Thursday, January 17, 2008

Yard Eco Update

I finally got around to putting out suet last week, and was rewarded with a very good view of a downy woodpecker working its way down the Bradford pear to get to it. The house finches have been at the feeders again after having abandoned them for a stretch, and a dark-eyed junco was prowling under them the other day. There must have been no lack of wild goodies around during the fall, because most of the birds and even the squirrels were snubbing my feeders for a while. Of course, there was a bumper crop of acorns this year.

With the cold weather rolling back in after a warm stretch, the birds have been pretty active. Yesterday, around 2 p.m., I glanced out the front window to find the yard taken over by common grackles. There were easily two or threescore of them; many on the ground tossing leaves in search of food, some up in the trees. Any disturbance--a car going by, me approaching the window too quickly--would send them all into the air in a mob to redistribute themselves in the safety of the trees. I noticed a bright red epaulet on one of the crowd hopping around on the ground and suddenly realized that the grackles were intermingled with redwing blackbirds--a couple dozen at least, from what I could make out. Most of the usual frontyard birds--brown thrashers, chickadees, cardinals, house finches and the occasional titmouse--stayed clear during the assault. After the grackles and redwings had moved on, I noticed the thrasher and later a female cardinal hanging around in the pear tree. Checking things out to make sure it was safe, no doubt.

Ten to fifteen minutes after the grackle/redwing mob took to the trees, I looked out the back window and found the backyard taken over by a couple dozen robins. One was so fat I wasn't sure he'd be able to take off if necessary. Baby and I watched them briefly, then noticed a number of smaller birds loitering in the trees. We spotted two or three cedar waxwings, which I hadn't seen around the house in a couple of years since a large cedar two doors down was cut. Then the grackle/waxwing gang landed and took over the backyard. They seemed to have picked up a few brown-headed cowbirds between yards as well. The robins were not terribly fazed, and for several minutes the backyard was awash with birds flipping dry leaves.

This morning we spotted another feeder first, notwithstanding the pouring rain. It was a beautiful little ruby-crowned kinglet, browsing under the shelter of a lawn chair. Thanks to the grackles and redwings, which threw seeds from the nearby feeder everywhere, he probably had easy pickings.

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