I started the 2013/2014 season of Project Feeder Watch about 1 month ago. I'm not sure how many years I've been doing it but it is getting near a decade now.
One day, so long ago, our now friends Jim and Lynda from the Etobicoke Wild Birds Unlimited store suggested to me that I do the counting for Bird Studies Canada and become a 'citizen scientist' after I was telling them I was marking our kitchen calendar everyday with bird sightings.
I still have many of the old records kicking around and it's fun when I stumble upon them and go back to certain days, the notes I made, and say "oh ya!"
Anyways, just as this season was starting up, I was saying that I wanted something new this time around. Funny how I say that during Spring migration, summer time, and Fall migration too. Yep, never enough, always want to add something else. It's getting more difficult as we've had 46 different species touch a part of the backyard and another 10 identified flying over the yard since it all began.
Well, this weekend I got my wish. It's not a new species to visit us but definitely is at this time of year being a Northern Mockingbird. We've had them over the years pop in through the summer months and visit the bird baths but that's about it.
It started on late Saturday morning. I had been watching out for birds from the kitchen window much of the morning and it was pretty quiet out there. A lot of my watch days are like that since 3 species of Hawks come around periodically looking for a meal. And I find I really have to pay attention at times for those quick/random visits from the birds. I need to go outside, look and listen to tune in to my visitors. A lot of times my presence outside will send the Coopers and Red-tails fleeing, which then brings all the other birds back. The Sharp-shinned sticks around though.
So out back I go, the first real winter storm of the season is starting up and I spot a few Dark-eyed Juncos down at the back. Suddenly my eyes catch something gray, and bigger than a Junco, in the Lilac tree along the fence line. My mind raced through bigger gray birds, quickly knocking out Shirley the Sharp-shin, definitely not a Gray Jay, not a Northern Shrike, and then Northern Mockingbird came up... YES!
He was quite fluffed out, obviously cold, and he found his way to the backyard because of the Holly bush I planted a few years back was full of berries. Mockingbirds are fruit eaters and while some do hang around the Toronto area through the winter months, they aren't in abundance at this time of year.
Pigeons pecking at the berries a while back. Late October a small flock of Cedar Waxwings flew in and had at the bush for 20 minutes or so, and I was in awe, since they are one of my favorite birds and tease me as they eat insects in our trees high above us through the summer but never landed until this day. Unfortunately I had recently injured my shoulder and didn't have my monster zoom lens on when they flew in for a quick feed. But I did get a couple photos in.
So, having the Mockingbird fly in this weekend was great! He was around much of Saturday through the storm and then arrived again on Sunday mid-morning for another feed. We enjoyed watching him, I'm loving adding this guy to the Project Feeder Watch list and hope he sticks around with us for a while. We bought fresh cranberries and cut up some for him too
He liked sitting on our Reindeer today.
American Tree Sparrow! I didn't have my camera with me and could only watch him from a short distance. But there's no mistaking this bird for a House Sparrow. His visit was cut as something spooked all the birds away including him... but he was here, right above one of the feeders and looking to the ground for fallen seeds. I'll be keeping eyes and ears open for another return of him. I'd like a photo just for the records even.
It was a really cool bird count weekend at our home. So many people we know were out doing Christmas Bird Counts, something we've always wanted to partake in, but have not yet. But in the end, even for just our backyard, I think we had an awesome count with these 2 species being added to the PFW for a total of 14 species and the actual number of birds was 128! Not bad for 25 x 100 ft area, eh?
As Sunday comes to an end, I can't help but wonder what will be the next "new" bird for us?
I'd like to add a funny story here. Seems some people mix up the Mockingbird with the Shrike. They are both mostly gray birds similar in size, have long tails, etc. I guess some people get pretty excited with the Shrike, like I do, or maybe want to see a Shrike and turn the Mocker into one. Not exactly sure but recently I was out and came across a Mocker in a park. Another birder was observing the bird and said to me "Nice Shrike, eh?" I corrected him on his identification. He disagreed with me, and even after a little discussion on the differences, where clearly I was right on the species ID. In the end, he said in a huff, "Oh, what do you know? You're just a headbanger!" I took the high road, walking away and saying "well at least I know my birds". Some people!
*note* I added lots of links to this blog for those new to the birds, click on the links which will take you to a great site to learn about each species mentioned