Catching Snacking Cardinals

I looked out the bedroom window the other day and noticed the Texas greeneyes (Berlandiera texana I believe) was moving around a bit.

Upon inspection with the binoculars, I saw that it was a Northern Cardinal that was shaking the plant around (I knew it wasn't deer, but it could have been a woodchuck).


Here's what I saw after the bird moved from behind to the top of the plant:

A better view of the plant itself for perspective:

It's really a beauty, isn't it? It has been full of blooms since June. That's four months of being smothered in flowers -- amazing! I never thought such a floral display would be possible from a perennial!

Apparently the blooms are tasty too, as the bird was eating them!

Or more accurately I guess, it was eating the delicious, seedy centers. I couldn't tell if the petals were being dropped or swallowed.

Birds eat quickly, so it was a question of snapping photos almost randomly and hoping that they reveal what exactly was going on.

I'm not sure that they do, but then the male who had been foraging on the ground joined the fun and added some more color to the frame so I no longer cared about the petals:

Looks like he was getting reprimanded for not joining sooner...

...or maybe it was just a greeting. Or instructions? He quickly got to work as his mate supervised:

You know how wildlife advocates say to leave seed heads standing over winter so birds can forage?

It's my experience that most birds don't wait for seeds to even be ripe -- they just eat them as soon as the blooms have any hint of seeds. I've seen it with coneflowers, rudbeckia, sunflowers, Agastache, and now the Berlandiera. I think most of the seeds are gone well before winter really sets in.

I'm hoping to get some volunteers from this plant next year, as I want it growing in a couple of other places around the yard. Will there be seeds left for me to collect?

Technical camera note: I used my vintage 1965 Pentax 300mm lens for these shots. This may have been the first time I've used it with the new camera (Pentax K-50). With the old K-200D I had to use this lens wide open, which left the images quite soft and disappointing. Stepping down to f11 or so really sharpens the images -- only possible because this camera has much higher ISO ratings than the old one. I'm quite pleased with the results and therefore will be using this lens much more than I used to!


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Chickadee Gardens  – (October 5, 2015 at 10:22 AM)  

Oh, those birds are wonderful. We don't get cardinals so it's a treat to see them. We leave all kinds of seedheads around for the birds which do really devour them. What a front-seat show you have! Fabulous.

Mark and Gaz  – (October 5, 2015 at 11:08 AM)  

Such handsome birds! Found myself fixating on them and not on the plant at all!

Salty Pumpkin Studio  – (October 5, 2015 at 11:11 AM)  

Nice photos with charming story to tell. I think the petals must have something they like or the leaves.

Hoover Boo  – (October 5, 2015 at 4:11 PM)  

Wonderful that all the beauty ends up feeding the beautiful birds. Win-win!

outlawgardener  – (October 6, 2015 at 11:04 PM)  

I envy you your cardinals. They need to continue their westward expansion. Last I heard, they were as far west as Arizona. Such beautiful birds!

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