Monday, May 12, 2014

Blue Grosbeak et. al.

If not for the feeder and associated bird habitat located outside my window, I would miss a lot of interesting bird activity.  Arrival of the Blue Grosbeak is not heralded by a sighting in the field, but by a view of the bird visiting the feeder for some sunflower seeds.

I saw the first Blue Grosbeak at Blue Jay Barrens about ten years ago.  They are now regular breeding birds here.

This male was a little bit wary of the feeder and spent time hovering just out of range.

Other birds moving about caused it to back off, but it wasn’t about to abandon its quest for seeds.

Once it actually settled in and began eating, its apprehension abated.  It didn’t take long before it was flying straight in regardless of the company.

A scattering of Red-breasted Grosbeaks visit the feeder each spring.  They are on their way north and will not stay to nest here.

This spring is typical of most and I haven’t seen more than a single Red-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder.

Indigo Buntings are abundant summer visitors here.  Their song can be heard around every field edge.

Blue Jays are at the feeder year round.  They’ll soon be bringing their young in to learn about sunflower seed and cracked corn.

Eastern Bluebirds don’t visit the feeder, but they find the yard an ideal place to hunt for insects.  They rarely perch for more than a quarter minute before dropping to the ground to pick up an insect or worm.

Bluebirds love to perch on utility lines.  It is from this position that they drop seeds destined to become shrubby invaders of the utility right-of-way.

Cardinals are also year round residents that take full advantage of the feeder.  I imagine that many of these adults were first brought to the feeders by their parents.  I’ve seen many a parent bird sit on the feeder and pass cracked sunflower seeds over to its offspring.

The Cardinal is the last species to leave the feeder in the evening.  I’ve watched many still munching seed in twilight so dark that you couldn’t tell the color of the birds.  I think it’s this habit of late feeding that makes the Cardinal an opportune target for early hunting Screech Owls.

White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows are stopping at the feeder on their journey north.  The White-throated Sparrows are the two on the left and the White-crowned is the one on the right that is not a Mourning Dove.  White-throated Sparrows occasionally spend the winter here, but I’ve seen very few this year.  I always get a lot at the feeders during spring migration.  I guess they are attracted by the crowd of resident birds.

I normally don’t see many White-crowned Sparrows.  This year they have been especially abundant.

Goldfinch numbers were way down this winter.  Perhaps the frequent ice and snow storms we had drove most of them farther south.

A few Brown-headed Cowbirds are always at the feeder.  The forest in this area has been chopped into neat blocks and strips that are ideal for the Cowbirds.  A scan of the woodland edges reveals Cowbirds sitting high near the treetops watching for other birds to betray the position of their nests, so the Cowbird can slip in and deposit one of its own eggs.

There are always a few House Finches in the mix, but their numbers can fluctuate dramatically from year-to-year.  I would be concerned about the health of that guy in the back if I hadn’t seen him come to the feeder straight from the bird bath.

Eastern Towhee numbers have been increasing for years.  They are now a common year round resident.  Towhees generally forage on the ground, but if necessary, they’ll come straight to the source.

Red-winged Blackbirds sometimes arrive in large flocks during the winter.  During spring and summer they are represented by only a few individuals.  Blue Jay Barrens just doesn’t have the wetland habitat preferred by these birds as a nesting area.

Of course we also have a few Crows that regularly come by for some corn.  I don’t know if I would get close up views of any birds if not for the feeders.