More Yard Birds

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Another apology for another delay – I will get to the Falklands page sooner or later; but the local birds got such a good response the other day I thought I’d put in a few images from a couple days ago shot on the deck. We have had a rather mild and snow free winter in New England so far this season but there hasn’t been much sunshine. So when the sun was out the other day I put out a dish of meal worms and huddled against the camera. There were a few sharp pics and then there are a few from the water dish as well. We have had almost zero in the way of northern winter finches. Canada has not yet shared their bounty of Redpolls, Siskins, Grosbeaks, or Crossbills. There must be a lot of boreal forest cones providing a rich seed crop up there. Sad for us, easier for the birds I guess.

Anyway, here are a few images and notes on birds from the back deck.

The Eastern Bluebirds (EABL) whose image leads this post off started my thinking about using meal worms this winter. The bluebirds came in one day a few weeks ago and I immediately sent away for meal worms. They arrived and I started putting them out on the deck rail. The following images show what happened. It has been fun having the worms and the birds – but those Eastern Bluebirds never returned and never ate a single meal worm.

Our wintering robin population is a mix of northern birds that have dropped down from the Canadian north and some lingering birds from our breeding population. They gather in large number at roosting areas in the evening but scatter across the countryside during the day to feed on berries and fruits that hang on into the winter. It is no surprise then that most of the American Robins (AMRO) in the winter are along the more moderate salt water coast. We have had a single robin at the feeders each of the past four years; a real bully dominating the scene. That is a bit odd because they don’t eat much in the way of seeds and the lard/suet/fat items we offer are not pursued with vigor. But the meal worms are a different story. The robin is first there on the deck in the morning looking for the earliest meal worms to be brought out, often right at sunrise. The big guy then takes and swallows between 17 and 27 worms in a row. I eat popcorn that way sometimes and now have an idea of what I look like as I pop kernel after kernel into my mouth.
Our New England Carolina Wrens (CAWR) are rebounding from a killer-winter four years ago. 108″ (2.74 meters) of snow was to much for these little guys. But now, three breeding seasons later, they are back in reasonably high numbers, singing throughout the winter. They are one of the birds that don’t seem to be bullied by the robin. They just hop up, move in, and take a worm from right under the robin’s red belly. Good food, no fear.
It is good to hear them on a sunny, but cold, winter day. They also come inside the garage if the door is left open for any time. They creep around under shelves and tools looking for comatose spiders and wintering spider eggs – as well as any other arthropods they can find.
Our warblers migrate south. In the winter we often get Pine Warblers (PIWA) and occasionally Orange-crowned Warblers (OCWA) and maybe a few others. The members of this group are small and rather delicate and probably evolved with a migratory pattern allowing access to good safe breeding area in the summer but a habitat that becomes to hostile in the winter. Hence a northward and then southward migration. As I said we do, at least here on the Massachusetts coast, keep our Pine Warblers or at least a few of them. In small numbers they will appear on most eastern Massachusetts Christmas Bird Counts. They are, in fact, birds of the pine woods as the name implies. Ours are in Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida) woodlands as a rule. For the most part the females are gray and rather dull where the males have a variable amount of yellow on them. This is probably a female although a young male can sometimes be pretty gray. Over the past decade or so we have been seeing groups of PIWA in the fall and some groups into the winter. Perhaps there is a change taking place in their behavior.
The State Bird of Massachusetts is the small, perky, Black-capped Chickadee (BCCH). They are related to the equally common Tufted Titmouse (TUTI). The titmice have come up from the south where the chickadees as a group are from northern forests. This little guy found it a long way from the edge of the dish to the worms – so it jumped right in.
The robin and the wrens stay in, or at, the dish and eat one after the other. Nuthatches, chickadees, and titmice pick one out and fly off to eat in privacy and safety.

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