Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Area Feeders Continue to Amaze
December 05, 2020
By Steve Grinley
With more of us staying close to home these days, we are able to discover unusual birds, or witness drama, in our backyards that would have otherwise been missed in our absence.
Brian Cassie of Foxboro told us about some drama in his yard a number of years ago, viewed from his kitchen window:
“No common redpolls, as usual, but under the feeders was a very plump song sparrow, feeding all by itself. As I watched, it was attacked, head-on, by a house sparrow, which flew in expressly for the purpose of being a bully. The scuffle lasted one second and when the snowflakes had settled our intrepid song sparrow was laid out on its back, unmoving.
“I walked out to it and just as I was leaning over, it took one look at me and flipped itself over and flew slowly up and off to a nearby bush.” Drama with a happy ending!
The discovery of an unexpected visitor to an Andover yard this past week prompted this email:
“Steve, this guy showed up pecking at my windows this morning along with a mob of Robins in my yard here in Andover. Is this a western tanager? Is this rare? I have never seen this bird before.”
Though western tanagers have been rarely seen in late fall and winter in eastern Massachusetts, this bird was actually a female Baltimore oriole. It was probably with the robins to help it find fruit to sustain it through the colder weather. Orioles may try to winter over if the weather is not too harsh and food is available. They may visit suet, of even sunflower at feeders. There is a Bullock’s oriole visiting a feeder in Cohasset, south of Boston, that is continually photographed as it feeds on shelled peanuts in a Nut Squirrel Buster!
I received another email from a Groveland customer who also had some unexpected visitors:
“I purchased a hanging tray feeder from your store this week. I was hoping the Mourning Doves that frequent the ground under my bird feeders would use it. To my great delight, I found Evening Grosbeaks feeding today. There were 4 pairs, and surprising to me, all 8 birds were eating from it at the same time.
“I was enjoying watching them so much, that I forgot to take a picture! Hopefully they’ll be back soon.”
Since I wrote about the grosbeaks a few weeks ago, many people came in looking for platform or fly-thru feeders to try to attract these winter visitors. A few have succeeded. Others are enjoying open feeders for blue jays, mourning doves and the variety of birds that those style feeders attract.
We still have a small flock of grosbeaks that visit our home feeders in Essex, but some days only one or two might stop by. We still have large numbers of goldfinches and a few pine siskins at the finch feeders. A single redpoll visited one day but more may come later in the season.
Today, a few grosbeaks came to the platform early and left. Then, the blue jays brought in reinforcements with a dozen birds showing up all at once. They crowded the tray of sunflower like the grosbeaks usually do. I am not sure the tray of blue jays was any less striking in color than the grosbeaks. It is just that the grosbeaks are far less common.
Reports of winter finches continue all over eastern Massachusetts. Many of these birds are feeding on the natural seeds that conifers, birch, ash and other local trees provide. As winter sets in and the natural supplies get depleted, more of these birds will come looking for the sunflower and nyger/finch seed offered at our feeders. Something to look forward this winter!