Snow and some very good birds

Apart from a few photographs of birds and flowers there hasn’t been much keeping up to date here with notes about the garden and its wildlife but now we have fully entered winter with a couple of decent snowfalls and a minus -18C night forecast before the end of the week, here are a couple of highlights.

October ended with a small rabbit pottering around the lawn diligently doing his duty by nibbling on dandelion leaves and leaving the stuff we want to keep well alone. Just so long as he/she doesn’t repeat the bark-stripping in late winter that we had a year or so ago.

This is going to be a “finch winter” with northern winter finches coming south in numbers not seen for a few years due a poor cone crop in the boreal forests. We have had a few Pine Siskins passing thoough and one day a mixed flock of American Goldfinches accompanied by a small number of Common Redpolls that seemed more interested in finding food in the birch trees than in using the easy to access feeders.

A few days into November we were frustrated to see that one of the resident grey squirrels had learned to leap above the baffle on one of our feeder poles and once up there to access by a good jump the other pole and its feeders. He was taking a running jump at the pole and ricocheting off that to bypass the baffle. Eventually we settled his hash by fixing a second wider baffle above the first and by greasing the pole, since when he has not returned … yet. When going out to scare him away he would just sit on top of the pole at stare at us with a beady eye. Squirrels are nice, but they do need to know their place in the greater scheme of things.

The Feederwatch citizen science programme recently started again – the 20th season for us (do we get a prize?) and got off to a very good start with a visit by a Gray Catbird who was eating berries from the Viburnum bushes near the house. We posted a picture of him on this blog at the time. A very good bird indeed for anywhere and especially so for the garden list. We have occasionally heard them from the garden in other years but not actually seen one enter it. Feederwatch, wisely, wanted the photo before they would accept the record.

Other good birds have been a pair of Carolina Wrens usually one at a time so we were not certain they were a pair although we seemed to be seeing difference in colour from day to day … eventually though we caught them both together and added a grainy photo to our records. Oh, and a few White-throated Sparrows too. This is going to be a good winter … just waiting for our allocation now of Pine and Evening Grosbeaks because there are a few being seen and heard in the Arboretum.

Then the first snow arrived – rather wet and heavy snow but an unusually early fall. The next day low early light caught the falling snow and made it sparkle in the air. Beautiful. Followed as this is being written a few days later by a top-up fall of lighter, fluffier and colder snow.

Back to the birds – a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker had a meal of peanuts in the garden. According to local records and backed up by eBird’s charts for the region, all YBSAs should have left for the south no later than mid October so this is a very late straggler. Nevertheless he seemed to be in reasonable fettle. A Pileated Woodpecker dropped by a couple of time also.

Gray Catbird in Viburnum bush

Pileated Woodpecker checking for grubs in Catalpa tree

Acrobatic squirrel snacking

White-throated Sparrow

Vary late Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Coopers hawk