Morning Birding

In the winter, and other times of the year, the morning is when the birds seem to be the most active.  It is very peaceful to sit out in the morning and watch and listen.  The sights are great but the sounds are unrivaled.  In the following text I will try to set up the scenarios I face in the winter months at home.  Now keep in mind that some of these events are less common and don’t happen everyday while other events are guaranteed every morning.

I am awakened by the arrival of a Timouse or House Finch to the feeder that hangs against my window.  The feeder is small and so are the birds that eat from it but it sure makes a lot of noise as it slams against my window.  As I get my binoculars, camera, and notebooks ready to go out, I do a quick check of the feeders.  On the ground are a couple of Juncos and in the hanging feeders are a Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Titmice, Chickadees, Nuthatches, and House Finches.  Even while in the house some birds are loud enough to hear, like the American Crow and Carolina Wren.  I step out into the backyard with the feeders and a few of the Juncos go up into the trees; unavoidable.  Now that I’m out, songs and calls flow over me.  Calling Robins and Cedar Waxwings travel from treetop to treetop looking for mistletoe and other berries.  The Waxwings’ high-pitched “tsee” are almost incessant while the Robins call and occasionally sing.  Juncos constantly twitter as they move about the yard.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker “chuck”s, the Downy “cheak”s and the Northern Flicker gives a “keeyer.”  If you listen closely you’ll hear, and maybe even see, the Pileated Woodpecker in the distance.  Blue Jays join the Crows as they call possibly leading a witch hunt against the seclusive Barred Owl.  A Red-shouldered Hawk yells in the distance that tells any others “no trespassing.”  From the woods you hear a hollow “chop.”  This recluse is the Hermit Thrush and if you are patient you can hear them sing.  Titmice, Chickadees, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Nuthatches frolic in the young trees that litter the yard.  All of the sudden I hear the Titmice give its inconspicuous alarm:  “tsee-tsee-tsee.”  I look up to see a harmless Turkey Vulture soar a little too close to the ground (at least too close for the Titmouse).  I hear the frantic whistling of a Mourning Dove as it flies into the feeders.  I gingerly make a wide swath around the feeders, trying not to scare up the partisans.  I move around to the side yard, headed for the front yard, and scare up a few Juncos; unavoidable.  I stop in front of the house and I am greeted with new sounds.  Phoebes call and sing from trees in various yards.  From the powerlines, sing Bluebirds.  The Bluebirds form small flocks and forage.  They are joined, in there flock, by House Finches and Chipping Sparrows, oddly enough.  Across the street lies woods with thick, brushy understory.  In this understory lies a ecosystem in itself.  From this brush, I hear the “Old Sam Peabody” song of the White-throated Sparrow, “chink”s from Cardinals and the calls of an Eastern Towhee.  As I move closer to this brushy section of the woods, I see some of the vines moving under the weight of small birds.  I peer into the brush and catch glimpses of these brush denizens.  I get enough glimpses to piece together the puzzle that, in this case, is the Field Sparrow.  I walk back towards the house and look to the sky.  I see Robins and Waxwings looking for their next meal.  I follow this mixed flock’s flight and they lead my eyes to a couple of Turkey Vultures soaring.  While watching them I hear the ever-familiar “per-chick-oree” and see a small band of Goldfinches headed for a Sweetgum where they are met by some Juncos; never run out of Juncos.  I then turn to watch a band of blackbirds fly to some unseen destination.  These bands are abundant, frequent,  and can contain Rusty, Brewer’s, Grackles, Red-wings, all, or some combination.  I continue my loop around the house and something flies over my head and lands in a tree in the back yard.  A quick look reveals a female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drilling for Sapsucker gold:  sap.  A White-breasted Nuthatch pair works their way to the feeders and call back and forth, “yank” “yank.”  The Brown-headed Nuthatches at the suet have only a few minutes left before their larger cousins come in to chase them off.  Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers come in as well and a battle royale is in store with the winner getting first shot at the suet.  I complete the loop around the house and scare up some Juncos from the feeders; unavoidable.

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch



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