Juncos Dawn to Dusk

Slate-colored Juncos are by far the most common winter visitor at the feeders. Dozens arrive in the early morning hours, usually before I’ve finished my coffee and want to brave the elements to scatter bird seed.  The predawn flock of small, dark objects hopping and fluttering about is my signal to get moving. Once outside,  the soft, barely audible twittering of the flock gives me pause. If I needed a reward for my efforts, that would be it.

They’re common, they’re not very colorful, they don’t dazzle with aerial maneuvers….they’re just juncos. But, they have a special place in my archives.

 

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Photos by NB Hunter (Feb., 2018). ©  All Rights Reserved.

 

Nuthatches!

Moving up, down, sideways and rarely lingering, nuthatches are feeder favorites. Our largest nuthatch, the White-breasted, is a daily visitor, foraging on suet as well as grain. Oftentimes one will dart in and grab a sunflower seed, then fly to a nearby oak tree. There, it can lodge the seed in a bark fissure and “hatch the nut” with sharp blows to the shell from its powerful bill.

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The tiny Red-breasted Nuthatch is special. With a more northern distribution and preference for coniferous forests, it is less common at the feeders than the White-breasted. Several years ago there was one, and it disappeared mid winter; last year there were none. We might have a pair this year and I’m taking every opportunity to document their presence. Love this tiny, colorful bundle of energy!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Tufted Titmouse in Morning Sun

This morning was calm, clear and very cold, so I wasn’t surprised to see a few songbirds perching in the morning sun with their feathers fluffed up for added insulation.

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Tufted Titmouse coping with the cold on a winter morning

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Winter Birds: the Red-bellied Woodpecker

I’ve been playing cat-and-mouse with a Red-bellied Woodpecker for weeks. Its feeding behavior is best described as a covert operation, designed to thwart any attempt at a quality image. Feeder visits are unpredictable, brief, and likely to be terminated by the least little disturbance.

Red-bellied Woodpecker with suet from a bird feeder (3 images); the busy background in these photos is snow-covered spruce trees; 2/5/2015:

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Historically a southeastern species, the breeding range of this woodland woodpecker has expanded greatly over the last hundred years. It now covers most of eastern U.S. — and New York state.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Winter Visitors and Mixed Flocks

At a glance, the large flocks of Snow Buntings that I sometimes encounter on my winter travels appear to be just that: large flocks of Snow Buntings.

SnowBuntings14Jan15#190E2c3x5However, pure flocks are the exception rather than the rule. Many of our gregarious winter visitors from the far north – Snow Buntings, Common Redpolls, Lapland Longspurs, Horned Larks – commonly occur in mixed flocks. I discovered this several years ago when Redpolls appeared in my cropped images of a flock of Snow Buntings.

Close examination of the images from my recent encounters with Snow Buntings revealed at least one additional species in the mix: Horned Larks.

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Mixed flock of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks

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Horned Lark and Snow Buntings

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Snow Buntings and ? arriving at a feeding site

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.