More Freezing Weather, Thoughts Towards Spring, and an Obliging Snipe

This week has been a week of debilitating weather.  In Arkansas we don’t get much snow/ice but when we do the residents tend to freak out.  So when we get alternating snow and ice on subsequent days the afflicted areas seem to just shut down.  However, to birders this is good news for it gives more time to watch yard birds.

Juncos and a Goldfinch

Juncos and a Goldfinch

This week has brought more of the same.  The Pine Warblers, kinglets, and woodpeckers devour suet.  The Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, and our finches eat sunflower seeds.  The hordes of Dark-eyed Juncos are joined by their cousins (Chipping, Field, Fox, and White-throated Sparrows) on the ground eating millet, corn, and whatever else the other feeder birds drop.  Carolina Wrens and Eastern Phoebes are brought in by dried mealworms.

Duke's Mixture: (left to right) American Goldfinch, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, female House Finch, Junco, and Field Sparrow.

Duke’s Mixture: (left to right) American Goldfinch, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, female House Finch, Junco, and Field Sparrow.

While trapped inside I did some thinking about spring and projects that I should do around the yard.  I had originally planned to put up a Screech-Owl nest box but I believe I have missed the beginning of their nesting (owls nest pretty early).  I already have a bluebird nest box that gets a lot of use but would like to diversify my species nest box.  I don’t want to put up another bluebird box because their territory is to large for that to be practical.  I would love to put something out for the wrens and may put out a small box that would not only cater to wrens but also to chickadees and maybe a Brown-headed Nuthatch.  One other thing a friend mentioned was a bat house.  We have several different species of bats native to the area and I would love to add housing for them to help them and to observe them.  My third project would be to plant a butterfly larvae garden.  The typical butterfly garden features plants that adult butterflies can find nectar in.  The larvae garden would feature plants that the butterflies can lay their eggs on and the larvae will eat once they hatch.  Most (if not all) butterfly species spend much more time in the larval/pupa stages than the adult stage.  Although, it is less aesthetically pleasing to see caterpillars on half-eaten plants, it is more practical.

Thursday (February 26th) was a little warmer and a lot of our snow melted.  This allowed a few of us to get out and do some improvised birding.  We hit Harper Rd. but left before we birded the dam.  It was around 2 pm when we started so the birds weren’t the most active.  We found a large mixed flock of sparrows at a forest’s edge that were marching out on a plowed field.  The flock mostly contained Savannah, White-crowned and Song but held several White-throated and a single Swamp Sparrow.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow repositioning foot.

Savannah Sparrow repositioning foot.

Watching over the flock was an alert mockingbird that seemed more interested in us than the possible arthropod bounty the sparrows may have unearthed.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

We had large flocks of blackbirds all over.  One flock of grackles was harassed by a small raptor (probably a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk).  The raptor chased the flock around in the air.  The flock dwindled down as a few grackles would break formation and head for cover.  Eventually the raptor chased one of these deserters but the resolution of the its chase was hidden from us as the fleeing grackle headed for a thicket.

We drove away from Harper and got on to Sloane Dr./Thibault Rd. which runs through an industrial park.  As we passed open areas I saw a shorebird come in to a ditch.  We turned around and went over the area again looking for the bird.  I figured it was a snipe but it took us a while to relocate it despite its position being only a few feet from ours.  We got good looks at it and a nearby Eastern Meadowlark as they foraged in the wet fields.

Wilson's Snipe.  Notice the cryptic plumage.

Wilson’s Snipe. Notice the cryptic plumage.

Farther down the road we stopped to watch a Virginia Opossum; our only marsupial.

Virginia Opossum (possum)

Virginia Opossum; or just possum

I do love snow days.  They allow for some good birding and thinking.  Although no new birds were seen it was still fun to watch some familiar ones.

Common Grackle at feeder

Common Grackle at feeder

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