Sunday, January 18, 2009

ROLL CALL

I'm not an expert birder. I can recognize a fair number of species at a glance, the common or unmistakable, though sparrows (some, anyway) always send me thumbing through the field guides, as do warblers in the spring (even a field guide seldom helps me here during their fall migration). Each season supplies its own cast of characters. For a lot of folks, winter is their favorite period since it's a good time for window-side birding—that is, watching birds which gather at the feeders, while remaining in the comfort of a cozy room. The game begins at first light and you soon learn to expect a certain order, a regular progression of daily visitors. There are the early arrivals—those birds who come at the crack of dawn—and birds which seldom show up until midmorning. Some species are daily guests, others only stop by now and then—say, a few times per month. Then there are the rarities. Some birds I may see only once per season; other birds I’ve seen only once since moving here a few years ago. The goldeneyes that spent a few January days on the pool in front of the cottage that first year were a one-time deal…at least so far. So were the flock of bluebirds that came swinging in for only a few minutes that same winter—not rare for Ohio, but rare for this area and habitat and time. Last January it was an oriole, an astonishing vision in black-and-orange which I wouldn’t even admit to seeing, except that I recently read on Jim McCormic’s excellent Ohio Birds and Biodiversity blog [see favorites list] about other midwinter oriole sightings…and have thus mustered the courage to come out of the closet. Yesterday, I thought it might fun to list the various species which visited my feeders during a single day—at least those that I saw and recognized. In no particular order except this is how I scribbled their names onto scraps of paper throughout the day, here’s my roll call: Carolina chickadee Tufted titmouse White-breasted nuthatch Brown creeper Carolina wren Downy woodpecker Red-bellied woodpecker House wren Cardinal Goldfinch House finch White-throated sparrow White-crowned sparrow Field sparrow Swamp sparrow Tree sparrow Song sparrow Slate-colored junco House sparrow Northern flicker Hairy woodpecker Pileated woodpecker The day’s “prize” was probably the male pileated. A pair or two live on the island across from the cottage and regularly flap over here to hang on the feeders—they fancy both suet and sunflower seeds. But they’re easily spooked; it’s a good day when I can spy on one of these shy, spectacular birds from only a dozen feet away. I almost never have starlings, grackles or, oddly, bluejays. And rarely more than a few house sparrows—I’ve seen maybe twenty, total, for the month, about a third of which flew in yesterday morning and stayed no more than fifteen minutes. The Cooper’s hawk either failed to make his daily pass-through yesterday or, more likely, I failed to see him. If you allow me to include birds I saw within fifty feet of the feeders—though not technically feeding from them—then I could add a crow (several paused in a sycamore to nosily irritate the squirrels who were eating at the feeders), the great blue heron who wade-fished the riffle, and a belted kingfisher that likes a certain dead limb overlooking the main pool. (There were a few mallards on this same pool, but they were on the island side of the river, more like 75 feet away.) Anyway, that's my list. Nothing special to an expert…but then again, I'm just a riverside bird watcher. What was your roll call?

19 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Good bird list. I do so love red cardinals - saw one in 2008 in Alberquerque and saw loads of grackles making fantastic noises in San Antonio. All the birds on your list sound so exotic compared with my bird table list,long though it is.

giggles said...

WOW!! That is quite a cast of characters!!!!!! I'm jealous...I won't even come close.... But I'll pay attention today in between obligations and see what I can see... (The Iggles is playin'...hopefully winnin' later, too!) I'll get back to ya....

But I must give you a hard time about a picture of your piliated..... I'll be waiting! (Be vewy,vewy quiet.....) ;-)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

I think we Americans do take our lovely cardinals for granted. I sometimes have 20 or more (males and females) at my feeders and perched in the surrounding trees at once.

It's not quite a case of "Familiarity breeding contempt," just a degree of unenthusiasm.

The Solitary Walker said...

That list sounds quite exotic to someone in the UK! The only birds we have in common are Goldfinch, Tree Sparrow and House Sparrow (Goldfinches increasing in numbers, but both sorts of Sparrow sadly declining). Of course we have our own types of Nuthatch, Wren, Woodpecker and Creeper.

This has been a poor year for spotting a wide variety of birds at our bird table and feeders - I don't quite know why. (Perhaps, though it's been cold for the Trent Valley, I don't think it's been quite cold enough - no snow, few freezing and below temperatures. So far.)

Our daily list is Blackbird, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove.

In other years we've also had Goldfinch, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackcap (a signifier of milder winters - in the past they would all migrate southwards), House Sparrow, Starling, Song Thrush - and the occasional Sparrow Hawk which sweeps along the fence, scooping up any unwary feeders!

We also sometimes get in the winter garden Goldcrests, Green Woodpeckers, Wrens - and the odd Grey Heron.

To put this in context, we live in the centre of a large village and have a reasonably sized garden, with mature shrubs, some trees and a small pond.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

I'm tryin', I'm tryin' on the pileated shot. But them suckers are spooky! One little movement and off they go. You ought so see them when they first land on the tree, before they come down to a feeder—they hide on the backside of the trunk, away from the cottage, and peep quickly around the tree, peep-hide-peep-hide-peep-hide. Only when they've decided the coast is clear do they move closer.

But as winter wears on, they tend to ease up on their paranoia; at least they have in years past. Plus they're now stopping by more frequently. So I still have hopes…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I think your bird list sounds pretty neat. As exotic to me as mine apparently sounds to Weaver of Grass.

I'd love to see some of your species. Just out of curiosity, did you ever read about the old American naturalist, John Burroughs, and his quest to hear the singing of a lark? Don't know why I thought of that.

Anyway, thank you for such a nice long comment.

giggles said...

Didn't spend much time watching...but I saw... lots of slate juncos, one downy and one redbellied (actually not at the feeder but in tree near by... I need to get a new suet cake out) mourning doves.... Gosh, I think that might be it...? I'll report back on a better day...when I can gloat about something...

giggles said...

OK, so now I'm tagging you for the 6 random things meme... Please share, won't you?!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

We'll just consider that a warm-up report, okay? Not a bad quartet, though.

Now, about this meme business…

I don't mind revealing six random things about myself—I've got sufficient quirks, history, and notions to do six with my eyes closed. And, of course, I get to pick. Whether anyone wanted to know, or cared, or felt better or worse, surprised, shocked, disappointed, or thought I'd provided meaning insight into the "real me" is another matter. Meaningful to me can be—and often is—meaningful to me and trivial to others.

Moreover, I haven't a clue how to link up someone else's blog, or any other sort of web address, for that matter. Yeah, I suppose I could learn (grumble, grumble), if I had to (mutter, mutter) I guess (whine, whine, whine).

Don't know who'd I'd feel comfortable passing a meme it on to, however.

But, I'll think about it….

giggles said...

Yep, yep, yep.... Fair 'nough...but hopefully it's enough that I care, because I tagged you.... If it's any consolation at all.... I just started blogging in December (although the info page says I started in September, because I hadn't screwed up the courage or worked out all of the kinks, so didn't go "live" until December) and the only thing I knew then was how to type (hunt and peck method only.) Now, I can posts pictures and add music/video (though, Ive only done it once so far) and I just learned how to link, because it was required to play the game...and I was flattered enough to want to play the game.... so I do sure hope you'll indulge me.... I enjoy your blog... I wanted to learn more about you (in a totally clean, innocent, curious, we're-all-connected-kind of way....) I expect some of your other readers might enjoy as well.... (On the other hand...this is the electronic version of recipes and such chain letters which, in the snail-mail world, I detest....Since it's my first time, it was fun!)
I'll add here that your comment, when you looked at my info, about not only enjoying books, but also reading them , was really funny...but true.... I hadn't thought about the wording, but you pointed out that truth, and I've been a follower ever since....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

You do make it difficult to decline.

I don't even forward those emails which threaten that if I fail to do so, a one-eye Gypsy will place a curse on my household. Or that if I don't empty my bank account and send it via certified check immediately to some Third-World address, entire villages will succumb to famine.

So…maybe.

Oh, re. the books response—I've known book collectors who seldom (maybe never) read any of their precious volumes; and "book lovers" who buy books and fondle books, and might dip briefly into one from time to time so they can "talk books" with others of similar ilk. And then there are actual readers—folks (like me) who scarcely know the difference between reading and breathing (if you're doing one, chances are good you are doing the other), who collect, read, fondle, read, trade, talk, and READ books.

I meant my statement to you as a compliment…one reader to another.

giggles said...

Yes...understood... I have many books that I haven't read...but many that I have... I made a new years resolution a coupla years back to read more (I hate the fact that I watch too much teevee...) and have succeeded marginally.... I do enjoy reading good books, when I take (and have) the time... It has been a long time coming though....
When I was applying to colleges, a dear friend was going to Northwestern and I really wanted to go there too.... I was interviewed by an alumni in Cincy and the only question I remember from the interview, and I know I got it wrong, was "Do you like to read?" I cannot tell a lie and the young, stupid, honest soul that I was did not lie and said "No." (And yet the young, stupid me knew that was the wrong answer!) So later, I had the opportunity (my parents actually LET me!!) travel to Northwestern (on my own!!) to visit my friend and interview again.... Don't you know? That very same question was asked of me...and don't you know.... I answered the very same way!! I did not get into Northwestern, and I am sure it was because of my answer to that question.... All turned out ok... I went to Kenyon, where my dad went as an undergrad and then back for seminary... I got a great education (hopefully, it shows!) and credit much of who I am today, not to my folks as much as to my Kenyon experiences....!

And all that to say... I guess I learned to like to read at Kenyon ....? I dunno...just blathering on....forgive me.....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Blather at will here. Whether on books and reading or some other matter.

I've always read. Learned how to read before kindergarten, and got an adult library card when I was 6 or 7 because I'd literally read my way through the children's section of the local library. We had a small library (two big bookcases of books) at home—lots of the classics, some poetry, a bit of history. I loved stuff such as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island; then I found Edgar Rice Burroughs and discovered Tarzan, and science fiction; Sherlock Holmes and mystery tales; Poe and Lovecraft and the weird or supernatural; Tolkien and fantasy. Genre fiction. Zane Grey, westerns. There were others. A lot of biographies.

From about my mid-teens onward, I'd guess I averaged 20-30 books a month, sometimes quite a few more. A book a day was about my pace, but if I found a new mystery writer I liked, I might read one novel in the morning and another, at least partially, that afternoon and night—depending on what I did and when I went to sleep. I'm not much of a sleeper, BTW; about 5-6 hours, and used to be more like 4-5.

As I got older I expanded my reading tastes considerably—history, particularly of the Upper Great Lakes region and the Southern Appalachians—religion and spiritual, a lot more poetry, all sorts of diaries and journals; travel; cooking; gardening; mainstream "serious" novels, both modern and classic; outdoor adventure; nature; photography; art; and practically anything that caught my eye at a given moment. I still read a lot of mystery/suspense.

I don't "speed read," but I read fast. If I'm doing research, I can shift into a sort of speed-reading mode and go through 10-15 books on a subject at a sitting. Not reading every word, of course, but reading paragraphs and pages. Made it handy if I needed to turn myself into an "instant expert" on a subject overnight, say in preparation for interviewing someone, or if I'd just become really hot on a new subject (micro-photography, coon dogs, Texas-style chili, Indian trails of eastern Ohio, etc.)

Anyway, I still read voraciously. I collect books. Borrow books from libraries and friends. And believe it or not, have a life outside and beyond books. I'd rather read than watch TV, generally, with certain exceptions. But I travel quite a bit (not the 275 road days annually I used to, however) and am probably down to maybe half my old monthly reading average.

That's my book tale… :-)

giggles said...

My jaw is on the floor.... I can't touch that!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Oh, man—I never intended to prattle on at such length. I do that too often. I just got carried away a little much.

What I failed to tell you was I became such an insatiable reader because I was a sickly child, laid low more often than not by asthma which regularly turned into bronchitis and about four times a year, pneumonia. I usually missed 100 or more days of school per year; had a home teach for second grade; never managed a week straight of school before I was 14 or 15. All I could do was read and try to breathe. I lost myself in books. Books, I think, saved my life.

Old habits die hard. Which is why I still read so much…

Don't be impressed or awed. I'm just a book junkie.

The Solitary Walker said...

Have you two quite finished now?
:-)

Just a very short comment to say: the Long-tailed Tits returned today for the 1st time this winter! (See my comment some long way above.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

Yes, I believe we have, temporarily.

Re. your returned long-tailed tits…I've just had a look at some photos of them online. They look very lovely, so different from anything we have here. I assume you have the Continental form rather than the Scandinavian version. I do see why you miss them. No goldfinches yet?

The Solitary Walker said...

No goldfinches yet in the garden, but there are flocks roundabouts - a beautifully coloured finch, happily on the increase in the UK.

Yes, long-tailed tits are very lovely and special - gorgeous, those black, white and pink markings - and such a small body (if you discount the long tail). They are often to be seen in small, active flocks at this time of year - busying themselves looking for food in the trees like acrobatic mice, using that tail to great advantage for balance and adroit manoeuvres. Very vocal too - you can usually hear their high pitched "zee-zeeing" call before spotting them.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I'm getting more envious of those long-tailed tits every time you write about 'em. :—)

And I won't even mention all those other sorts of tits and finches. If I ever managed to fish my way over to your side of the world, I'll be hard pressed to keep my eyes on the water and not the trees.