Finches, Juncos, and Sparrows! Oh my!

A Note

I apparently missed the memo to visit a new phenology place, and, rather, continued to explore the spot I visited when I was home for Thanksgiving Break. Oh well. However, it now seems rather superfluous to write about the natural history of my spot and post a GoogleMaps link to it considering I did that only a few posts ago. Instead, I opted to write more about the differences I observed since my last visit, and to discuss the bird activity I have seen in both that spot, as well as in the general area I explored.

Pond Phenology Changes

It’s been awhile since I last visited my home phenology location. And I have to say, not too much seemed to have changed. When I last visited at the end of November, the area was transitioning from fall to winter, and now it is slowly but surely transitioning from winter to spring. The land has turned from the bright green grass it once was to a brown, nearly barren, landscape blanketed with snow. The cattails somehow look even more dead than they did before. And all small shrubs and plants that poked out from the forest edge have either died, been smushed by snow, or been consumed by an animal. Now, the only sign of new life comes in the form of buds on the trees in the area. From what I could see, most of the larger deciduous trees had buds. But many of the trees had branches that were either too high, or the trees themselves were too far away so that I could not photograph these developments.  However, an area at the bottom of a small hill next to my phenology spot offered great photography opportunities. At the bottom of the hill, I spotted [what I think is] a Willow tree. The cotton-like buds caught my attention immediately, but rattling in a large pile of weeds extracted from the pond this past spring caught my attention.

It’s a Bird’s World

Stepping closer, cautiously trying to minimize the noise I was making, I discovered there were a few sparrows hopping about, picking about the ground in search of food. And upon discovering these little fellas, I soon realized how many other birds there were in the area. About twenty feet from me, approximately 40 or so feet up, sat a male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) on a branch singing his little heart out. Ten minutes later, looking in the opposite direction, I spotted a large raptor in the trees. It was quite a distance away so I was initially unable to tell exactly what it was, but it eventually flew a few trees over and that allowed me to realize it was a hawk. What particular kind, I am unsure. I unfortunately was unable to capture of photo of the bird, but the experience was still exciting.

The encounters I had with the birds by my phenology spot (which, by the way, is only a few hundred feet away from my house) weren’t my only experiences with birds. Before I returned to UVM, I purchased a bird feeder for my parents, which they hung outside on a tree by my living room window. Clearly, word has gotten out in the bird community since that time.

Every morning around 8 AM, all the birds come for breakfast. Below is an incomplete alphabetical list of the bird species that I saw visit the feeder.

  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Blue Jay
  • Cardinal (both male and female)
  • Common Grackle (which seemed to be the most territorial of all the avian visitors to the feeder)
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Downy Woodpecker (both male and female)
  • Finches
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-winged Blackbirds (also quite territorial)
  • Sparrows
  • Tufted Titmouse (love the “Peter-Peter-Peter-Peter-Peter” call)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch

Feeder Friends

Below are some photos of birds both by the feeder and by my phenology location. Not pictured: a very conniving and sneaky Gray Squirrel.

Over the course of the week, I’ve noticed a few other birds here and there. Occasionally, a gull will fly by mostly in the direction of the seafood restaurant down the street from my house. (Searching for stray french fries, perhaps?) There are also quite a few hawks in the area. More times than not, there seems to be a few circling at the same time, rather than a single individual. And across the state, I’ve also seen a greater presence of Canadian Geese and ducks wading in various bodies of water.

Either birds are very active this time of year, or I just hadn’t noticed how great of a presence they have until now.