These eye-catching ducks, decked out with bold stripes and flamboyant head gear, were back on the pond today. They seemed to enjoy swimming beside the just-arrived Canada geese.
The Audubon says:
“Mergansers are our only ducks that specialize in eating fish. The Hooded is the smallest of our three native merganser species, and often seems to be the least numerous, as it tends to live around swamps and wooded ponds where it may be overlooked. A cavity nester along wooded waterways in the temperate parts of North America, it has probably benefitted by taking advantage of nest boxes put out for Wood Ducks.”
These ducks and a swan at Mount Holyoke College seemed equally at home on ice or in the rushing water.
After resting close to the edge of the stream, they paddled into the racing current, which tossed them downstream. Next, they climbed up on large pieces of ice to enjoy a bit of sun together before beginning another challenging swim.
I worried about the swan. Did it have only one leg? Probably not. Swans and other large birds may stand on a single leg in order to conserve body heat in cold climates.
These robins were part of a large flock passing overhead on this warm but dreary day. Were they the harbingers of Spring? It is more likely that they have stayed in the area all Winter.
The Audubon explains that:
“Robins have been known to overwinter in Massachusetts since at least the early 1900s. The number of wintering robins depends largely on the severity of the weather and the abundance of food.
Most birds that regularly winter in New England are well suited to withstand cold temperatures. In the fall, many birds grow additional feathers for insulation. To keep warm while roosting, birds fluff their feathers. Because of the way their feathers are layered, this behavior traps pockets of warm air next to the skin.
During winter days, many birds feed almost continually, storing up fat that they burn off at night to keep warm. There isn’t much one can feed robins in the winter. They’re very adept at finding their preferred food and rarely visit feeding stations. ”
No matter what, I look forward to the day when these perky birds arrive to enjoy my garden for the Summer.
This flock of European Starlings only paused in the field long enough to grab a quick snack before swirling up to nearby power lines to perch together. When I see starlings, I think “Australian” instead of “European”. These speckled creatures remind me of Aboriginal bird paintings where dots form the pictures against dark backgrounds.
Would you ever think of “Shakespeare” and “starlings” together? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology explains that:
“All the European Starlings in North America descended from 100 birds set loose in New York’s Central Park in the early 1890s. The birds were intentionally released by a group who wanted America to have all the birds that Shakespeare ever mentioned. It took several tries, but eventually the population took off. Today, more than 200 million European Starlings range from Alaska to Mexico, and many people consider them pests. “
Did you know that crows are clever and adaptable? They can recognize and remember human faces, and some can even read traffic lights, so they can safely pick up food from the road!
I have been fascinated with a group of crows in the field recently. They seem shy and skittish to me. Each time I try to sneak closer for a better photograph, they fly away. I hope this is because they don’t recognize my face yet…
In folklore, seeing four crows together means wealth. We’ll see!
Of the seven woodpecker species that can be found in Massachusetts, I’ve seen two on recent walks: the red-bellied woodpecker high in a tree, and the downy woodpecker feasting on suet. The birds’ black and white patterns with splashes of red certainly brighten up the winter landscape!
Bluebirds are such a sight for sore eyes at this time of year! These energetic flashes of cheer were hopping on the parking lot fences today at the Wachusett Meadow Audubon. The Audubon staff is not sure whether they are just passing through, or will become Spring guests in the bluebird boxes.
Brrr! It was far too cold for me at the Audubon today, but hopefully not for this tufted titmouse sheltering under the porch roof. I saw it, feathers fluffed against the cold, resting on the grapevines before bravely venturing out to the feeders.