Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Big January Wrap Up...Three!

A young student at the Nature Centre feeders

I have visited these feeders at Guelph Ontario twice in the past week and stayed until my feet and fingers were numb with cold. There was plenty of action both times, from the seed eating birds and their predators. This area in the country and is surrounded with farms. There were at least three feral cats prowling around. What a perilous place for the many smaller birds hanging out in the area.

I studied the placement of the feeders and the plantings around them. If you look at the picture above and to the left, you can see heavy brush as well as a stand of cedars adjacent to the feeder. Other than the Chickadees, most of the birds rested in the thickets and darted back and forth to the feeders. I did not see a single House Sparrow or Starling in the area.

The first day I was there, a young Sharp-shinned Hawk made three passes at the feeders in an effort to get a meal. While it looks much like a Coopers Hawk, especially when mature, this hawk is smaller, about the size of a dove. In fact, I wondered why a dove was flying so quickly toward the feeders until I realized it really was a hawk.

Young Sharp-shinned Hawk, bird #60

I felt sorry for this young bird as it needed a meal too, but was hoping it did not target the lone Eastern Towhee or the Red-bellied Woodpecker. However, the Towhee never came out of the brush and has likely survived this far into the winter because of its caution. The placement of feeders and plantings around them do need to be carefully considered to provide safety for the birds. I think we often put feeders out for our enjoyment and viewing rather than considering what is best for the birds.

White-crowned Sparrow, bird #61

I went back yesterday hoping to get a better view of the Towhee. There were about 50 students visiting from a local school who were involved in outdoor winter activities. They were trying to find items on a list and had been assigned little binoculars. I loved watching them interact with nature. One 6th grade girl shouted, "Look at the red bird!!" She didn't even recognize a Northern Cardinal but will remember that now. Other children seemed to have a better knowledge of the environment around them. They had an outdoor campfire lunch of hot dogs, hot chocolate and marshmallows in the minus 10C temperatures.

I was happy to find my 61st bird in spite of the activity. There was one White-crowned Sparrow and a couple of White-throated Sparrows, birds I usually don't see until May.

Another local birder, a college student named Josh, has counted 89 birds in Ontario this month. He is a avid and skilled naturalist and a contributor to our local birding forum. I know he will have more birds by the end of the month. He has scouted the Niagara River for gulls and water birds and also found more owls and raptors than I did. So I will have to set my goal higher for January 2010 and maybe brave the Niagara area. We will see!


  1. Great post! Congratulations. And you still have days remaining. I loved the photographs.

  2. Anonymous2:22 pm GMT-5

    Wonder what your final tally will be! This was a great little bonus - I won't see those sparrows here for a while yet. A Sharpie just nabbed somebody (mourning dove, I think) at my feeder. I haven't checked my camera yet to see if I got the shot (out the window).

  3. You've done well at the nature center. Great captures.
    I'm fortunate to have many bushes around my feeders and still a great view from the window.
    I see white-crowned sparrows every day by the dozens. They tend to whoosh in and out in a group.

  4. Beautiful and funny photos.

  5. Wow Ruth, that's a great photo of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk! The one in my backyard is not very cooperative for photo ops.

  6. Great photos!! I am so excited for you to get another species in today! I can't wait to read the final tally.

  7. Ruth, I feed our quail under large cedars, partially for weather protection but also helps against hawks, etc.

  8. Anonymous7:49 pm GMT-5

    Love lifers and Jan was a great month! Keep up with the great post (and photos)! :)

  9. I love your pic of the hawk. He looks majestic and a little scary too. You must be having fun birdwatching. I wonder why you are seeing birds in January that you usually see in May. Is it something to do with the climate? Food sources? Hmmmm.

    I love watching youngesters as they interact with and learn about nature. They're so spontaneous at this age. Good post. I started 2 posts today and deleted both of them. Oh well - must be all the snow. LOL!

  10. Way to go.The two Sparows you saw are so beautiful.

  11. I have not seen a white-crown sparrow before. What an interesting looking bird. His little head looks like he has a helmet on. I hope he wasn't planning on playing tackle football with the young hawk.

    Beautiful pictures do take amazing shots. I go on the KW forum daily and have seen some of Josh's pics! I think you should be adding your pictures there too.

  12. Ruth,

    Yah! You made your quota. You go, girl!

    Love the photos of the red-bellied woodpecker. It really does look like it's poising for you.

    All of your photos are awesome. Thanks for sharing your wonderful outdoor experiences. I never fail to enjoy your wonderful posts.

    I haven't been out as much this winter, as I was so sick during December and the first part of January. I really miss seeing all of the birds and wildlife in our area. I did notice that we now have both black and grey squirrels living in the huge maple at the end of our driveway. We have never had black squirrels in the 17 years we have lived here. When I went out earlier today, they were playing tag among the branches. There were five of them. Three grey and two black. I have seen few black squirrels in this area but they were common when I was growing up. I think too much inter breeding.


  13. You earned a bonus by braving the cold thye way you did. You are a very committed birder! Well done! And, you shared beautiful shots with us too!

  14. I think you are spot on Ruth. The feeders need to be at least close to cover for it to be safe for the birds. :c) Glad you got that little sparrow sighted.

  15. Congratulations on your 61st bird sighting. It surprises me to see a White-crowned Sparrow in the snow for my only sightings of this species is during their migration flight stop overs in the fall and spring.

    I have noticed recently mention of White-winged Crossbills sightings within the province and I recall you commenting that there were large groups of them in your area this year. I hope to get to see some.

    It sounds like there is a wonderful outdoor nature program for students in your area. I think awareness and knowledge of one's environment is such necessary, useful information.

  16. Congratulations on exceeding your goal...and for combining three hobbies; birdwatching, photography, and blogging into something quite wonderful that brings many others pleasure!

  17. Your world is so lovely right now! Thanks for sharing!!

  18. Congrats on your 61st birdie siting...
    Awesome photo of the Hawk.

  19. Congratulations on surpassing your goal!- and thanks for participating. It was fun to know that other people from different areas were toughing it out for the same reasons.


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