wildfires since 2005, I've been to every corner and edge of the county and have been surprised to see how much of it does have sandy soil, and that some small portions of the county have some pretty dark brown to black soil that, to me, looks a lot like blackland prairie clay although I didn't dig into it to see if that was what it was.

I'd rather have our clay than sugar sand, though, because the clay is a lot richer in minerals. Out west, say in the Leon-Courtney-Orr area, the soil all appears to be sand and the trees and shrubs don't get nearly as big as they do here, but the western-type grasses and cacti get huge in that sand compared to the size they reach on our land.

The painted buntings were one of my first big "surprises" here in terms of wildlife. I see a handful of them every year. This year, the drought finally drove the indigo buntings onto our place. I think they normally might be more reclusive than the painting buntings, or maybe there's fewer of them here, because I've never seen them here until this year, and they came all summer to our manmade watering holes and the bird feeding area.

Dawn


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RE: Birds of Winter

Another good bird day. While working in the greenhouse a couple hours ago, DH and I heard geese. We stepped outside just as 3 large Vs flew over with between 4 and 500 birds total. They were fairly high, but straight over our garden. (Does anyone know why geese call while they fly? Seems like an expenditure of energy that would be better saved.)

Then after lunch I was doing dishes, looking out at the bird feeder and bath and saw a purple finch land on the feeder.

Dawn and Jeanie, I envy you your Painted Buntings. In 28 years here, I've only seen one once and that was over 20 years ago. Indigo Buntings, though, are common here. They come to the feeder in 2s and 3s every summer. I have seen a Summer Tanager here for the last two years. Also a Baltimore Oriol for 2 springs. And have seen a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak in late winter at the feeder for a couple years.


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RE: Birds of Winter

I don't know why Dawn and I are not seeing the geese flying in formation, as you would think they would be headed straight for the Southern border this time of year. Of the "Southbounders", I have seen, over the years, the geese in flight and the Monarch migration, but I NEVER see the humming birds take off. I just wake up one late September day, and they are gone. I saw my first Painted Bunting this Spring (I moved out here in June of 2007, you know, the Monsoon year?), and this was the first one I had ever seen. Needless to say. It stopped me in my tracks. What a beautiful bird! The Roadrunner cartoon with the poor preyed upon coyote is my favorite cartoon, so I was delighted when I realized they occupied this part of the state, although, I too, thought they were desert "critters". As far as lizards go, the only thing I have seen is some little, about, 2" green critter who skitters away when I pick up a bucket or something in damp shade. I occassionally see a fair sized terripin (did I spell that right?) creep across the yard. The snakes are, mostly, black snakes, which I don't mind too much because of my abundant mouse population which robs my bird feeders, chews through the wiring in my cars and makes nests in the trunk and under the hood. Speaking of cartoons, I'm not NEARLY as sympathetic with Jerry of "Tom and Jerry" as I used to be! HA


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RE: Birds of Winter

I frequently see Canadian Geese here in the City, since they make their home at the local lakes like Lake Hefner, for instance. My daughter used to live by LH and there were also numerous geese at her complex. I think they must be the most common species.

As to other birds, my year-round population is the Cardinals, Robins, Sparrows, Finches (House mostly, some Goldfinches), Grackles, both Common and Great-Tailed, Eurasian Collared Doves, Mourning Doves, Blue Jays. In winter, I see the White-Breasted Nuthatches. Early spring this year, I had a pair of Lark Sparrows.

Since late summer, I have had what I "think" is a Carolina Wren. This bird is smaller than a Sparrow, hops on the ground for food - seed or insects, I don't know - holds its tail feathers upright, and appears like a quite nervous little bird. That said, I could get about 5' from the bird, and it wasn't afraid. Also has a very long light colored eyebrow. Cute little things. Always on the ground or very low in vegetation. Anyone agree with the ID or have another suggestion?

Susan


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RE: Birds of Winter

Susan,
I had forgotten that the geese hang out at Lake Hefner and, probably, Lake Overholser, too. Does your daughter live in Hefner Village, as I have known several people living there?
Googled the Carolina Wren, and that is EXACTLY what it looks like: chubby little body, perky tail and long white eyebrow. They are cold sensative, living in Eastern Oklahoma and Eastern US. They will seek out flower pots, hanging planters, etc. for nesting and staying warm. I don't think I have seen them here, but will be alert to what they look like. ((*=*))

Jeanie


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RE: Birds of Winter

I have quite a few desert cardinals in my yard and for some reason, this year I have far more than usual. I've also started seeing, of all things, a flock of peach faced lovebirds!
We have quite a few road runners out in the desert but never in the yard. I do have a couple chickens that look just like road runners. They're called Egyptian Fayoumis. They even run like road runners and are wild things.
I do miss the Oklahoma flycatchers, geese ( I grew up in CO and we had so many, even more than in OK), plus the pretty yellow ones, can't remember the names. My favorites, though are the Eastern Red cardinals. I've only seen those a couple of times in AZ and I used to have them fairly often in OK, due to all my pine trees.


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RE: Birds of Winter//2

Dr. Tracy,
My curiosity has overwhelmed my good manners. Ever since I started seeing your posts on this forum and Arizona's forum, I have wondered if you were a medical doctor or a professor???
I had to google this bird, also, as I had never heard of the pyrrhuloxia (desert cardinal). It, too, is beautiful, but two-toned red and grey, instead of the blazing red ones we see around here. Except for, maybe, the vulture, I can't think of any really UGLY birds. HA.....

Jeanie


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RE: Birds of Winter

Dorothy, I believe the calling or honking is between family members, like parents and children, and is how they keep up with each other's whereabouts as they fly.

I saw purple finches at the finch feeder just yesterday and that's the first time this fall I saw any bird at the feeder. It is half empty, so clearly they've been visiting it, but not when I've been outside.

Jeanie, With the hummingbirds, I only know the migration has begun because suddenly the hummingbird traffic at the feeders increases a lot. It happens as early as early August some years and not until late August in other years. The major increase in hummer traffic lasts maybe a month and then tapers off, although I still might have occasional slowpokes passing through even well into October. Also, I've noticed we see ruby-throats, rufous and black-chinned hummers during spring and fall migration, but generally only the rubies stay here. So, when I see rufous and black-chinned hummers either in spring or late summer, they are the migrants.

I hate the black snakes because they kill our chickens and also eat eggs. We have a lot more trouble with the rat snakes killing chickens that with chicken snakes killing chickens. It is always somthing, I guess. Without cats to control the rodents, I expect we'd have a huge rodent and snake problem, so I greatly appreciate the cats efforts at rodent control.

Some years we see the geese in fall headed south, but we always see them headed north in spring. I am not sure if I am not outside at the right times in the fall to see them, or what, because if I see them headed north (and I always do), that clearly means they had to have come south at some earlier time. A lot of waterfowl overwinter at the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge, which is in Texas near Pottsboro near Lake Texoma, and so is a few miles east/southeast of my part of Love County. I've often wondered if the geese that I'm not seeing in the fall are taking a route slightly east of us and stopping to rest at the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge before heading further south.

When we lived in Fort Worth, I saw the geese every year, and they always flew over my brother's place near Crowley too. Here, geese sightings are much more hit and miss in the fall but very consistent in the spring. Normally we have ducks move in to live on/near our big pond, but it was dry for so long that there aren't any here this year.

We've always had a lot of turtles here because of the creeks and ponds, but the last three years, one large one (she's about the size of a dinner plate) has laid eggs right under the plum tree in our yard. The raccoons always dig up and eat the eggs laid near the ponds and creeks, so maybe by laying the eggs further from a body of water, her babies have a chance to hatch out. So, having the turtle digging in the yard (an activity that freaks out the cats) and laying eggs is now one of the signs of spring we watch for.

Susan, It does sound like a Carolina Wren. I remember that Randy used to have wrens nest in his garage and/or greenhouse there in central OK.

Tracy, How cool is it that you have the lovebirds? My son is a tropical bird lover and has two sets of lovebirds that are sitting on eggs in their little nests right now.

The flycatchers are still here, so if you ever get to move back, you won't have to miss them any more.

Jeanie, I think that Chuckwill's Widows are fairly unattractive as birds go, but not as ugly as the Vultures.

Dawn


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RE: Birds of Winter

The geese winter over here kinda like the Robins - some migrate, some don't. I remember when I was working in Westboro, Mass, we had a pond that they called home, and in spring when they had their goslings, they would cross the road to the office, back and forth. We all stopped and waited for them to complete their crossing. They can be kind of nasty around buildings because their feces are large, and it makes it difficult to traverse the sidewalks. But, the babies are soooooooo cute!

I am a little nervous about putting up the feeder because last year I had so many Sparrows take over, they drove the other birds away.

Susan

Dawn, I guess the Carolina Wrens are common here. I had them last year around the feeder, too, now that I recall. They climb up and down the tree trunks, looking for insects in bark, too. I really loved the little White-Breasted Nuthatches because they would get a seed from the feeder and fly to the pine tree to crack it open by pounding it on the branch, and then eat it. Too cute!


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RE: Birds of Winter

On reading about bird migration in Dave's Garden newsletter this AM, I learned these facts:
The various flight paths are called "flyways", ours being the "Great Plains" flyway.
Not ALL birds migrate, such as Cardinals, Crows, Carolina Wrens (although they are very cold sensitive and will die off in very cold Winters, unless protected).
Some birds only migrate as far South as warmer temps. and food sources are found, never leaving the US.
Then, of course, there are the Hummingbirds, etc. who, according to this info says they start migrating in late August to early September, returning in mid to late January. My Hummers leave in late September and return in May. Guess they stop off in South Texas for three or four mos.
The secret to the different varieties of birds' migration is warmth and food.
I have at my feeder right now: Cardinals, Chickadees, Goldfinches, Sparrows, Doves and the persistant, forever Squirrels and Mice. I love my birds who hang around all Winter. They help make the frigid mos. more bearable..........

Jeanie


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RE: Birds of Winter

I felt so bad today I had a woodpecker and several
birds out there wanting food and I forgot seed and
to make suet.
It would be a 20 mile round trip to hit the nearst
town and the cheapest is a 40 mile round trip.
I had to go in it was too sad.
Tree


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RE: Birds of Winter

Tree - You just have a tender heart. When I first moved here, I kept bird seed out all of the time, but I now only do it in the winter or if we have a long period with rain. On those rainy days they will sit in the tree for shelter, then just dip down to eat when the rain stops for a while. I think they have plenty of food around in the summer. I wish I could find a reasonably priced source for bird seed because it all seems to be expensive now.

Dorothy - I have orioles every year. I did have a feeder on my porch but the feeders attract so many wasps that I can't put one there anymore. I had a friend that had a nail driven in the top of a wooden post and she would press an orange half over the nail and the birds would come for the nectar. You still get the birds, but don't have the bees at your front door to sneak in when the door opens.

Jeanie, Tracy may not read the forum everyday so maybe she won't mind if I answer your question. She is a medical doctor that loves horses and has a desire to move back to Oklahoma. They hope to move here when her husbands completes his PHD which I think is a year or so away. I have a son that is getting nearer and nearer to that goal and it seems to be a long process even after you finish the course work. Our son was excited last week that his paper had been approve. Then there will be the oral portion. Even after you do all you can do, it seems you are still at the mercy of the board.

Everytime we have a bird thread, I learn about a new bird. I have to go google to find out what you are talking about and see if I have one of those. LOL


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RE: Birds of Winter

I live South of Wynnewood, so it is only 8 mi. to WM to buy seed in Pauls Valley, but, even there, the seed just gets pricier and pricier. I've been forced to start mixing black oil sunflower seed and millett to make it go further.
Thanks, SoonerGM, for sharing the info on Dr. Tracy. Those PHDs do take forever, but I've always said that I want my doctors to finish at the head of their class. HA

Jeanie


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