This past weekend it snowed for two days straight. Though it seemed we never accumulated more than enough snow to cover the ground, every time you looked out the window it was snowing. The feeling that winter would never end seemed to be the feeling on everyone’s mind.
However there are a few telltale signs to suggest it may be on the way out. The first male red-winged blackbirds have been appearing at the feeders for a week or so. When we first begin to see them in late February, there’s often snow on the ground. The wind is blustery and frigid. I wonder why they come back so early. The males arrive a few weeks before the females. As the weather warms and the grass in the field begins to grow green and tall, the male red-wings will begin to establish their territories in the hayfield. It’s always amusing to watch the territorial tactics that take place as nesting sites are claimed.
In an earlier post, I mentioned my hopes of seeing a red-breasted nuthatch. These relatively rare little nuthatches are not often seen here in Ohio. Apparently though, they do make an appearance in years when there are food shortages in the northern boreal forests. They tend to prefer areas with conifers such as pine, spruce and hemlock. A small number of them are said to nest in the northeast corner of the state.
I’d been told by a reliable local birdwatcher (my sister) that she had a red-breasted visiting her feeder. On my first visit, we did not spot the sprightly little bird. This past Sunday my sister and her husband invited us for lunch, so I had another opportunity to see a couple birds we don’t get at our feeder. After lots of feeder watching I finally got a few quick glimpses of the nuthatch. This bird darted into the feeder and away so fast the first time I wasn’t sure that’s what I’d seen. The only way I had time to snap this picture was because the nuthatch was hesitant to jump in the feeder being occupied by a male cardinal. It stayed on the top of the feeder just long enough for me to get a quick shot. This is the only opportunity I had to take a picture. I think it’s good enough for everyone to agree it is a red-breasted nuthatch.
My sister puts bird feed on the windowsill at the kitchen sink and many birds come right to the window. She said it had been coming to the feed on the windowsill, but I didn’t get a chance to see it that close. Both this nuthatch and the White-breasted are cavity nesters often using old woodpecker holes to nest in. It’s a pretty little bird and quite distinguishable from the white-breasted.
The other bonus bird for the day was the Evening Grosbeak. What a dynamic, colorful bird this is. Grosbeaks are in the finch family. According to the bird book, their scientific name, Coccothraustes, means “kernel crusher.” Once you get a look at their sturdy beak you can see why. They too are a relatively rare visitor for our parts. When they do show up they don’t tend to stay very long, but are happy to frequent bird feeders well supplied with sunflower seeds. This handsome male made several appearances at the feeder during the time I watched. I was able to get a couple of photos through the window. There were also some females in the area. They didn’t make an appearance for me. These birds are not regular nesters here in Ohio. It was a thrill to see both of these rare visitors.
A lovely lunch with family, lots of bird watching, and the making and eating of maple cream made a cold, snowy winter day in March not so bad. I guess spring will come some day!