Tag Archives: birds of winter

The Fledglings have Landed

Well, the kids are back early, and they are regretting it. Usually the Red-winged Blackbirds return to our area in great flocks sometime in April, but yesterday as I was attempting to capture bird photos through the snowflakes, I caught sight of two pairs. (You never realize how irritating snowflakes are until you try taking photos in a snowstorm.) These gung-ho youngsters obviously decided their fuddy-duddy elders were being too cautious and struck out on their own. One  bird still had his baby tufts.

Sorry, kids. We’re having a second winter up here.

Sue

 

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The Tufted Titmouse – Master of the Funny Face

This week, I would like to introduce one of my favorite entertainers. The tufted titmouse makes its home in the forests, parks, and backyards of the eastern United States and is a frequent visitor to my window ledge birdfeeder. Easily recognized by his gray-blue, suit coat, his pronounced top notch, and his white breast, accented with just a hint of orange, the comical, little titmouse can add hours of fun to any birdwatcher’s day. His darting black-brown eyes speak of curiosity, innocence, humor, and mischief; andhis crazy antics qualify this zany, little character for the title “Comedian of the Birdfeeder”.

Titmice come to my feeder singly or in pairs, and are sometimes quarrelsome. (Or are they just being playful?) Though they will share the feeder with doves, cardinals, and chickadees; very rarely will they permit more than one other of their own kind to join them at the dinner table.

Tufted titmice are swift, straight, accurate flyers. (Scarface the chipmunk requests that you read the addendum at the bottom of this article.) Eighty percent of the time they zip into the feeder, grab a sunflower seed, then dart away to the fork in a branch, or the tiny crevice in the bark of a tree, or even to a crack in the siding of a house. Jamming the seed into the crack enables them to use their smooth, sharp bills to pound the seed open.

Unlike the skittish woodpeckers and nervous cardinals, who force me to creep silently to the window in an attempt to capture their likeness, the tufted titmice have become very accustomed to my presence. Sometimes, I think, that they would land on top of my camera if they thought it would help them procure a plump, tasty sunflower seed.

The difficulty in photographing this songbird comes with the fact that they seem to dance, duck, and pose their way across the feeder in search of the perfect sunflower seed. A peck, a step, a cock of the head, an innocent or expressive glance, a hop, a jerk, and nine or ten blurry photos later, they fly off to pummel their choice seed into submission. Sometimes, if I am patient enough, however, and the titmouse is curious enough, I can actually get a half decent photo.

Sue

To hear the songs of the tufted titmouse, check out this site.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tufted_titmouse

Scarface, the chipmunk disagrees with the “accurate flyers” comment and adamantly requests that I add this addendum. One day a clumsy, unobservant titmouse, whose pilot’s license should be revoked, collided with him at the feeder at high speed and sent them both tumbling to the ground! No action was taken by the feeder owner to discipline this careless Sunday flyer. Scarface has suffered much emotional trauma from this humiliating incident, and is demanding some sort of compensation. Red the Cardinal and Mama Gray Squirrel both witnessed the incident. Red is reported as saying, “I cannot be forced to testify against my own kind.” Mama Squirrel appears to be willing to take the witness stand on Scarface’s behalf as long as she gets her “share of the loot.”

The chipmunk’s lawyer, a three-legged opossum (who is currently suing the state of West Virginia for its hesitation in adopting the Opossum Highway Safety Act of 2010) insists that a fifty-pound sack of peanuts should enable the feeder owner to settle out of court.

The tufted titmouse could not be reached for comment.

Note: Comcast is sending a real, live,Internet repairman to fix my system next week!
tufted titmouse,photography, wildlife photography,photos,songbirds,

feeding birds,birds of Northeast,birds of winter

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The Survivor

The neighborhood hawk was very busy last summer. With raising a family and decimating the local bird population, this feathered miscreant barely had time to sit on the oak tree by the porch and glare at me with her contempt filled eyes. More than once I chased this hateful, bird snatcher away from my feeder, but I couldn’t keep a constant vigil, so all throughout the summer, the hawk and later, her offspring soared above the community murdering and eating whatever small animal they chose. The titmice, the cardinals, the squirrels, and even the neighbor’s chickens fell prey to this villain’s blood lust, but out of all the creatures that frequented my feeder, the hawk’s preferred meal was the dove.

Doves have always been one of my favorite birds. Watching their slow, sedate movements and the silly bob of their heads as they walk always seems to lighten my spirits and bring a smile to my lips. Coupled with their gentle eyes and soft downy feathers, these traits make them a joy to photograph. Aside from being beautiful, doves have one other distinguishing characteristic. This bird’s intent, but vacant stares tell tales of an empty head. Forgive me for what appears to be condemnation, but when I look out into the yard on a clear day and see a dove sleeping in the sunshine in an open patch of short grass, I can’t help but think that these beautiful birds are as dumb as dirt. When the other birds scream “Cat! Cat!” and fly to the trees, the dove’s delayed reaction is: “Huh?” Rather than land in the feeder, or near the feeder, a dove will choose to land ten to fifteen feet away and walk in across open ground, a move that makes them an easy target for even the laziest hawk.

Last summer began with a flock of 10 to 12 doves visiting my feeder to feast on the cracked corn that I purchased just for them. It ended with a circle of gray feathers scattered about the hawks’ favorite tree. The hawk and her young had annihilated the dove population.

Nature, however, can be merciful as well as cruel. Although spring has always been considered the time of renewal, for small animals living in an area heavily hunted by hawks, winter is the time of peace and of lazy sleeps and freedom. Many of the birds of prey have wandered south in favor of warmer climates. Perhaps the winter air holds a frigid chill, but it is better to shiver while you whistle your morning song than have your song silenced by the unmerciful talons of a hungry hawk.

The traffic to my window feeder has increased three fold as goldfinches, dressed in the olive drab of winter, rummage through the pile of seeds in search of millet. The cardinals, feeling more secure in their bright red cloaks, rest upon the bare branches of the lilac bush. The Carolina Wren, that winters on the back porch, hangs casually from the suet feeder driving her long curved beak into the bacon grease and seed that were blended just for her. The woodpecker announces his arrival with his odd “Quirrrrr,” then peeks over the side of the feeder to see what’s for lunch. The war zone outside my window is enjoying a moment of peace, but the beautiful creature that symbolized peace was no longer present.

I was seated at my desk contemplating my next article when she landed this morning. Her soft gray features and gentle eyes brought an immediate smile to my lips. Before me stood a lone survivor of summer’s tragedy, and in her bright peaceful eyes, I saw the promise of the spring to come.

Sue

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