Foam Lake Birding No. 133


No. 133

With the recent onset of winter the late fall birding doldrums are over. There are few winter birds as such, but many of the permanent residents that breed away from the proximity of man are back in town. Since the snowfall our backyard has seen a lot of activity with the arrival of Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, Ravens, Magpies, Chickadees, Blue Jays, the ubiquitous House Sparrow and a lone Northern Flicker. We are now waiting for some more of our usual visitors like the White and Red Breasted Nuthatches. Two winter birds, the Northern Shrikes and Pine Grosbeaks are already here. With a little luck we might even see several more irruptive species such as Bohemian Waxwings, Redpolls and Evening Grosbeaks.

Of the birds listed above two are somewhat unexpected as they usually migrate a little bit to the south of us. The flicker is only one of two local woodpeckers that migrate at all and it goes just south of the Canadian border. Of all the years that I have been watching birds I have never seen a flicker in the winter until two years ago at our daughter's place in Saskatoon. It was at her feeders at Christmas time with the temperature at -35C.

Another bird that I have seen only once before in the winter is the Blue Jay (see Article No. 98). According to the range maps in the bird books the Blue Jay migrates just out of the Boreal forest and should be a permanent resident here. However, the jay seems to behave much like the House Finch (see Article No. 7) and does go somewhere a little more pleasant with larger urban centres being the preferred choice.

Even more to our surprise, four juvenile Cedar Waxwings spent one day in our yard last week. Although they do not migrate very far south, I have never seen a Cedar Waxwing this late in the year. Perhaps there are a few more surprises awaiting us.

Coincidentally, as we were enjoying the Blue Jay in our yard this past week, we happened to watch a half hour TV sitcom whose theme centred around a jay that landed on the window ledge of the actors' apartment and refused to leave. Comedy aside, the jay was referred to as a Blue Jay when in fact it was a Mexican species, the Magpie Jay (see Article No. 42). I then recalled watching a TV show several decades ago about a duck that needed help. I do not remember much about it except the "duck", when finally shown, turned out to be a Canada Goose. If there is any point to all this it would be to be careful about what you hear and see on TV.

This week's pictures are of a Blue Jay and Northern flicker eating peanuts at a peanut feeder in our backyard. Both birds also helped themselves to black oil seeds with the jay hauling off mouthfuls to store somewhere for future use.