Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Friday, February 12, 2010

More birds in the snow...

Snowed in again.  Nothing to do other than sit on the porch waiting for the right light to take bird pictures and once the light is gone read old books in bed.  Here are some more of my hungry visitors.

Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird
"Liking either heat or cold (he is fond of wintering in Florida, but often retreats to the north while the marshes are still frozen); enjoying not only the company of large flocks of his own kind with whom he travels, but any bird associates with who he can scrape acquaintance; or to sit quietly on a tree-top in the secluded, inaccessible bog while his mate is nesting; satisfied with cut-worms, grubs, and insects, or with fruit and grain for his food--the blackbird is an impressive and helpful example of how to get the best out of life." -Neltje Blanchan in Bird Neighbors, 1904

Song Sparrow
"The song sparrow, that universal favorite and firstling of the spring, comes before April, and its simple strain gladdens all hearts." - John Burroughs in Wake-Robin, 1913
"What the bird lacks in beauty it abundantly makes up in good cheer.  Not at all retiring, though never bold, it chooses some conspicuous perch on a bush or tree to deliver its outburst of song, and sings away with serene unconsciousness.  Its artlessness is charming.  Thoreau writes in his "Summer" that the country girls in Massachusetts hear the bird say: 'Maids, maids, maids, bang on your teakettle, teakettle-ettle-ettle.'" -Neltje Blanchan in Bird Neighbors, 1904

Brown-headed Cowbird 
"Even the cow bunting feels the musical tendency, and aspires to its expression, with the rest.  Perched upon the topmost branch beside his mate or mates, --for he is quite a polygamist, and usually has two or three demure little ladies in faded black beside him, --generally in the early part of the day, he seems literally to vomit up his notes.  Apparently with much labor and effort, they gurgle and blubber up out of him, falling on the ear with a peculiar subtile ring, as of turning water from a glass bottle, and not without a certain pleasing cadence." - John Burroughs in Wake-Robin, 1913
Listen to their call here.

White-crowned sparrow
"The large size and handsome markings of this aristocratic-looking Northern sparrow would serve to distinguish him at once, did he not often consort with his equally fine-looking white-throated cousins while migrating, and so too often get over-looked.  Sparrows are such gregarious birds that it is well to scrutinize every flock with especial care in the spring and autumn, when the rarer migrants are passing." -Neltje Blanchan in Bird Neighbors, 1904

White-crowned Sparrow

Bluejay works to open a sunflower seed.

Got it!

"Dishonest, cruel, inquisitive, murderous, voracious, villainous, are some of the epithets applied to this bird of exquisite plumage.  Emerson, however, has said in his defence he does 'more good than harm,' alluding, no doubt, to his habit of burying nuts and hard seeds in the ground, so that many a waste place is clothed with trees and shrubs, thanks to his propensity and industry.  
He is mischievous as a small boy, destructive as a monkey, deft at hiding as a squirrel.  He is unsociable and unamiable, disliking the society of other birds.  His harsh screams, shrieks, and most aggressive and unmusical calls seem often intended maliciously to drown the songs of the sweet-voiced singers.  
From April to September, the breeding and moulting season, the blue jays are almost silent, only sallying forth from the woods to pillage and devour the young and eggs of their more peaceful neighbors.  In a bulky nest, usually placed in a tree-crotch high above our heads, from four to six eggs, olive-gray with brown spots, are laid and most carefully tended.
Notwithstanding the unlovely characteristics of the blue jay, we could ill spare the flash of color, like a bit of blue sky dropped from above, which is so rare a tint even in our land, that we number not more than three or four true blue birds, and in England, it is said, there is none." -Neltje Blanchan in Bird Neighbors, 1904 
"Bearing himself with a refined and courtly dignity, not stooping to soil his feet by walking on the ground like the more democratic robin, or even condescending below the level of the laurel bushes, the cardinal is literally a shining example of self-conscious superiority--a bird to call forth respect and admiration rather than affection.  But a group of cardinals in a cedar tree in a snowy winter landscape makes us forgetful of everything but their supreme beauty." -Neltje Blanchan in Bird Neighbors, 1904

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch aka Tree-mouse
"Shrewd little haunter of woods all gray,
Whom I meet on my walk of a winter day--
You're busy inspecting each cranny and hole
In the ragged bark of yon hickory bole;
You intent on your task, and I on the law
Of your wonderful head and gymnastic claw!

The woodpecker well may despair of this feat--
Only the fly with you can compete!
So much is clear; but I fain would know
How you can so reckless and fearless go,
Head upward, head downward, all one to you,
Zenith and nadir the same in your view?"
--Edith M. Thomas in Neltje Blanchan's Bird Neighbors, 1904

Gems! And who knew all these gorgeous beings were stowed away in the forest as we went about our daily routines?  What lovely surprises and glorious presents!  

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