Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cold weather + snow = good birding!

This weekend was a great birding weekend right in my own back yard, and it made me jump for joy, as this Blue Jay looks like it's doing here.

The cold weather coupled with several inches of snow on the ground brought lots of feathered friends into the feeders. This weekend I counted 128 individual birds, and 18 different species. I was sure 128 must be a record, but it turns out I counted 129 individuals during a freak snow storm in March 2008 (luckily, all my FeederWatch data is stored from year to year). At any rate, I've never had numbers this high in December. Normally, I don't expect to see counts like this until January or February, when we're really into the heart of winter. At this rate, some records could be broken this FeederWatch season. I'm waiting to tip past the 18 species mark, and I think it could happen pretty easily.

The Blue Jays finally made their way back to the feeders for the first time this season. I was so glad to see them. I find them to be beautiful and intriguing. They can be aggressive at the feeders, both toward each other and toward other species, but this weekend they were mild mannered. I think everyone was too busy trying to consume as many calories as they could to worry about wasting them on scuffles.

It took them a little while to get used to the peanut feeder again, but soon the Jays made fast friends with the peanuts.

Oh, and they were big fans of the homemade suet dough I put out. I'll tell you all about that in my next post (the dough, that is)!

An uncommon guest in our yard this weekend was a large flock of Common Grackles. I heard them flying over while I was out this morning, and wondered how they could not be attracted to all the bird activity that was going on here. As it turns out, they were very interested in what was going on.

Two female Grackles, part of a flock of 30+.

I'm used to the typical song birds at my feeders, so having bigger birds like the Blue Jays and Grackles, in addition to a small flock of Eastern Towhees, a Pileated Woodpecker, and a Northern Flicker led me to call this the "Big Bird" weekend.

Other items of note about the weekend:
-A record number of 34 Mourning Doves were counted
-Lots of woodpeckers, with a record of 5 species total for the weekend, and 10 individuals
-Until this weekend, the last time we had a Pileated Woodpecker at the feeders was February 2006 (no photographs, though - sorry!)
-Song Sparrows showed up for the first time this season, and they have arrived at about the same time for the last few years

Like I said, lots of woodpeckers this weekend. Here, we have a female Downy on the left and a female Hairy on the right

Who knows what next weekend will bring? Just like this Blue Jay, I'll be keeping an eye out.


Kelly said... had a Pileated today! the photo of the Downy and the Hairy eating at the same time! Great shots...I love our winter birds in the snow.

NW Nature Nut said...

Lovely photos. Your Blue Jays are so pretty!

KaHolly said...

Oh, what fun! And a Pileated, too? They're my favorites.

Kramer bill said...

Dear Heather I see bronze grackles at my platform feeders but only when we have a big snow here in Indiana. No snow & no grackles. Will also get a few red wingers with the grackles. Hope to see you again at the plant conference in Dayton in July Kramer Bill

Judy said...

I love that first shot of the blue jay! And the second one, because I keep forgetting that birds have tongues since we so seldom see them! I am truly impressed with the excellence of your shots!!!

The Early Birder said...

Hi Heather. Glorious images of your snowy visitors.

Wishing you botha glorious fun filled Christmas. FAB & Anita.

RuthieJ said...

Wow Heather -- your photos are all so gorgeous! you even made the grackles look attractive!