Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Thursday, December 31, 2009

December Birds

Birds have seemed rather quiet in the neighborhood, with not as many different species and fewer numbers this December than in recent years. As always, I’m not sure this is an accurate observation because it could be that I’ve just been too busy or preoccupied – but even though other obligations have kept me from posting blogs through most of the month, I have been outside at some point for an hour or more most days, and keeping a journal.

On a good walk through the neighborhood in late December, most days I could count on finding around 20-25 species, and the total number of species for the month – not all seen on one day – has been 36. Highlights have included a Sharp-shinned Hawk that flew low overhead one cold cloudy day, its neat, compact shape perfectly held right above me; a Cooper’s Hawk seen two or three times in a certain stretch along Summit Drive, perched in low branches and sailing low over the grass; the mews of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and their visits to the pecan trees in our front yard; the little-bell-like calls of Dark-eyed Juncos foraging below shrubs and below the feeders; the quick scattering of Chipping Sparrows flying up from brown grass along the roadsides; the chatter of Ruby-crowned Kinglets in bushes and low branches; the occasional high ti-ti-ti of Golden-crowned Kinglets in the higher branches of pines and hardwoods; the cuck-cuck-cuck calls of a Pileated Woodpecker in a particular section of woods; one sighting of a quiet Hermit Thrush in early December; many Black Vultures soaring, usually three or four together; a pair of Red-tailed Hawks soaring together and calling on a blue-sky, sunny cold day; the squeaking calls and bold behavior of Brown-headed Nuthatches that visit the feeders daily; the high, thin calls of small flocks of Cedar Waxwings; and the to-WHEE calls and activity of Eastern Towhees, bright splotches of black, red, brown and white scratching in dry brown leaves below bushes.

Conspicuously missing from my list are Red-shouldered Hawk and Pine Warbler – both of which I’m sure are around, but I have not seen or heard them since late fall – and Barred Owl, heard seldom lately. I’ve not yet seen a Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Nuthatch or White-breasted Nuthatch this winter, and no Brown Creeper or Winter Wren in several years now – but keep watching.

Maybe the most significant missing birds are the fairly good-size flocks of Blackbirds we usually see here in winter. So far this season I’ve only seen one lone Red-winged Blackbird, a very few Common Grackles and no certain Rusty Blackbirds, though there have been a few flying over that I wasn’t sure about. I’m still watching and hoping for the flocks to come along.

*Complete list of species seen or heard in Summit Grove, December 2009: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, American Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, House Finch, American Goldfinch.


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