Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
A Week of Special Birds
November 07, 2020
By Steve Grinley
We have had an interesting week of birds despite the distraction of the election. The first involved another road trip to Rhode Island. Avid readers of my column might remember the adventurous trip we took to Rhode Island this past summer for the terek sandpiper. This trip was less challenging, but the reward was greater.
Last Sunday morning, a common cuckoo was reported from Snake Den Farm in Johnston, Rhode Island. Native of Europe and Africa and only the third record of common cuckoo in the lower 48 states of North America, it caught our eye when the report showed up on an eBird. A life bird for both Margo and me, we made a few phone calls and after seeing verifying reports with photos, we decided to head to Rhode Island.
After an hour and a half drive, we arrived there shortly after noon and found the farm easily enough. The parking lot was full of cars and street lined with overflow parking. Birders were line along the parking lot and road with all eyes on a tree line across a field.
Minutes of anxiety followed as some people were seeing the bird along the trees that were a hundred or so yards away, but social distancing and not sharing scopes produced frustration in trying to spot the well camouflaged bird. Then, the bird could be seen dropping to the field to catch caterpillars and that movement helped us zero in on its location. Our binoculars helped spot the cuckoo and our spotting scopes brought the bird into clear view. Excellent scope views followed.
As the bird moved along the far edge of the field toward the road, birders congregated in that direction. Many got close up views and photographs, but we chose to stand our distance and not risk any closer association with others in this Covid world. We were satisfied with our life looks at the bird and came away happy with a life bird.
Back at home this week, we had another special bird when we awoke to find a screech owl peering out of our screech owl box. It looked attentive as it surveyed the surroundings in our back yard. The feeder birds were not pleased, but they got used to their new “neighbor” rather quickly. After an absence all summer, we hope that this bird would stay the winter.
Also this week, our friend Phil Brown, who lives down the road apiece, reported a single evening grosbeak at his platform feeder. The following day, he had a half dozen evening grosbeaks. Other folks in the area have reported small flocks of grosbeaks in their yards, so I was determined to try to lure them to ours!
Evening grosbeaks prefer open platform feeders and sunflower seed. We have a small hanging platform feeder with sunflower, but I decided to put up another larger platform on a separate pole and filled it with sunflower seed. We hoped it would provide added incentive for these nomadic birds to stop and feed in our yard.
Amazingly the next morning, while I was at work, Margo sent me a photo of an evening grosbeak on our feeders! It was enjoying our hanging platform as well as the new stationary one that I installed the day before. We now wait to see if more appear in the days and weeks ahead!