|These waning days of winter have given Yang and I some fun bird watching, whether at home or away. For instance, Yang went for a stroll one day on a canal that runs perpendicular to the Blackstone River and sighted some interesting ducks and the peripatetic Kingfisher. So, the next day, I had him take me back there. Sure enough we saw some swell birds. Yang got some really nice shots of a pair of hooded mergansers. At first we thought they were both females, but I noticed that one had a distinctive long, pointed tail sticking above the water, as well as a fluffier brush of feathers at the back of the head. I suspect that one was a juvenile male. We either had a Mom and her teenage son or a Cougar duck. Who can tell? Enjoy the pictures!
I also got to see the Kingfisher, a male. I heard his excited chatter way down toward the end where the canal ran into the Blackstone. I kept my eyes peeled until I saw a blob of white way ahead in a tall tree over the waters. Training my binoculars confirmed my suspicions, bringing into focus a magnificent male Belted Kingfisher. Yang came up and got some shots with the binoculars he could attach to his cell phone. We had a great time watching His Majesty swoop down into the water, skimming along to fly off with his fishy dinner.
Further from home, we visited Forest Park in Springfield on our way to lunch in Montague. This turned out to be the mecca for Common Mergansers. We saw tons of them in one of the ponds. They were shy guys, as whenever we got close to the shore, they paddled off to the middle of the pond. Yang did get some nice pictures of them, though. I love how the males gleam white, their green heads almost black. Their head feathers in the back are far smoother than those of the male Red Breasted Mergansers. In both these types of Mergansers, the females are beautiful, with their Rita Hayworth-red locks! Yang loves the ducks’ red beaks.
We also found some American Black Ducks enjoying the same pond as well.
Closer to home – as in the bird feeders next to my house – we’ve been seeing some nifty birds, old friends and new. The Mockingbird and the Redwinged Blackbirds are back. Would you believe that even in the snow, the Robins have been scooting about for at least two weeks? Here we have a Robin and a Downy Woodpecker chilling (literally with all the snow) in a tree outside my sun porch window.
I must say that this Robin loves his/her? suet.
We also had the pleasure of this Red Bellied Woodpecker’s company. Since it’s a female, it wouldn’t be the one who was stunned after hit our sun-porch window. We brought him in in a box and let him warm up for about an hour then set him free. Whoosh! He was in great shape and off to the races. We see him and his mate here quite a bit. They’re also big suet lovers.
and perky Downy Woodpeckers.
Bring on the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks!
The other day I did a post on the birds of winter. I still have enough pictures for a Part II; but, right now, let’s accentuate the springitive (so to speak). Many of my favorite warm weather birds have returned. Even before the snow was gone in March, I caught this shot of a Robin in the Canadian Maple outside my window. Apparently, the winters are warm enough that most Robins don’t go South for the winter, but stay in the deep woods up here. Nevertheless, this was one of the first Robins I had seen in quite some time. Our Robins are quite different from the blue and rust-colored English Robins. As you can see, this guy is much bigger and is actually grey/black on top.
To me, of the first avian signs of spring is the return of my friend the Redwinged Blackbird. He’s always at my feeder and showed up for the first time on 3/2. I had a hard time catching him on film, but I did manage to sneak around the window and get a few pictures. Yang helped as well. I’ve also seen a female at the feeder, though I wasn’t able to get a picture of her. So, it looks as if he brought the Missus. Of course, there could be a whole bunch of different birds showing up, just one at a time. Still, I like to think that he is my old-time buddy, as is his wife, who comes back every year to whistle in the spring with his trademark call.
My next favorite harbinger of spring is the Rosebreasted Grosbeak. For years, I’ve seen either some females, a male, one year two males, or pairs. This year, I saw the female first. Don’t you love the impish way she peaks through the window here?
Then, not many days later, the male showed up. He only would show me his back at first, the little stinker. However, before long, I was able to get some shots of that rose breast for which he is known. Isn’t the pink just like pure liquid color? And the pristine white proves a gorgeous contrast to the rose and his black feathers. They both love the sunflower-seed hearts. Already shelled, the seeds don’t require them to put their grosbeaks to work cracking. I first saw them here on 5/4. I hope they stay a few weeks. Maybe they’ll nest and have baby grosbeaks?
Here’s two more shots of the Grosbeaks, just because they’re so fun to see.
My next favorite harbinger of spring is the Catbird. They are so perky and intelligent. Many a time I’ve sat quietly by the fish pond and one has come over to drink, getting quite close to me. And they have so many delightful calls. I believe they are related to the Mockingbird, so that would explain their extensive array of vocalizations. I think one reason that I’m partial to them is that one of their calls sounds like, “Sharon!” My name.
They adore suet, so I play bird police and chase away the grackles and starlings when they try to hog the suet block. Don’t you just love the sassy way Madame Catbird gives a little cock to her tail?
Another favorite pair are the House Finches. They may occasionally show up in the winter, but I never see too many of them until spring.
All year round, we have Goldfinches. In the winter, even the males turn a drab olive. It was neat to watch them gradually change to a more brilliant color as the spring progressed. However, whatever their colors, neither male nor female Goldfinch will abandon our feeders – especially the ones with the sunflower hearts. They are delightful old friends.
Speaking old friends, the Hairy Woodpeckers had a grand old time going after suet and sunflower seeds. We also had many Downy Woodpeckers and, from time to time, Flickers and Redbellied Woodpeckers. The Titmice, chickadees, Cardinals, and Nuthatches have kept us company year round as well.
So, it’s up to Yang and I to keep our avian friends up to their beaks in sunflower seeds and suet.
We went to Mt. Auburn looking for birds and beasts. In the past, we’ve seen rabbits, ground hogs, foxes, hawks, and robins, but we had a few surprises this time. This is a lovely catbird. I’m afraid you can’t quite distinguish his/her black cap. We have at least one who lives near our house and is rather friendly, visiting the bird feeders, sipping from the bird baths and fish pond, and plucking up multi-legged critters from the ground. We also saw tons of robins. I wanted to include this picture for my British viewers. Your robins are adorable, petite, and feathered lovely blue and rust. Ours, as you can see, are longer and larger, with a grey/black body and striking rusty-red tummy. Their faces and build are similar to your blackbirds, though yours are really black. I heard that your robins were struggling. How are they doing now?
Here was a nice surprise! Down by one of the ponds, we found quite a few painted turtles sunning themselves. Look at this guy stretch his hind legs. Seems comfy, doesn’t he/she. Meanwhile, in the pond, a baby was swimming around like crazy, having a ball. maybe this guy on the shore was a watchful parent?
We really had a surprise when we saw and were able to follow a Great Blue Heron around the cemetery. We expected to see him wading in one of the ponds. That’s how we usually see them, but not this guy. He just took himself on the most casual of strolls, looking around, chilling out. maybe he was looking for a friend?
Heading back to our car we got the biggest of surprises! A flock of about 8 or 9 wild turkeys! Notice the “beards” hanging from some of the birds. I’d never noticed that before.
I talked to a woman who was planting some flowers at a relative’s grade, and she told me the turkeys were making her nervous. Apparently, a turkey had gotten too aggressive with one of the workers in the cemetery last week, with things had not going well for the turkey. I have heard that these wild bird can be exceptionally bold. These guys didn’t bother us, but then, again, we didn’t bother them, either. I prevented Yang from mentioning either dreaded trigger word: Thanksgiving or drumstick.