Saturday, January 16, 2010

Local birding - 1/16/10

The Indiana University cross country course has been kinda un-birdy lately, and today I think I might have figured out at least one reason why. I spent a little time looking, and I was hard-pressed to find a single honeysuckle berry. Last year there were berries around in mid-February, maybe later. And this year there was a bumper crop of fat juicy berries. I think the waxwings gobbled them up this fall. Just about any day you could find at least a couple hundred of them in October, including one day in late October when I counted 1,400+.

Also, someone put out a bait pile on one of the XC trails. Never did see any birds on it, but it did look like an inexpensive blend, lots of sorghum, etc. The bait pile was pretty much gone this AM, probably eaten overnight by a deer judging from the tracks in the mud. Funny thing is, it looked like a coyote had deposited some scat right in the center of the bait pile. :-)

I had a first-of-year Red-winged Blackbird on the XC course this AM. BIGBY species #63 for the year. Seems rather early in the season.

I also had my personal record high count for Pileated Woodpeckers this AM. Saw five of them in a relatively brief period of time in a relatively small area. Without going into a lot of detail here, I'm just about 100% sure they were five different individuals. I have to enjoy these magnificent birds while I can, as I'll probably be moving out of state this summer.

I had a white-tailed Junco under my feeders today. Odd looking bird.

And I had a first-ever gray squirrel under the feeders this AM. Over the years I've only had fox squirrels at the feeders. The gray squirrel looked like a scrawny little rat by comparison.

While I'm glad the snow has finally melted, I am really missing being able to go tracking. We had a solid week of good tracking snow, and it told a lot of stories, among them:

* The XC course always seems like a lonely place. I may see only one or two other people the whole time I am out there. Feels like a private preserve. But the snow tells a different story...walkers, runners, XC skiers, mountain bikers, sledders, etc. The last day the snow was there was like a time-lapse photo of a week's worth of activity.

* Looked like someone had been barefoot in the snow(!).

* I'm sort of surprised at how many deer and coyotes move into town during the night. The first morning after the snow ended I could see lots of signs where both animals crossed 10th Street, moving into a suburban-type area. The deer get almost as far south as 3rd Street.

* Not many rabbit tracks...haven't been seeing many rabbits this winter. But I did find one rabbit kill, probably by a coyote judging from the tracks. The coyote didn't leave much behind except a few tufts of fur and blood-stained snow that for some reason reminded me of a cherry snow-cone.

* Also saw quite a few sets of fox tracks. But, try as hard as I might, I couldn't come up with any bobcat tracks. :-)

* The snow told some bird stories as well. In several spots you could see where a mouse or vole met an untimely end at the talons of a raptor. The rodents' trails ended at a spot with wing marks in the snow. In another spot some crow tracks were juxtaposed with turkey tracks. I always think of crow tracks as large bird tracks, but they look tiny compared to turkey tracks.

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