Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Reaper Cometh...

Lots of new and interesting visitors over the past two weeks, including a peek at the avian food chain...

Hosting an injured bird is always bittersweet. On one hand, you feel sorry for the poor fellow. On the other hand, you feel good that you're able to help prolong the life of an injured creature. But then you get that sinking feeling that it's on borrowed time, and that the other shoe could drop at any second. It's an awkward situation. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a Scrub-Jay that looked like it was going through some sort of extreme molt. Something was up with its primaries and secondaries (outer wing feathers). Closer inspection showed evidence of a wound, so it's likely that this bird was a victim of predation (most likely from a cat). The jay could fly, but barely, and spent most of its time hopping along our fence, which it used as a springboard to the neighbor's apple tree, where it often roosted. It primarily fed off of cracked corn at our ground feeder.

Late yesterday morning, I noticed a very large figure looming against the gray sky, near the top of the apple tree. My binoculars revealed an adult Cooper's Hawk (above). Surprisingly, after all of the other birds scattered, the injured jay sat perched a few feet below in the same tree. It eventually made an awkward dart for another neighbor's bushes and the hawk followed. After curiously staring into the bushes for a minute, it went in. A few minutes later, the hawk flew across the yard with a large blue and gray mass in its talons. It was somewhat sad to see our jay go, as I had grown fond of him/her out of pity. But at least its demised helped support another bird higher up on the food chain.

Our injured Scrub-Jay (note the injured wing). R.I.P.

A Red-winged Blackbird stops in on a rainy day.

A female/first-year male Purple Finch (background) and female House Finch (foreground).

We've been treated to a couple of new visitors lately. A first-time yard visitor for us out on the West Coast arrived earlier in the week: a male Red-winged Blackbird. They tend to prefer marsh area, although they'll wander a bit in the winter and are actually relatively common in the winter/spring in the Eastern half of the country. A couple of days later, we were treated to our first Purple Finch at our new residence. This female/first-year male (they look extremely similar) was around for about 10-15 minutes before flying off. We also began hosting Downy Woodpeckers not long ago and they have become relatively regular since then. In addition, an occasional Ruby-crowned Kinglet has been seen poking around.

It's nice to see Downies again!

One of two regular Northern Flickers.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm going to be crazy-busy for the next few weeks, so this will have to suffice until then. See you next month.

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