Saturday, January 08, 2005

Bird observations

I saw a robin this morning while dog walking. Didn't see any last year but many the year before when we had a mild winter. I wonder if this means we will have another mild winter here in the Northeast? Apparently more robins are overwintering because of the warmer weather. We also have huge resident flocks of Canada geese, who doesn't? They don't migrate anymore and cause huge problems on fancy corporate campuses, pooping all over their manicured lawns and walks. They've taken to using geese chasing dogs and sneaking in the night to stick a pin in the eggs and scrambling the yolk. They got into hotwater for the last tactic; federal law protects the geese. We would love to have the geese on our lawn but they don't come.

We had a Toulouse goose named PT (this was way before the Dodge PT cruiser)when we lived on the Northshore of Oahu in Hawaii. He went missing for a couple of weeks so we thought some feral dogs got him. Then one day a neighbor told my wife that "your goose is living in someone's carport about a block away". Sure enough my wife checked out all the carports and there he was, nonplussed but happy to see my wife. People are so mellow in Hawaii, the people living there never complained to us to come get your x*%#@*! goose.

A couple of weeks back I glimpsed my favorite bird, the white-breasted nuthatch, actually my second favorite, the first being the red-breasted. I rarely see these birds although they frequented our feeder regularly when we rented a home with overgrown brush alongside the house.

At the home we have now, we get only the usual suspects, house finches, sparrows, does, starlings. In the summer blackbirds, cowbirds, catbirds, goldfinch, barn swallows and grackles are commonly seen and in the winter we see more chickadees, titmice, juncos and cardinals. We have a resident mocking bird and a sharp shinned hawk would sweep down on the birds at the feeder but we haven't seen it for about a month now. We usually see one ruby throated hummingbird on the migration north and south. Wrens and yellow bellied sapsuckers are rare, the downy woodpecker being more common. Once this summer, I did observe a white eyed vireo, very close up, looking for bugs in a rhododendron while I was knee deep in water in the fishpond--quite a treat.

When living in Baltimore I saw one of the strangest birds I've ever seen. A flat headed American woodcock was flying slowly and I do mean slowly (this is the slowest flying bird known), very close to town. Obviously lost, the ungainly, nocturnal woodland bird, frightened and disoriented was flying erratically along the tree lined streets. Something I'll remember for a long time.

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