Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Chickadee Gate Revisited

This is the gate where Black-capped Chickadees and other birds assemble
With the recent heavy snow fall, the bird feeding stations at the nature preserve have been astoundingly busy. Snow cover usually has this effect, but the general lack of food in the wild this year has made the birds much more desperate than usual. Also, the light icing that fell subsequently, has made what little food there is difficult to get at. This period of hardship has made me and my bags of bird seed very popular with the 1,000s of winter resident seed eaters.
An American Tree Sparrow usually prefers to get its seed on the ground
Many of these birds follow me around and/or monitor my progress as I move from place to place around the preserve. Many just wait for me to arrive at their prospective winter territories. It doesn’t matter what time I arrive, I always get the distinct impression that the birds think that I’m later than I should be.
A Black-capped Chickadee gets its turn on top of one of the posts
At the Chickadee Gate, at least 50 birds await my arrival each morning. In fact as soon as they see me coming up the trail –even when I’m still quite far off, they start checking the tops of the gate’s wooden posts and the hanging tube feeder to see if any seed has magically appeared there yet.  They don’t seem to understand that I have to actually get there first, before the food becomes available.
A Downy Woodpecker stores a seed in the crevice of a Buckthorn Tree
Once the seed is in place, there will be a long procession of birds landing on the fence posts and then flying off with individual sunflower seeds. For the most part, it’s just one bird at a time. When 2 birds arrive at the same time, a squabble is likely to occur. If they are both Chickadees, then the one at the top of the pecking order will usually be differed to. But if the birds that arrive simultaneously are of different species, then most often, the one with the largest bill, or the biggest attitude will get first dibs.
One of many Cardinals that visit the gate area
At some point a Cardinal will rather timidly make its way onto one of the fence posts. But once there, it will remain in place and effectively hold the territory from other birds –all the while eating at its leisure. Cardinals are unexpectedly quarrelsome birds. They squabble with each other regularly even while keeping close company in their winter foraging flocks.
The unmistakable male Red-bellied Woodpecker takes his turn
On top of the fence post the Cardinal is soon displaced by a male Red-bellied Woodpecker. The woodpecker is most fond of the peanuts contained in the seed mix. When he gets one, he either eats it right away, or flies off with it. After a few moments I might hear him pounding it into a nook in one of the nearby dead trees. If he doesn’t forget where he cached it, and if it doesn't get pilfered by another bird, he’ll be able to come back for it later, when the feeders are empty.
The male White-breasted Nuthatch will take one seed and then leave
Like the Cardinal, the Red-bellied Woodpecker is also a bit of a feeder hog. Instead of taking a single seed and leaving, he might just decide to hold the territory and continue feeding for a while. Few birds would hazard that sword-like bill of his, and he’s certainly not bothered by the queue of small birds waiting in the bush. He is only spurred to move on by the arrival of the Blue Jays. The jays blast into the feeding area with a roar, or more accurately, with a shriek. Often their shrill call is a fairly convincing impersonation of a hawk. This nearly always causes the gathered songbirds to scatter, or to at least cede the feeders to the brash newcomers.
The Crows perch high in the Cottonwood tree and wait for me to leave
A Blue Jay lands on the fence post and begins sifting the seed mix for her favorites. None of the peanuts or sunflower hearts will be eaten here though; instead, the choice morsels will be stored in the bird’s crop –or throat pouch. Once her crop is filled, the jay will go off to somewhere more secluded to feed or to cache the food.
Ice covered branches in the reforestation fields
The last comers to the feeder are the Crows. They patiently wait their turn in the branches of the large Cottonwood Tree above the gate. No little birds –not even the jays could dissuade the crows from doing whatever they want at the feeders. No, it’s me that is keeping them away –though not actively. However, as soon as I vacate the area, the crows descent and there they will remain until every last perceptible seed is gone.
Slightly iced and frosted leaves of a Swamp White Oak
The icing on the trees at Spring Farm is really beautiful, especially now that there is light snow covering on top of it.

Spring Farm's 3 windmills surrounded by iced trees

No comments:

Post a Comment