Thursday, November 24, 2022

Watching the feeders

We moved to Connecticut from south Florida this past January, but I have not yet adapted to the cold and windy winter weather. Although winter is more than three weeks away, November overnight temperatures have been down into the low 20's °F  (-6 °C) with gray skies and gusting winds.

Morning walks are out of the question. As our home is high on a granite bluff, we feel the full force of the prevailing northwest winter winds. Often the conditions improve to permit an afternoon stroll through the lower elevations in our neighborhood where the wind is usually more moderate.     

Therefore, most of my photography has been through the glass windows in our "front door" which commands a good view of the bird feeders. Even though I keep the inside and outside glass as clean as possible, the double panes greatly reduce the clarity of my photos, especially if shooting at an angle rather than directly through the panes.

Only a few bird species are visiting, a far cry from winter in Florida, where we could easily log 20 species on a causal walk in  the local Wounded Wetlands. 

Now our most common feeder birds are non-migratory Tufted Titmice:

Black-capped Chickadees are mostly permanent residents, though the species may migrate locally in response to food availability. They are nearly as common as the titmice. Here a chickadee shares the suet feeder with a male House Sparrow:

White-breasted Nuthatches increased in numbers during late summer into autumn. This species is present year-round, though there may be occasional irruptive migration from far northern populations. More likely, we are seeing many local juvenile birds:

Note the nuthatch's upturned bill, an adaptation to its "upside-down" foraging behavior:

All three of these species have the habit of collecting a single sunflower seed and taking it to a perch where it is held in its feet and pried open, or in the case of nuthatches, secured on the bark of a large branch and hacked apart. This nuthatch is just dropping a sunflower seed:

Woodpeckers spend much time at the suet cake, though they often take seeds from the tube feeder. These are male and female Downy Woodpeckers:

Note the placement of this male's red head patch, on the back of its head (occiput):

This similar but considerably larger Hairy Woodpecker has a different pattern to its red head spot. While it is located on the top of the head or even in front of the eyes in juvenile birds, it is more to the back of its head in  adults. Most of my other photos of male Hairy Woodpeckers showed the single red spot to be occipital, as in this male I photographed in New Mexico in 2008:

Yet my Connecticut bird exhibited two red spots on his head. I thought this may have been an individual variation, but according to Birds of the World, "East of Rocky Mountains, red ends on the side of the head, creating a red patch on each side, separated by black of variable width on the nape."  

Their difference in size is evident when the Hairy Woodpecker visits the suet feeder. The Hairy also lacks the black bars on its outer tail feathers, characteristics of  the Downy Woodpecker. It also has a prominent white eye ring, a variable trait not common in Downy: 

Dark-eyed Juncos generally do not take seed from the tube feeder. Rather, they forage for scattered seeds under and on the granite shelf nearby:

House Finches are relatively abundant all year 'round. This male exhibits colorful plumage:

This male American Goldfinch is in winter plumage:

Normally common, Northern Cardinals have been relatively scarce in recent weeks, but lately a pair has appeared. This is the male:

Now that the leaves have fallen, we have a view of the lake from our front yard:

I captured a record of the advance of autumn. These photos were taken from my perch along the fence at the top of this rock wall. The roof of our home is barely visible:

August 19, 2022-- The clear-cut area is almost entirely carpeted by Sow Thistle which produces seed and down (pappus), to the delight of scores of goldfinches which nest in the surrounding trees:

October 7, 2022-- The stalks of Sow Thistle have now dried up, but their spreading roots will persist and extend the patch in the spring. (That's my shadow from top of cliff):

October 23, 2022-- Autumn color is developing:

October 26, 2022-- Peak autumn color:

October 28, 2022-- Brown foliage is overtaking the scene:

October 31, 2022-- The understory is increasingly visible:

November 6, 2022-- All the leaves are gone!:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Purple Finch and Red Fox

Northern finches which nest in boreal forests in northern Canada have generally had successful breeding seasons, thanks to more abundant seed production by conifers and hardwoods. Many may find ample food sources in their home ranges, depending upon their food preferences and availability during the winter months. Local shortages will force some to migrate southward. 

Northern New England may be visited by Red Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks and Purple Finches. Here in Connecticut, Purple Finches mostly breed at higher elevations in the northwestern part of the state, but are encountered sparingly all year in the central and southern reaches. We can hope for a spillover of them and other species, most notably Evening Grosbeaks. 

I have seen Purple Finches sporadically since late September, mostly females and first year males which have similar brown plumage, but usually failed to obtain good photos of the adult males. I have seen them visit the feeder only twice.

On September 29 I captured an image of this male:

On November 9, a single male appeared at our feeder:

He briefly perched in the leafless Aspen next to the feeders, affording me with a badly back-lit snapshot:

Purple Finches are not purple, but are a vibrant raspberry-red or wine color. The similar and much more common House Finch male displays a somewhat softer shade of red, described as "brick" red. Further, the Purple  Finch has a more robust large-headed appearance. The ridge of the House Finch's upper mandible (culmen) is slightly curved, while that of the Purple Finch is quite straight. These are House Finches: 

Other feeder visitors this past week have been a Carolina Wren, here foraging amid the needles of a White Pine:

A female Northern Flicker was also looking for insects (particularly ants) amid the pine needles:

This flicker took interest in the more secluded nest box. The entrance is probably too small for it. I hope it does not try to enlarge the opening, as this would increase the chance of predation:

Incidentally, our Eastern Bluebirds constructed their nest almost entirely of White Pine needles. They are still present and we can expect to see them at our suet feeder all winter. In late October, bluebirds were inspecting the nesting boxes and some may spend the night in them. On frigid nights several bluebirds have been known to huddle together inside a nest box to preserve body heat:

A Red Fox briefly appeared near the feeders. I suspect it was hoping to catch a chipmunk or squirrel. The fox was very skittish and slinked off as soon as I raised my camera:

Two female White-tailed Deer stared up at me from the clear-cut in back as I peered over the fence at the edged of the cliff. I never saw a third until all three suddenly ran off. (Taken with my iPhone): 

The Beaver Moon reflected on the lake as it rose on Monday morning...

...and in the evening, the Moon set into the glow of  Hartford's city lights:

Early the next morning  (November 8) it shone brightly in the dark sky just before the eclipse, awaiting arrival of Earth's shadow:

The sky was very clear on the morning of November 11. View from our back yard of downtown Hartford, 11 miles distant: 

This is a Ring camera video of a Red Fox who visited our yard during the night on October 19:

We experienced our first snowfall of the season on November 15, but it did not accumulate. These views are from the Ring camera at our entry:

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Linking to:

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Corner of the World

Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display