Just a local Walk

Please consider the images to be copyrighted and ask permission before using. Thank you. DEClapp

There are common birds here that are very usual to us but in the eyes of a visitor we can see that each and every one is in some way special. So as I take a few images of birds I saw yesterday I try to see them not as old and usual friends but as new and interesting creatures. So here are a few old friends and new arrivals. As a matter of fact the next few posts will be birds and more birds. This is a good time to see and photograph ducks and some wintering species so they are on tap for the next couple weeks. Not all of the birds will be old friends as we have had an influx of uncommon birds recently and I’ll post some of those as well. And lastly the pictures will tell the story in that they represent what is being seen – they may not be the best images possible, but they fit the sequence; enjoy.

The bird at the heading of this post is the widespread and ubiquitous Mourning Dove (MODO). Its cooing is often thought to be owl-like. They can be found throughout the USA and are considered a game bird in some locations. They will nest throughout the year depending on their latitude and will sometimes nest and renest and perhaps renest again. The nest is a casual accumulation of sticks that you can often look up at and see the eggs resting in what seems to be a dangerous position. Pigeons and doves drink an exceptional quantity of water each day compared to other birds This group can suction water up and into the throat – all other birds have to grab a beak-full of water and tilt the head back to allow the water to run down into the body. There are ten species of Dove, Pigeon, and Ground-Dove in the US; but here in the northeast we see only two; the Rock Pigeon (a feral bird pretty much world wide and often urban) and the slimmer, and also widespread, Mourning Dove.

The Savannah Sparrow (SAVS) is a very widespread little brown bird that breeds at some higher elevations in the US and throughout Canada and Alaska. It is a rather heavily striped bird with (usually) a bit of yellow between the eye and the beak. It is finely striped (more so than many of the other sparrows) and found mostly in low vegetation like weedy and grassy areas. It winters widely in the southern third of the US from coast to coast, but is often overlooked as it isn’t conspicuous, colorful, noisy, or always moving. It is, however, very common.
There is a small population of Savannah Sparrows that breed on Sable Island Nova Scotia that is larger, paler, and rather uncommon. This is the Ipswich Savannah Sparrow and can be found in the dunes of Cape Cod (and other coastal dune habitat) during the winter. They are usually grayer overall than the more common type of SAVS and often do not show any yellow on the face. The Savannah Sparrow might well be divided in as many as three species in the future as there are at least three different looks and geographically separated populations; although these grade into one another and there are 12 sub-species identified. The Ipswich type birds nest in dunes out on the island and winter in dunes along the eastern shore of North America.
Another sparrow, though a different genus, is the American Tree Sparrow (ATSP); a plain fronted bird with a spot on its chest. It winters widely across the northern part of continental US and breeds in the low vegetation of the Canadian and Alaskan tundra. We never hear it sing down here in the US. In the winter we see it in short coarse vegetation in small flocks. It is quite common where it occurs but its presence is quite spotty; here in eastern Massachusetts we often see it near coastal dunes where bayberry and poison ivy dominate.
Once a bird of the south, we are seeing the Northern Mocking (NOMO) bird as a resident and wintering bird throughout the northeast. It its much less common in the northern half of the central and western part off the country. In the southern US it is found from coast to coast. Where it is present it is often common as its does well in suburban circumstances. It is a member of the mimic group and readily imitates other birds. It usually repeats the phrases several times; and often sings in the night. We see fewer in the winter but they are not really (yet) known as a regular migrant.
The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (YBSA) is a woodpecker that uses tree sap as a food source; eating fewer insects and grubs than any of its relatives. It will eat fruit, seeds, buds, and bugs – but the sap from the tree is the prime food item, especially in the spring. It is a bird that breeds over most of Canada, but is found only (pretty much only) in the eastern part of the US. There are several other sapsuckers that are found in western states and in many cases these species are able to interbreed and hybridize. Defining a species remains difficult.
Another of our woodpeckers is the Northern Flicker (NOFL). Ours is the yellow-shafted form and the western states have a red-shafted form. These feather shafts are often very bright, and easy to see. The yellow-shafted birds nest well into western Canada and one form or the other is found widely throughout the USA. This bird is known for capturing and eating ants and is often seen on the ground looking for creeping and crawling creatures.
I think the Carolina Wren (CAWR) falls into the same category as the Northern Mockingbird shown above. It has been a southern bird which has expanded northward over the past few decades. It is bright and noisy. About five winters ago we had huge amounts of snow and the CAWR population was decimated. This year the Christmas Bird Count tallies show the birds have rebounded from that calamity and the numbers are high again.
The Black-capped Chickadee (BCCH) is a small member of a worldwide family that its represented in the US by seven species (Black-capped, Mountain, Chestnut-backed, Mexican, Boreal, Gray-headed (northern Alaska only), and Carolina). there are forty or more species in Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are related to the nuthatches and creepers; but the chickadee group is seemingly cut from the same black-capped and black-chinned pattern. They are small and non-migratory, for the most part. They winter in areas of extreme cold and suffer through very short days and very long nights. They cache food and find it later – most of the time. They can drop their internal temperature during the night and enter a period of hypothermia that they can rebound from each morning. They are common birds at feeding stations and favor black oilseed sunflower as well as hulled sunflower. They will readily join Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Wrens, and Pine Warblers at a bowl of meal worms as well.
The Northern Cardinal (NOCA) is another relatively new arrival from the south and is now a rather common resident in eastern United States right up to the Canadian border – with some now breeding in southern Canada. This is another non-migratory species that now winters in the northern states. It utilizes feeding stations and stays in thickets with berries and seeds. It is often the first bird at a feeding station as day breaks and the last to visit in the evening.

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