Our resident red-shouldered hawk can usually be seen perched in one of the many trees around the garden. He blends into the winter landscape really well.
Somehow the song birds instinctively know that he much prefers a rodent over them because when he is hanging about the garden the birds are still very active at the nearby feeders.
I find woodpeckers much easier to spot in the winter when the trees are bare. There are several we see regularly including the red-bellied, red-headed, downy, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and Pileated.
Of course that doesn't mean they are easier to photograph. Woodpeckers are constantly moving up and down or around tree trunks, tapping for insects or sap.
The Pileated woodpecker makes a very distinct tapping sound but is notoriously difficult to get in photos. The bird (or the photographer) is always on the wrong side of the tree.
The yellow-bellied sapsuckers are another migratory bird that are very active during the winter months in our garden. We usually see them perched on the side of trees drilling their signature rows of holes around the trunk to lap up sap with their brush tipped tongue.
They will also visit suet feeders and have a cache in trees like this male who was retrieving some black sunflowers seeds.
Another of our winter visitors is the hermit thrush. Typically we see them hopping around in the leaf litter searching for insects but they have visited the feeders often during our chilling temperatures. The snow, ice and sleet we got this week made it extra challenging for these birds to get food. Ground foragers can't scratch through the ice layer so I was sure to scatter seeds.
White-throated sparrows are also temporary residents, winter through spring, when they migrate northward for breeding.
The pine warblers are bright patches of bright yellow in an otherwise pretty monochromatic landscape. They look a little out of place in all the snow. But these little birds have been a ray of sunshine on our gloomy winter days.
This weekend (February 14-17) is the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is super EASY to participate. All you have to do is...
1) Register at Great Backyard Bird Count website.
2) Count the birds you see for 15 minutes (or longer) on one or more days. Make your best estimate on the number of each species.
3) Enter your list(s) online at http://gbbc.birdcount.org/ Enter a new checklist for each day, location, or same day/location but different time.
Make your best estimate on the number of each species you see. Here is a grouping of cardinals at the edge of our woodland garden which I shot yesterday during our snow storm. How many do you see?
The GBBC website has bird lists by zip code or National Park/Forest, an online bird guide and tricky bird ID helps. There is even a photo contest for those who are interested in submitting their images.
Why is it important to participate? Well, this project collects data on our dynamic bird populations. The data helps scientists get a big picture look at the distribution and movements of bird populations around the world. It looks at how weather can change or influence these populations, changes in population numbers, changes in migration patterns, bird diseases affecting populations in certain areas, and differences in diversity in rural, natural and suburban areas.
But, most of importantly it is FUN!