Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Bird

I was driving north on I-77 this afternoon, listening to President Barack Obama's inaugural address. Movement to my left caught my eye. I glanced up and saw a mature Bald Eagle wheeling and turning in the sun-filled sky above me. The brilliant white head and tail, combined with the shining brown body to create a true symbol of America. What a great way to begin the Obama era.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter Treat

Along with the Arctic blast of cold weather, a special visitor arrived at our feeders today. A Common Redpoll (which is not all that common) was mixed in with a flock of Pine Siskins. Always a pleasure to see one of these little guys. It's just too bad we have to deal with the four-degree temperatures as well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wintering On The North Coast of America

Finally the big snow the weather prognosticators had been promising, arrived. I don't want to say the snow is deep, however, I took this picture of a grizzly bear from my front window to give you a feel for how deep it is.

Friday, January 09, 2009

It’s Raining Starlings!

There’s a school of thought in the nature world that birds and other animals predict impending storms and thus eat as much as they can in case they can’t get out during inclement weather. How they do this without benefit of the Weather Channel remains a mystery to ornithologists.
Here, on the North Coast of America, we’re awaiting, with bated breath, for a storm to whack us. The Weather Channel and the local weather prognosticators have been predicting inches of snow, blustery winds and weather chaos in general for the next couple days.
I took a break from my chores to monitor the bird feeders around mid morning and was astonished at the number of European Starlings covering the ground. I Guessitimated about 100 but was probably wrong. Mixed in with the starlings were American Robins.
The birds were in a feeding frenzy, attacking the seed feeders and, especially, the two suet cakes. I checked the water dish and there was four-bird deep waiting line! The trash truck arrived and the birds scattered. Only then did I see there were several squirrels on the ground also tanking up for the big storm. When the trash guys left, the birds returned, however, there were not as many. And the starlings were joined by a half dozen Cedar Waxwings, a single male Northern Cardinal—I mean he was unaccompanied, not his marital status—a number of Dark-eyed Juncos and most of the other feeder birds. When the female Red-bellied Woodpecker arrived to dine on her favorite suet block, I sensed trouble. Three starlings were squabbling over the suet already. She landed on the top of the pole that holds the suet and just stared the three speckled intruders down. It appeared they were taking measure of her beak and decided it might not be a fair dust-up if they continued. Off they went.
So what does this all mean? A dozen or so species of birds and assorted squirrels chowing down, all more-or-less in harmony; getting ready for the storm. There’s probably some ancient message here that we humans can’t seem to tune into. We seem to do a fair job of handling the disaster after it happens …
I think I’ll go make sure the snow shovel is near the door—and that we have an adequate supply of cookies for the weekend.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

I Thought I Saw …

People around Cleveland either love winter or hate it. There seems to be no middle ground. I enjoy the snow and constantly changing views during a snow storm, so I set the laptop on the table overlooking our bird feeder array in hopes of getting some necessary work done—along with some quality time watching the birds come and go. I was about half successful.
Late this afternoon things were as busy as the Starbucks down the street, only my customers were all the fur and feathered types. No fewer than 20 Pine Siskins were on the feeders, along with some of the brightest-colored juncos I’ve seen this season. Black-capped Chickadees, titmice and no fewer than four species of woodpeckers added the occasional spot of red to the black-and-white winter tableau.
I glanced down at the screen to see if I had written anything and in a flash, all the birds disappeared. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the resident Cooper’s Hawk flashing overhead.
After a quiet period of a couple minutes the birds trickled back by ones and twos. Chickadees first, followed by House Finches, a single White-throated Sparrow and even some American Robins came to feed on the fruits of the Bradford Pear tree.
About the time the number of birds was back up to where it had been, the hawk flashed though again. This time it was so low to ground I could not believe it’s wings were not hitting the snow. Equally as fast the birds all disappeared, except for a Downy Woodpecker that was hanging to the block of suet. He probably thought he was out of the hawk’s line of vision. He glanced around the suet to be sure the hawk was gone.
This scene repeated itself two more times. The hawk made no attempt to strafe the feeder as I’ve seen it do in the past. So I’m left to try to figure out its strategy. It might have been demonstrating its ability to fly incredibly fast and low; work off some extra ounces gained over the holidays; or show all the other birds it’s really a good guy—in spite of what they might have heard about hawks dining on small birds.
I’m sure one of my naturalist friends has an explanation for this behavior, but why let the facts get in the way of a good story?