Monday, February 27, 2006

The Merlin!

Two years ago, I guess it was. I happened to look out the front door window to see what was going on at the feeding station. Nothing. Not a bird in sight. Then a motion at the edge of my field of vision captured my attention.

It was a small hawk! Just starting to tear into a Junco, not four feet (ca 1m) from my front stoop, under a cedar tree! A quick trip through Peterson's identified her as a Merlin, a/k/a Pigeon Hawk, which identification was confirmed by telephone with the Raptor Center. They are uncommon in this area, but not unknown. I watched for the half hour it took her to dispose of the Junco, leaving only feet and feathers! What a beauty she was.

She hung around for a while, because I saw her again in my front yard with another bird, but she took it away before I could identify it. I have never had another good sighting, but there have been a number of instances where something has swooped down on the ground crowd, but too fast for me to eyeball, so I suspect she is still about.

I notice that the Downy Woodpeckers seem particularly vigilant before alighting on the suet block.

The Gang of Three

I get plenty of Chickadees, but these three always travel together. I'm sure they are unmated nest-mates fledged last Summer, with lots of the pushing and shoving you see among siblings.

Some Chickadees will come to my hand to eat, but not these guys!

Carolina Wrens

I have a pair who have shown up each winter for the past few years, and disappear come Spring. I don't know if they stay in the area or move on, but I'm sure they're busy on wren business!

They love the suet block I put out and only occasionally hit the seed that I toss on the ground. They're cheeky little things, almost as bold as the Chickadees, with a unique trilling song. A recent article I read leads me to believe that what I perceive as a single song may in fact be a tight duet!

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Yes, there really is such a bird, a sort of woodpecker.

It's a female, and I only ever see the one, and only in the worst of winter weather. This morning was only the second time I've seen her this winter, and it was really cold last night, ca 11°F.

Since we are at the northern edge of their winter range, it's my theory is that her winter home is somewhere north of here, and the extreme cold drives her temporarily south -- to my feeding station.