Sunday, January 23, 2011

FeederWatch record smashed

Ahhhh, yet another great weekend of feeder watching has come and gone. There's lots of snow on the ground, and there were lots of birds at the feeders. I was very excited to finally hit a new record for total number of species observed during the 2-day count period. Up until now, 18 species has been the number to beat, but 2 surprise birds on Sunday took it up to 19, and then 20. I've watched the species diversity at our feeders climb slowly year by year, with 15 being the high number during the '05-'06 season, and that figure was reached only once at that. The extra 2 species of woodpeckers this year has certainly contributed to this rise in diversity, and also semi-regular appearances of Common Grackles. I've recorded over 15 species 4 times already this season, and there are still a number of harsh weeks of winter weather yet to go. March usually proves to be a record-setting time, due to a combination of the beginning of spring migration and one last bout of horrible weather conditions. Given that knowledge, I will continue to watch with interest over the next few months as to what may show up.

Species #19, Pine Siskin - I've been waiting for this one to show up for months. I only saw 1 individual, and time will tell if more of them will come visit over the next few days and weeks.

Species #20, Brown-headed Cowbird - a most unusual visitor at our feeders this time of year. They are more common in our yard during spring and summer.

Interestingly, the Cowbird was mixed into a large flock of other blackbirds. Yes, the Common Grackles showed up again. I'm not sure what's going on with these birds this year, but they have been frequenting my feeders, and also my neighbor's feeders about a mile down the road. Whatever the reason may be, I'll take it - they are such stunning birds!

Common Grackle sampling one of my freshly-made suet cakes. Have you figured out yet that I like making food for my birds?

Their dark coloring shows up nicely against the backdrop of beech bark.

Ha! I caught this one mid-scratch.

I was fortunate to get some good shots of both Downy (on the left) and Hairy (on the right) Woodpeckers to use as comparisons between the two. I'll be using these images in my upcoming "Backyard Birding" presentation next week.

How could I pass up sharing a photo of this blazing red beauty? That flaming 'do is like a fiery beacon.

Oh look, another birdie tongue shot! I love it when a shot like this happens.

While we're on the subject of woodpeckers, dare I tell you that there were TWO Pileated Woodpeckers around our feeders this morning? A female and a male. I could hardly contain my excitement. Could this mean that baby Pileateds are in the offing for us? I can only dream...


rebecca said...

Augh! I'm so jealous! I miss the fun of watching a feeding station in winter. I never realized how much I loved winter until I moved to south Georgia.

KaHolly said...

I, too, am missing the delight in feeder watching while I travel, but checking in with your blog is the next best thing. I'm pretty excited to hear there are TWO Pileateds now!! I'll hope along side you that they are happily choosing to nest nearby! ~karen

The Early Birder said...

Fabulous selection of colourful visitors Heather. I suspect the hard weather is bringing the extra species to your feeders. Look forward to hearing about the Pileated possible nesting ... won't that be great? FAB.

Red said...

I hope you find a pileated nest. I know they're in my area but I have never found a nest. woodpecker nestling are pretty noisy.

Caroline said...

Hey, you can actually see the red belly on the red-bellied! Cool.
I really like doing Feederwatch, I have one site at home and one at school that I have my 9th graders "helping" with. They mostly like playing with the binoculars at the moment.-

RuthieJ said...

Congrats on a good feederwatch weekend Heather.
I'm glad you got that good shot of the red belly on the woodpecker.....some people wonder at the name of that bird and now you'll be able to tell them why!

Heather said...

Rebecca - I imagine that even if there's no snow, watching the birds during winter must still be a treat (and I bet you get some birds that we don't get up here!).

Karen - You're with your daughter in Texas right now, right? Haven't you got her hooked on feeding birds yet?! ;)

Frank - I agree that the harsh weather has had a definite impact on who is coming to my feeders. And it would be most fantastic if the Pileateds nested here. Do you have them across the pond?

Red - I can only imagine how loud Pileated nestlings are. We had a Downy Woodpecker nest above our driveway one year, and those were some noisy little woodies.

Caroline - I think it would be cool doing FeederWatch as a classroom project. I'm sure the birds catch the eyes of your 9th graders from time to time.

Ruthie - Yes, I'm always glad to get a photo where that red belly shows. I made sure to include a photo like that in my upcoming presentation!

Joy K. said...

I've noticed exactly the same thing about mixed groups of blackbirds and cowbirds. We're in the middle of an unusually cold (for Texas) spell of weather. Yesterday, the red-winged blackbirds found us, and apparently they phoned their cowbird buddies. I'm having some trouble with my Feederwatch counting, because the ground in an undulating carpet of black and brown.