Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Few Winter Birds

I spent about 3 hours birding the neighborhood this morning. The weather was cool and clear, starting in the 60's and getting into the mid-70's by the time I was done. Wow, it was nice! The birding was pretty slow and I only found 29 species. But a few of those were birds that we only see here in the winter, and this morning was the first time I've seen them here since last winter. For me this is one of the most satisfying and comforting aspects of birding. I love seeing seasonal birds return. It's like seeing old friends again, and it's vibrant, moving evidence of the changing seasons.

Walking down Stillforest, I heard the quiet typewriter-like call of Ruby-crowned Kinglets a few times. I finally saw one near Meadowheath. These small greenish birds with big white eye-rings and wing-bars are probably our most common winter-resident songbird in the trees around our houses. (I encourage you to learn their call and then listen for it on the cold mornings coming soon. Listen to the 6th sound, "jit and jidit calls NY" here.) I didn't get a picture of one this morning, but here's one I photographed in the neighborhood back in 2008.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Later on the hike and bike trail near Braes Valley I found the first 2 House Wrens I've seen here since last winter. These are winter residents in our neighborhood that look very similar to our year-round wrens (Bewick's and Carolina) but they do not have the white line over their eye. Besides their characteristic wren shape and posture, they are rather nondescript birds and often stay hidden in low thick brush. But their animated calls and scolds make up for their plain appearance.

On my way back at the footbridge near the end of Meadowheath I heard a familiar chip note I couldn't quite place at first. Then I realized it was probably a Lincoln's Sparrow, and I followed the sound until I got a few quick looks at the bird and confirmed that's what it was. In our neighborhood, most sparrows (besides the ubiquitous House Sparrow) are only here in the winter, and prefer the low dense brush you can find along the creek. Lincoln's Sparrow is usually the most common of these. This was the first winter sparrow I've seen here this fall, and I got this poor photo of it. Welcome back!

Lincoln's Sparrow

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