Most American Robins don’t fly south for winter. Those that summer in Canada will migrate to the US, and some southern birds will go down to Mexico, but for the most part they stay right where they are. Sort of. You’re probably thinking Well, I don’t see them in the winter so they must migrate, right? Nope, they’re still here, they’re just less conspicuous. When the ground freezes, their primary food source, worms, become difficult to get so they set out from the cities into the country in search of fruit and insects. When the ground thaws, they return in droves to their favorite yards to announce the official start of spring once again.
At first glance it would appear that this Ruby-throated Hummingbird was none to pleased with my presence, but what the photos don’t show is that she approached me. At first from the far side of this bush and then closer and closer, until she was right in front of her photographer pal. Or maybe she was moving in for the kill.
A few days ago we looked at a bird that actually migrates TO the midwest for winter, the White-throated Sparrow. Well here’s another sparrow just crazy enough, or maybe lazy enough to spend winters here, the Dark-eyed Junco. It seems to me that whenever this bird arrives in the fall, winter is never far behind. Case in point: Last week when this little dude showed up it was sixty degrees, the next day… 25 degrees! Dang juncos!!! And a day after that there were a dozen juncos at my feeder. That can’t be good.
A few weeks ago I was bidding farewell to a pair of my favorite bog sparrows, the Eastern Towhees, when I realized they weren’t alone. There was another pair of favorites in that bush, the White-throated Sparrows. At that moment, bird migration struck me as even more fascinating than usual. Here were my towhees preparing to head south for winter after spending all summer at the bog. At the same time this pair of white-throats was arriving from clear across Canada to spend the winter here. These four birds travel thousands of miles migrating across North America to different parts of the continent, crossing paths maybe twice a year, and right now they are all right in front of me, in the same little bush.
If such an award existed and I was on the selection committee, then my vote for Absolute Adorablest Floaty Water Bird would have to go to the Pied-billed Grebe. This tiny little diving bird is not actually a duck, but is classified as a grebe, and I only get to see them motoring around the bog for a few weeks in the spring and fall. When I say motoring, I mean they can flat out swim! I’ve never seen one out of water, but I always imagine they’ve got massive oars for feet!
A few weeks ago we performed a highly scientifical analysis of the nomenclature system used to identify a male Setophaga coronata. In other words, they’re called Yellow-rumped Warbler because they have a yellow rump! Well, I found an even more adorable example of that yellow rump, this time on a female. And I couldn’t resist a little photoshop action because they just had to be showing off those rumps together!
Usually my premonitions occur on the way to the bog, but this morning my only thought was What a frigid waste of time this is going to be! I was wrong. Again. It was a little chilly but so what, and waste of time? Nope! It never is. I wasn’t two steps into the woods when I had my latest brilliant revelation, What a great day for a Pileated Woodpecker video. I had to chuckle a bit because at that point I just knew it would happen, and about ten minutes later it did! What a great day at the bog, definitely not a frigid waste of time!
The birds were all lined up on the railing for roll call when I noticed a juvenile sparrow on the end who seemed to be engaged in a losing battle with a leaf. It looked to me like whenever the wind would blow, that leaf poked her in the ribs. Then she’d flinch and slide over on the railing, away from that annoying little leaf. A few hours later it occurred to me that it probably wasn’t a leaf, so I went outside to investigate. What I found was this Praying Mantis, another humongous and fascinating insect.
I’ve said it a thousand times before and I’ll probably say it a thousand times more, but I just love watching birds with food. That twinkle in their eye shines just a bit brighter when they’ve got a face full of their favorite food, and they act a little more giddy than before. This Red-bellied Woodpecker seemed out of place perched precariously on tiny limbs filled with fruit, considering that I’m so used to seeing them hammering away on the sides of massive trees in search of insects.
The air was cool, damp and filled with the organic aroma of a typical fall morning at the bog. Imagine my surprise then, when three Eastern Bluebirds began a territorial dispute over a nesting box like it was June 1st! I’ve seen this behavior countless times before and it almost always leads to baby birds. I’ll have to keep an eye on that box to see what transpires in the coming months.
I’ve been wanting to add some capability to document what’s happening on the far side of the bog for a while now, and I finally did it! This week I added a Canon SX60 HS super zoom to my arsenal. 65 X’s of pure zooming pleasure! I mounted this new camera on a flash bracket directly above my big white warbler rig and as it turns out, this is a fantastic two camera setup. I’ve had so much fun shooting video with this new camera that I haven’t even really tested it’s picture taking ability. Now I just need to figure out how to upload videos in such a way that the image quality isn’t completely degraded, dang youtube. To get an idea of how far out I’m shooting, be sure to watch all the way to the end of the video.
Edit: Ahah! After you click play a little gear symbol appears at the bottom of the youtube window. Click that and then select your resolution. I lernt sumthin’!
My morning route around the bog basically doubles back over itself. It was carefully mapped out this way to put me in front of as much good light as possible. On Sunday as I turned around at the halfway point I considered making a left and heading back to the car, there weren’t any birds over there two hours ago anyway, I thought to myself stupidly. And then I wised up, fall migration will be over soon and you’ll wish you hadn’t skipped out early today. So I continued on down the path of maximum birdness until I reached that spot where, earlier, there were no birds. And guess what? There still ain’t none, Grrr!!! I could have been half way home by now! I should have trusted my instincts, they never let me down. Now I AM going home; to get to the car from here I basically have to go around behind this spot where I was just looking for birds. Once I got back there I couldn’t help but notice… there were birds everywhere!!! Warblers, titmice, chickadees, White-throated Sparrows, and Towhees! Like I always say, trust your instincts! These Towhees sat there and preened for ten minutes while I gawked at them. I even ran out of film halfway through and frantically reloaded!