Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Harbingers

A few weeks ago, I saw a large flock of Canada Geese heading North -- but what do they know? Silly geese.

The radio weather folks have been saying for several days now that "Spring is in the air!"

Today I saw my first Robin. Three, in fact. Now I believe it!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Birds of a Feather

March first. Soon I'll start seeing the Spring Returns. One of the great flocks will be the Blackbirds: Starlings, Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds. Icterids all -- excepting the imposter starlings -- they always travel together. When they arrive, Spring cannot be far behind. Do they know that they are related? How?

The Professional

I hang a suet block in a little cage from a limb of the maple a few steps from my door. A number of different birds visit it, including several woodpeckers, or similar. Many of them have become tolerant of sharing the block, allowing another bird to feed from the other side -- as long as s/he is not right in their face. And they line up on the branch, taking turns. If someone is taking too long on the block, they may get pushed off, but patience seems the general order.

This will give you an idea of the incredible reaction times and speed of these guys. The suet hangs only about 5 Ft. (1.6m) above the ground. I have seen, say, a Nuthatch, lose a piece of suet and fly down to catch it before it hits the ground. By my calculation, that works out to a little over ½ second to estimate if it can be caught and then fly down to catch it before it hits the ground. I'm impressed!

The normal feeding mode is peck, peck, nibble, nibble. But not the Red-bellied Woodpecker. When s/he swoops in, being a bit larger, the others vacate. Chop, chop, chop -- and s/he flies off with a big chunk.

It's always a pleasure to watch a professional at work.