Bzzzz December 13th, 2008

I know I’m not alone when I say that I detest the winter season. It has only gotten worse in the past few years. In fact, since I have enthusiastically embraced the green living lifestyle, my contempt for winter has become a bit of an obsession. I may have to become one of those silver-haired snowbirds.

The thermostats are turned down and we have resorted to means other than our heat pumps to keep warm. It doesn’t always work, I should add.

I have gotten so cold that I have resorted to wearing those incredibly lightweight but warm Patagonia capilene long underwear most days. While mall shopping a few weeks ago I was tickled to find cashmere fingerless gloves that I can wear while typing. I bought two pair. And Brookstone had Tempurpedic slippers that I tuck my feet into at my desk. They pretty much park there because they are too clumsy to walk around in.

But winter is not without its rewards.

Last month, in the middle of winter on a particularly frigid day, I had the electrician here swapping out one set of programmable thermostats for ones that I can actually understand how to program. As we were chatting, I glanced out the front door and stopped mid-sentence.

A group of six Eastern Bluebirds was exploring the Purple Martin gourds that I have procrastinated moving in for the winter.

I watched, transfixed, as they moved in and out of the gourds and perched on the support poles. Once I regained my senses, I scrambled for my camera and long lens to take photos. Then I grabbed my Sibley guide to see whether it’s that unusual to see bluebirds here in November.

Apparently, it’s not unheard of for groups of bluebirds to stay northward and nest together rather than heading for warmer quarters. Margaret at A Way to Garden said she has even seen them near her New York home in winter.

Sadly, they didn’t stick around, so I’m still going to have to store those Purple Martin gourds.

In the meantime, I’m keeping a keen eye out for the potential return of Evening Grosbeaks. The Winter King Hawthorns that line the driveway near our house are loaded with the fat, red berries that attracted a flock of them last winter.

I only hope I am looking out the windows when they arrive. It’s my small consolation for having to dress like an Eskimo in my own home.

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Bzzzz January 24th, 2008

That was the headline today in the Project FeederWatch e-newsletter. I feel like I am on the edge of this breaking news story!

It was just in December that I saw a gross of Evening Grosbeaks at my hopper/platform feeder.

Evening-Grosbeak-3.jpg

Evening Grosbeaks at the Backyard Hopper/Platform Feeder

Project FeederWatch, which I posted about just a couple of days ago, noted that since the project began the data indicated that the Evening Grosbeak population had declined dramatically. But this year, more and more people are reporting seeing flocks of this beautiful and special bird.

I think that this finding underlines a couple of key points. First, conservation works. I will give credit to the vast movement of bird watchers who fill their feeders regularly and provide alternative housing for our avian friends. This makes a difference in their ability to find the resources they need to thrive. And second, the data points of average, ordinary people all over the U.S. helps researchers understand how our bird populations are changing. This data is another key indicator or the environmental condition and how it impacts wildlife.

Okay. Nuff of that. I also just think it’s cool that I actually SAW a bunch of Evening Grosbeaks and then read this story.

Project FeederWatch offers loads of fascinating information. For example, the top 25 birds reported at feeders in Maryland in the 2006-2007 season was:

Rank within region

Common Name

Scientific name

Mean group size (when seen)

FeederWatch Abundance Index

1

Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis

5.32

3.72

2

Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis

3.61

2.96

3

Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura

4.64

3.20

4

Carolina/Black-capped Chickadee Poecile carolinensis/atricapillus

2.15

1.64

5

Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor

2.13

1.42

6

Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus

1.28

0.68

7

American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis

3.41

1.60

8

Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens

1.61

1.08

9

House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus

3.74

2.06

10

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata

2.31

1.01

11

Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus

1.17

0.61

12

White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

1.40

0.71

13

White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis

3.93

1.81

14

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

6.87

2.67

15

American Robin Turdus migratorius

2.82

0.34

16

European Starling Sturnus vulgaris

4.33

0.69

17

Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia

1.53

0.42

18

Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula

5.71

0.43

19

Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos

1.13

0.20

20

Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater

4.03

0.29

21

Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus

4.67

0.32

22

American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos

2.96

0.35

23

Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus

1.18

0.20

24

Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus

1.21

0.08

25

Cooper’s Hawk Accipiter cooperii

1.02

0.06

You can find the top birds at your feeders and learn more about how they measure by visiting their data page here.

Happy bird watching!

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