Birding Notes

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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

As January Ends – A Scarcity of Birds

For the last two weeks of January, I was away from home much of the time, so my impressions of bird activity during these days are fragmentary. But whenever I could, I went out for at least one walk during the day, and my general impression has been that this winter we have fewer species of birds and smaller numbers here than in previous winters – except for some of our most common birds, like Chickadees, Titmice, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves, Cardinals and Blue Jays. All of these seem to be doing fine.

Most days I’ve seen Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures soaring, and at least one Red-tailed Hawk, sometimes soaring, but often perched in the trees or flying low along the edge of the woods. So far this winter, however, I have not seen or heard a Red-shouldered Hawk, and this is unusual. Until now, Red-shouldered Hawks have almost always been around, and in previous winters there were many days when I encountered one or two hunting from low perches in trees near the woods.

I have still seen a Cooper’s Hawk several times along a certain stretch of road that runs between yards with a combination of open space and woods.

Most days I run across at least one Yellow-bellied Sapsucker or hear its mewing call, but they are not nearly as common in the neighborhood’s many pecans and other trees as they have been in previous winters. So far we’ve seen very few Goldfinches, no Pine Siskins, and no sign of the large Blackbird flocks of previous winters.

But – to end the month on a less-gloomy note, there’s a handsome pair of Northern Flickers that usually can be found foraging in one large grassy yard with Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and other small birds. The check calls of Yellow-rumped Warblers can be heard just about everywhere, and one or two small sparkling flocks of Cedar Waxwings are usually around.

A pair of feisty Brown-headed Nuthatches are regular visitors to the feeders in our front yard, along with a pair of Downy Woodpeckers, and a few tiny, exquisite Golden-crowned Kinglets can usually be found in the pines. Carolina Wrens sing glorious songs – too often I overlook them – and also visit the feeders often. Large numbers of Robins are scattered throughout the neighborhood, spread out across yards, perched in treetops, and at end of day, glowing red in the setting sun as they fly over in small groups toward the west.

A Pine Warbler continues to trill its spring-like song outside my office window early in the morning and all around the house, all day, even in the coldest, grayest, dreariest weather.


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