Yard Birds -a different perspective

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These last few days are the middle, the peak, of the northward migration of neotropical wintering birds as well as those that have wintered in southeastern USA. Mid-May in New England can be quite wonderful; full of noise and color and optimism.

However, out on Cape Cod we almost never get huge numbers of birds as they usually fly up the mainland. Once out here they are a bit stuck as they either have to retrace their steps or fatten up locally and then cross the Gulf of Maine. Yet, there are always a few ways for me to pass the time until something special arrives. Here are a few of those time-passing moments.

The lead image at the top of the blog page, “featured image” as WordPress calls it, is a tiny little bird called Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. They are very numerous this year and always a springtime treat.

I will start with simple honesty – I take a lot of pictures that are something like this.
In the olden days of 20th century we would spend about 50¢ per slide to get our photos.
It was expensive to take ten or twenty images and hope to get one that was really good some two weeks later when Kodak had developed the roll of film and returned the 36 slides in a yellow box.
The wonders of digital cameras!!
I now can take thirty-six images and review them in seconds.
Still many of the images are pretty much like this posterior shot of a Blue Jay (BLJA).
One of the common birds of shrubby growth in our world is the Gray Catbird (GRCA).
This is a perky, seemingly confident bird that mumbles and warbles most of the day.
In the late summer the adults and new young are very, very common and visible.
This is a typical look: black cap, gray body, and distinct eye.
However there is a bit more……
The Gray Catbird has a bright cinnamon-colored array of under-tail coverts – rump feathers that is.
Many birds seem to develop breeding plumages that help to attract the opposite sex and repel competition from members of the same sex.
This seems an odd way of showing dominance or strength or breeding capabilities.
But, it is a great color isn’t it?
Here is another butt-shot.
This is a Baltimore Oriole (BAOR) showing the yellow-orange sides and the even yellower undertail feathers.
There are at least four orioles (and a couple catbirds) that are eating the grape jelly.
This is a bird that (for the most part) winters in Mexico and Central America
and seems to enjoy the more tropical food offerings when it first returns up here in the north country.
This bird box was installed to lure in Great-crested Flycatchers (GCFL).
It did, but they haven’t nested in it.
We even put a camera in it to record the inner workings of a nest – but the squirrels (this time probably a Red Squirrel) chewed through the wires.
The box has had Tufted Titmice (TUTI), both White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches (WBNU & RBNU), and the ubiquitous Gray Squirrel showing interest.
Anyway, the latest use is by this Red-bellied Woodpecker (RBWO) who drums on it using it as an amp or reverberation chamber,
to make him sound bigger and better.
Don’t be fooled by big talk ladies……
This last photo is a sad story — I almost led with it to get it over with, but decided to finish with it.
The belly feathers on this Eastern Phoebe (EAPH) are not full or fluffy; they are spare and very worn looking.
The best researcher in the northeast on migratory birds is a chap named Trever Lloyd-Evans and
he has banded and recorded birds in Plymouth, Massachusetts for some thirty plus years – he has seen it all.
Well, Trevor tells me that this bird is likely to be suffering the aftermath of being wet, or even soaked, with an oil.
Perhaps bathing in a puddle of oil that looked like water or water that was polluted by oil.
The bird then trys to preen the feathers and they pull apart and the bird ingests the oil.
It is feathering like this that is washed and cleaned on birds after an oil spill – but many (perhaps most) die.
Incidentally our flycatchers, and many other birds, are being dramatically impacted by the use of nicotine-based insecticides.

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