Foam Lake Birding No. 163

No. 163
            I just got a phone call from Weslaco, TX where we have spent the last six winters.  At 10:30 AM the temperature there was 24C compared to the -18C it was here at the same time.  I have to admit to being a little envious.  Not only did I miss the nice temperatures but I also missed the local birds that go with it.  Oh well, maybe next year. 
            Texas birds notwithstanding, we do have quite a nice variety of birds here even in the winter time that are every bit as colourful and enjoyable as the more southern ones.  This year we have had quite a wide variety of regulars as mentioned in previous articles.  Our most recent arrivals, an irruptive (visits sporadically) species, have been the Redpolls that some winters do not show up at all.  Usually when we have Redpolls at our feeders we have about two dozen birds or so; this year only six or seven show up.  Maybe more will come as the winter progresses.  As always they prefer Canola seed something that other birds avoid.  The upside to eating Canola is that the smallish Redpolls do not have to compete with larger birds for food.  There is a definite "pecking order" among birds that in human terms we would label as "bullying". 
            All irruptive birds are not irruptive to the same degree.  Some like the Evening Grosbeak appear once in several years or even decades; others like the Bohemian Waxwing appear several times in a winter.  Most irruptive species like the Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks often become regulars at our feeders if everything is to their liking.  Others like the Bohemian Waxwings never become regulars.    The only hope is to have some fruit trees with fruit still hanging on over winter to attract them from time to time.  A side benefit is that an occasional summer resident that stays here for the winter instead of migrating south has something to eat.  We have had Robins well into November this year feeding on the fruit of ornamental crab apples. 
            One of the most popular trees for irruptive fruit eating birds is the Mountain Ash or its very similar European cousin the Rowan Tree.  In most years both produce massive amounts of bright red edible berries that birds seem "to die for".  The only noticeable difference between the two trees is that the Ash grow to about 5 - 6 metres while the Rowan Tree grows to about twice that.  I have seen both species in Foam Lake. 
            This week's picture is of a flock of Bohemian Waxwings taking a break between feeding sessions at our neighbour's Mountain Ash trees.  They were sitting in our Poplar Tree like little soldiers all at the same angle facing in the same direction except for the odd nonconformist.  A flock of Bohemian Waxwings can be safely identified by the way the flock lands and sits in a tree.  This week's picture is of a flock of Bohemian Waxwings in a Poplar in our backyard.