Yesterday.....in spontaneous preparation...... I removed the screen from the window in my upstairs office which conveniently overlooks a few feeders and the shelter of trees. I reached for the Windex and seemingly painted on sheer glass, clear ....unmarred and very inviting. A recollection of thought just a few years back came to me, when I was on the Snake River in Idaho doing a photo-shoot of the 'crewing team. The Snake that morning exhibited nothing but utter glass, not a ripple to be found. I perched a top a small natural jetty and clicked a shot of the team rowing in unison approaching that glass, leaving behind them a ripple of oars as the waves crept ashore in diagonal fashion. The breaking of calm water, yet still somehow pure peace.
Oh...also last night I ventured into Ocean City and listened to Pat Sutton hold court over us as she spoke to an audience of perhaps 50 concerning Birds of Cape May. This was a fascinating talk as 'still a young man I am' who recently took root here in Atlantic County, has a long ways to go to that of seeking out birding sites, the history of the area etc... It was truly a ....'far out' experience man. Pat and Clay have written a book entitled "Birds and Birding at Cape May' and certainly one I will pick up.
So here I sit on Feb 13th... alone at 8 am in my writers garret, with pen in hand, note book open.... I am ready for the birds. My thoughts are to record 'in count' the species I see every 15 minutes or so for the next 4-5 hours. Most will be repeats but over the course of morning hours, I will have a representation of the numbers of birds whom I cross eyes with.
At 8:15...in a freshly disguised morning sun...came the first eaters. A top the feeders and grass I counted 17 Juncos, 4 white throated sparrows and 2 goldfinches. A fast count it was as the birds scrambled and pecked on the grass and jockeyed for position on one of the rungs of the feeders and seemingly in a matter of minutes, they vanished. It is quiet now...But they will come...they will come.
Now...10am...Arriving at a count is not a forgone conclusion. Birds are continuously making a dart to the feeders...or the juncos more-so to the ground, as the white throated sparrows sloppily pull feed and drop most. The juncos lay in wait below, for the pellets of seed to fall like rain. Many juncos huddle within their own feathers sitting astride the naked branches of bushes which surround the feeders offering safety to what I know, is a neighboring raptor or two. So I record....but a final tally...hmmmmm
11am...They keep on coming eh? A beautiful male northern Cardinal makes it's presence at the Black Sunflower feeder along with a brief glimpse of a Carolina Wren. They just pop in....then out. But the White Breasted Nuthatch is truly a spectacular bird in not just the clothes it wears but its behavior. Their encounter with the Black Sunflower seed feeder is sketchy at best. Oooops...had my scope on him for a second. But what happens after they steal the sunflower seed is amazing. This little guy would have seed in beak, and retreat to the neighboring tree and the safety of the bark and the apparent feeling of being up-side down. It doesn't have a beak built to crack open an 'unshelled' black sunflower seed like finches or cardinals so needs to use the bark as its prop. It will scurry up the bark until it finds a notch and place the seed in the cavity. Once there it pecks away at it, deshelling it. Takes just a minute or so, then back to feeder and repeat process. In between it likes to stop off along the downside of the tree bark and dismantle a piece hoping to find some juicy insect under. When it returns with seed in beak, No Ryhme or Reason (to borrow a song from John Denver) as to what cavity it might want to utilize. Any cavity will due.
To contrast that.....the Tufted Titmouse will, like the Nuthatch....scamper away with it's treasure. It will scamper to a branch and in the crook of one branch connected to the other it will deshall...no need to find a tree cavity. It also prefers the same 'crook'..returning to that crook countless times for heck, if you have a good tool, why re-invent the wheel? The Downy Woodpecker, another encountering this fine hour of the day, will also scamper away with it's morsel of seed shell but will also, like the Nuthatch, prefer the confines of a bark cavity. Eating manners......But, watch a Downy Woodpecker at a sunflower feeder. It struggles. A grab for a seed but a miss...another grab, another, another, another....until finally successful.
11:50.....'something'.....just came ...it dominated the stage.
12:10....back online. Appears to be a few Chipping Sparrows in the mix of white throated. I know I have seen them before this year, so ....looks good. Spring is around the corner.
12:50....first squirrel showed up. What's with that? The grackles and starlings and cowbirds haven't shown up yet...but they will soon blacken the ground and with crazy eyes blaring.
1:20....My first day of the 'Backyard Birding Count' has come to an end. At the moment, birds are basking in that warm sun. A few Tufted Titmouse are still poking around the feeders but the Junco's are sated. So, comes a close to another exciting day. You know, even with the arrival of Mr. Cooper, isn't it just nature. Just as 'they will come for me'...so will 'they just come' for the Cooper. That bird has every right to be here and survive and hunt and eat. Sometimes we have a tendency to look upon raptors with beauty as they soar or perch, but refuse to equally look upon them with awe as they too feed, they too are just living and are a part of our natural surroundings, no more than any other predator.