Friday, January 8, 2010

Birds in Snow at Dusk

I managed to get home from work early enough to see some bird activity before it was completely dark. Even though the sun had officially set and there was complete cloud cover, the snow reflected what little light there was and kept things bright enough that the birds remained active later that normal. My camera kept protesting that it was too dark for pictures, but I insisted it try its best. It didn’t do too badly.

The Cardinals are used to being up this late and having the place to themselves. I haven’t done any counts this year. Last weekend, Juncos covered half the yard.

The Mourning Doves come in by the dozens. There is a Cooper’s Hawk that seems to prefer dove for dinner. It hunts by coming in low from the west and flushing the birds towards the house in hopes of a window strike. It seems to get a lot of meals this way. I keep the seed far enough from the house that non hawk induced window encounters are rare.

The birds spend a lot of time going back and forth between tree and seed. Blue Jays have apparently gone to roost for the night. They are usually the most noticeably active bird at the feeders.

Each species seems to have a well defined zone of personal space. The red stain at the base of the tree is a male Cardinal that got a little too close to the male with flared wings. It's actually flying and is not splattered against the tree trunk. With a little bit of study, you could probably come up with a spacing formula for a mixed species flock of ground feeding birds. It might say something like – Cardinals will be spaced 14 inches on center. Spacing may be decreased to 12 inches if separated by 2 Juncos.

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