Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gulls and other on Great Backyard Bird Count

     Gulls and  robins and  others -- oh my! The last four  days (Feb. 15-18, 2013) have been a part of the "Great Backyard Bird Count". I guess they were in my backyard in the sense that they were in my town on the East coast. And the "list" the birdcount.org provided me didn't have
a "Kittiwake" gull (see photo above) on it. The kittiwake is supposed to just be a coastal bird,
from off the Virginia coast all the way up to Canada, but with all the snow and storms we have had in the past few weeks, isn't it possible that they would be around?
     I spied them in town near the college and the Kroeger grocery parking lot, and by Kroeger they were much nearer and their wings looked "really" long! That leads me to believe they are not the more common herring gull, which I guess we do see sometimes in the grocery parking lot too. I remember several years ago, when my oldest son went to college here, that I saw a number of seagulls in the Kroeger parking lot. We must be inland about 500 miles, yet the birds seem to like to make an appearance here, as though the parking lot represented some kind of modern, paved gray beach. Maybe they do find junk to eat in supermarket parking lots. But traveling 500 miles inland seems like an awfully long way to go to get your dinner!
    We also viewed 3 robins (the harbingers of spring!) on the side of a ball field at the local park. It was brutally cold with a searing wind going and it is no wonder they were low to the ground, trying to get out of that wind. Perhaps they were on their way up to new England, though I can't see why. It is even "colder" up there!
   A few crows, vultures and starlings also made an appearance during that time. And my husband spied a pair of attractive mourning doves on the next door neighbor's property. I personally think the birds could have waited another month (by then it will officially be spring), as now is really miserable with cold, whipping winds that make it seem like 19o F sometimes!!
    I am glad to see some more birds around, but that's not so good around our house -- our 8 year old cat probably "loves" the idea of the birds deciding to come back!
   If you want to see how many were counted go to birdcount.org.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Seeking hummingbirds

    Most people probably think of a hummingbird as some kind of huge insect. But it "is" a bird. According to bird hobbyist Melanie Fox and a little research I have done, hummingbirds are feisty little (no, not buggers) aviary beings. Some species have been known to venture to the high American Rockies or even Alaska. In the extreme temperatures actually cause them to go into a state of "torpor" where their heart beat is a mere 60 or 70 beat a minute and they may look like they are not even alive.
     But on a late fall day over a month ago (was it early December?) I scrambled to get some clothes on after Melanie emailed me that her feeder in front of her townhouse had attracted some hummers. So I got down there just as a few even "bigger" bird hobbyists caught the hummers in this little netting they put  over a bird cagelike like device the bird feeder was in, in order to tag then release the birds. They'd had a ruby throated juvenille on hand before I got there. As I arrived they were hold a tiny "rufous" hummingbird in the netting while putting a tiny, tiny aluminum band around its tiny leg. They told me they try the following year to capture the ones with the band on the leg to see where they have been and come back to. The rufous hummingbird is normally a West coast (down to the Baja pennisula next Mexico) bird that migrates south. But sometimes, they go off course.
    The rufous hummingbird had a light gray breast, and is supposed to be brownish with maybe a drop of yellow or red on top. Birds in general are pretty fast. But watch for those house cats! We have an indoor-outdoor cat, which may be a reason we don't see too many birds outside of sparrows and a few mourning doves when the weather was warmer. Cats can be fastER sometimes. But it is interesting to learn something new about birds.