A New Face in the Neighborhood

One of the best ways for me to while away a very snowy afternoon is to spend some time watching the birds. Their bright colors, sweet songs and amusing antics are an antidote for the mid-winter doldrums. With the feeding station set up just off the back porch, I can – depending on wind direction – stay relatively dry while I watch…

We have quite a number of species that we count as ‘regulars’. Chickadees, tufted titmice, juncos – aka snowbirds, blue jays, cardinals, mourning doves… I can always count on these guys to show up as soon as the seed is out. The finches – gold, purple and house varieties – will show up later. We don’t have many English house sparrows fortunately. But their more desirable cousins are abundant – fox sparrows, song sparrows, white-throated… there are others that don’t immediately come to mind. Funny little birds with big voices and complex songs – I love them all!

After our last big storm last week, my feeders were pretty useless – packed with snow and ice, and surrounded by deep drifts. I’ve been tossing the sunflower chips on top of the snow while I wait for better conditions.( It can only be small amounts at a time, or Chloe the Wonder-Dog will eat all the leftovers. ) This has made for some great entertainment, with all the chasing, and chirping and – hey, did you know that cardinals hiss, like geese? Neither did I…

What’s this? It’s not a goldfinch, like I thought on first glance… too heavy. And a very long beak… Hmmmm. Time to break out the Bird Book!

The Peterson’s’ Guide was a fixture in the house that I grew up in. All winter long, it sat by the back door, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. Kaufman’s is my go-to these days, with its easy layout and fantastic illustrations. The most likely candidate was a white-winged crossbill – especially after the male showed up.

An online search for the bird confirmed it, and led to the discovery of a site that might be of interest to other casual birders like me. (Those of you in the ‘dedicated birders’ category will already know about it, I’m sure…) The Cornell University Ornithology Lab has a website called ‘All About Birds’ (allaboutbirds.org) that not only gives all of the information found in printed guide books, but has audio clips of each species song. What a great resource!

Happy Birding, all!

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2 thoughts on “A New Face in the Neighborhood

  1. Once again, great photos. Do you have Harris’ sparrows? They are so common here that they may not go so far north. My neighbor and I were standing out talking across the drain one afternoon when he spotted a small hawk in one of the Hackberry trees in his back yard. Soon there was a mate. I remembered sitting in the barrel back chair watching a pair of red tailed hawks until the sun had gone down. If I didn’t move the binoculars, I could see them well past dark. One sat facing the creek and one seemed to be watching our yard. They were big birds. That tree came down in the ice storm about a year ago.

    Wishing you good luck in your search to name your birds. Oh, I had a rufus sided towhee once. I called Grams to tell her about it. We are a stopping place for them in late spring. They leave by June. One has been recorded as nesting here but that was long ago, before my birdwatching time. Enjoy!!!

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