Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bird Stuff

Winter has arrived in the sunny south.  We've had our chilly nights of below freezing temperatures, with hard freezes more inland, but commencing today things should be a bit more toward normal. 

Yesterday morning, after sleeping in as usual, I pulled open the blinds to notice a wandering kitty on our patio.  Then as I looked up into the trees, I commended to myself, oh that's a big bird.  OH!!!  that's a cooper's hawk!!!!   It was sitting on the limb behind one of the bird feeders preening.  I quickly ran for my camera. 

After five minutes or so there, he hopped a couple of times and finally came to rest on a limb of a pine tree about 25 feet off the ground, and right next to the trunk.  It was a sunny, cold day with considerable wind and I think he found the perfect place for a good rest in the sun.  Much to my amazement, he stayed in the pine tree for over four hours!!!!   My guess is that he had already had a meal when I first saw him, thus the preening, and then the long rest period.  Needless to say, I had no other birds in the yard while he was here.

Finally, he left the yard and the other birds started returning and feeding.  Today, they're back in full force.  I'm hoping that this cold front is bringing all the winter visitors that normally show up.  Thus far, there haven't been very many.

It is very apparent that there is plenty of natural food sources for birds and animals this year.  We had a bumper crop of acorns, all the holly trees have tons of berries, the yaupon are covered as well as all the other shrubs that contribute as food sources. 

I'm thinking that the abundance of natural foods is a primary factor in the lack of birds at the feeders. 

Last week, I also went back up to Blackwater on one of our survey trips.  We were joined by the biologist in charge of the red cockaded woodpecker project there.  One of our cohorts, Larry, volunteers with her every week on the project also.  At any rate, the six of us proceed to engage in a sparrow stomp, of sorts.  I had never done such a thing, but was game.  The idea is to form a circle around an area where a specific sparrow has been seen and then gradually close the circle.  Ideally, you would have enough folks to create a human "wall" around the bird and thus cause it to simply hop up on a bush and survey the surroundings but not have an opening to fly away.  Then everyone should have a chance to see the bird in question.  Well, six people do not make a human wall!!  

I had spotted a small bird near a hammock, and called everyone over.  We proceeded to try the stomp and were able to get the bird up where all could see.  It was a Sedge Wren which, although not unknown in the forest, is not common. 
Sedge Wren -- photo by Larry Goodman 
It was a treat to see this little guy.  Now, getting to him was another story.  Even though on the surface the forest looks level and all nice, don't you believe it!!!    These guys are found in very damp areas, and the wiregrass grows in huge clumps which makes for very uneven walking.  Also, the burned over areas also leave soft spots where roots or stumps have burned out.  If you step on one of those spots, you can sink down anywhere from a few inches to a couple of feet.  Caution was the order of the day.  However, we persevered and made several rounds.  At another location, we attempted the same and flushed the sparrow we were tracking, but never did get a sufficient look to identify him.  Finally, we admitted defeat and quit, to move on to other areas. 

Next day, I paid for all the stomping and tromping around.  My legs were so sore from all that unevenness!  Even Birdlady suffered the same effects.

When we arrived at Hurricane Lake to check on the ducks and other waterfowl, we were treated to a major surprise.  I spotted an eagle soaring overhead and shortly he was joined by two others.  Then in a few minutes, four more came soaring by!!   This is twice that Birdlady and I have seen seven eagles at Hurricane Lake.  Believe me, that is not ordinary.  

Adventures like these and the surprises are part of the reasons why birding is so enjoyable to me.  Besides the fact that the birds themselves are so fascinating and beautiful.  If you've never taken the time to look closely at the birds in your area, take a minute to really see them.  They are truly marvels. 

Y'all take care. 


  1. What a great photo of the hawk! And for him to stay and visit for such a long length of time! Glad you were there to get your photo.

  2. I hadn't thought about birding, but you make it sound so interesting. I just might have to look into it. Great pictures.

  3. Very interesting way to go bird watching! And you got some great shots of the Cooper's hawk.

  4. Oh, I just love the hawk - and the photos of the berries are beautiful. It sounds like you are really having fun with your birding.