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Counting Birds

Thursday, March 2, 2006

The weather cooperated with the Great Backyard Bird Count. It snowed like crazy this morning, sending the cardinals and juncos into Eat Overdrive. They showed up beautifully against the snow, and were easy to count as they flocked. The idea is to get the highest total of each species at any one moment. So if I count 15 cardinals once, and then two hours later, count 19, 19 is the number I'll submit. The flockers are easy--it's the titmice and chickadees that are hard to total up. My gut instinct is that there must be a couple of dozen of each using the feeders, but they don't all come in together. Oh, well. Bad data's better than no data. This afternoon Bill counted 38 goldfinches (we've had upwards of 180 in some years). And this year we have several eastern towhees kicking around. This was the scene that greeted us about 30 seconds after I put out the morning's suet dough. Cardinals are way down. We've had as many as 70 together in some blizzards. Now, that's a sight.

There are eight bluebirds coming in this year, but I've only been able to catch six together at one time.
Don't miss the fourth bird, hovering overhead!

When the suet dough in the dish gives out, the bluebirds know to visit a little bluebird feeder mounted right by the kitchen window. I always keep it stocked with dough, and so far only bluebirds, titmice, nuthatches and one wise downy woodpecker have dared to venture in. Last year, a smallish starling made its way into the box and got stuck. I imagined that it gorged so on suet dough it was too big around to get back out, but probably it just panicked when I emerged from the house and couldn't figure out how to exit. I reached into the box, caught the starling, held it beak to nose, and said, "NEVER go back in that bluebird feeder AGAIN!" Deal, said the starling, and it never did.
Yes, I'm a snob, but if I'm going to stir suet dough until my arms ache, I get to say who gobbles it down. I pick Mr. Snowbelly, hanging out on the giant's shillelagh Bill found, as it was being strangled by grapevines down in the woods. He put it up for the bluebirds to sit on. One thing we love about bluebirds is they always enthusiastically accept our offerings. They're easy to buy for. I suppose you could say the same about starlings, but they just aren't as gracious about it as bluebirds, and they need to work on hygeine.


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