Sunday, January 18, 2009
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?