Foam Lake Birding No. 186

No. 186
            Our feeders are up and our winter birds are slowly showing up.  Permanent residents like the Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers and Red Breasted Nuthatches are at our feeders almost daily.  We still have two juncos that have not  yet migrated south.  They appear to like it here so perhaps they will stay over winter which they commonly do.  Even a magpie came in and checked things out but did not appear to like what he saw and left.  The only truly winter bird we have seen to date is the Northern Shrike. 
            When the shrike flew into our yard all the small birds scattered and vanished.  However, a lone Eurasian Collared Dove just kept feeding on the ground completely ignoring the shrike.  The shrike was persistent and kept "buzzing" the dove but the dove appeared unconcerned.  Eventually, the dove seemed to get tired of the harassment and flew off into the ash tree quickly followed by the shrike in hot pursuit.  The dove put up with a little more harassment then flew off out of my sight, again with the shrike in hot pursuit.  Since this incident a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves has been in our yard daily so it appears that not much damage was caused by the shrike. 
            Other than the Northern Shrike no other winter birds like the Pine Grosbeaks nor Redpolls have arrived.  So. there is still something to look forward to. 
            This week's picture is a bit of a repeat with a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves resting on our arbour.  (In fact, they have just flown past my window and landed on the power line in the back lane.)  They were actually sleeping on the arbour but by the time I got my camera set up the female woke up and started preening.    A short time later the male did the same.  I decided to show the doves again because they looked so cute and because the picture provided proof that the shrike did not have dove for dinner. 

Foam Lake Birding No. 185

No. 185
            Here it is, Nov. 4th, and there is no snow on the ground, yet.  It is trying though.  At this time of the year every day without snow is a blessing.  Remembrance Day is early enough for winter to set in. 
            On the birding front things are slow but for one Hairy Woodpecker and one White Breasted Nuthatch in our backyard.  The pair of Eurasian Collared Doves still comes into our yard several times a day.  I would like to have them hang around for the winter but I am not quite sure what to feed them.  I am going to try cracked wheat. 
            On the day before Halloween we had a Robin scratching around on the ground and feeding.  It was nice to see something "summery" at this time of year.  It was alone so it just might be one of those that decides to winter over.  Time will tell.  In the meantime it is back to watching House Sparrows and Chickadees. 
            Driving to and from Foam Lake I have noticed more Rough Legged Hawks than usual.  These Arctic hawks breed on the Tundra but winter over on the Great Plains mainly along the Missouri/Mississippi drainage system.  They are quite common here late in the fall but are usually mistaken for the more common summer hawk, the Northern Harrier (Marsh Hawk).  Both are slender gull-like hawks that behave and look much like each other with both species even having the large white rump. 
            My next task is to set out my winter feeders especially the ones with suet since the weather is cold enough to prevent spoilage.  Another feeder that I put out only in the winter is canola seed for the reason that the only birds that seem to like it are the Redpolls.  The Redpolls are not here yet but we will be ready for them if and when they come. 
            This week's pictures are of a Robin feeding in the same area where we saw the one mentioned in this article and a White Breasted Nuthatch at one of our peanut feeders. 

Foam Lake Birding No. 184

No. 184
            We are in that time of year that I refer to as the "doldrums of birding".  The summer residents and most of the transients are gone south; the winter birds have not moved here yet; even permanent residents like woodpeckers and nuthatches have not left the rural areas and moved into towns which they will soon do.  So for the time being, it is Chickadees, House Sparrows, the odd Junco, a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves and a very confused and very dead Ruffed Grouse.
            The Ruffed Grouse is our only woodland "wild chicken" as it were (see Art. No. 96).  Once in a while in the fall they invade urban areas where they seem to pick up a bad case of "stupid" for lack of a better term.  Here they become very tame to the point they have to be shooed away otherwise they just stand there and look at you with a blank look in their eyes.  Years back when we lived in Wishart, one fall when there was snow on the ground, a Ruffed Grouse stood in our doorstep and would not let our girls into the house when they came home from school.  I had to chase the grouse away.  It moved to the backyard to our patio and spent the next three weeks or so sleeping right up against the glass patio door every night.  During this same period one of our neighbours had a grouse fly right through her living room picture window.  When the startled neighbour came to the living room to investigate there was the dying grouse in the middle of the floor amid all kinds of glass.  Almost the same thing happened to me several weeks ago.  I was working at the dining room table and looked up just in time to see a very large bird come barrelling straight at me.  It hit the window with a tremendous wallop startling everybody in the house especially me.  Fortunately, the window did not break but sadly the grouse was killed instantly.  Theories abound as to why this happens but the most plausible is that when there is a very successful hatch the young have to disperse and there is really no place for them to go so they head for the towns.  Being young and not very wise they end up in places unfamiliar to them causing harm to themselves and town residents alike. 
            A much more pleasant event is the daily visitation of a pair of Eurasian Collared Doves (see Art. No. 50).  They started coming to our yard to the bird baths for drinking water and have continued to do so even though the cold weather has frozen the water.  It is nice to see them walking around in the yard looking for something to eat. 
            The Eurasian Collared Dove is an invasive species from Europe that was successfully introduced into the West Indies from where it flew across to Florida and has spread throughout most of the continent.  It is now here.  It is quite similar to the native Mourning Dove but can be quite easily distinguished from it by the thin black collar on the back of the neck.  Unlike the Mourning Dove the Eurasian Collared Dove is not migratory and can be expected here all year round. 
            There is some confusion as to where the Ringed Turtle Dove fits in to all this.  Older bird books do list it as a distinct species but without much explanation.  Here is the whole scoop as I understand it.  There are only two species of Collared Doves: the Eurasian and African.  They are closely related and very similar to one another with the African being slightly smaller and much paler.  Furthermore, when vocalizing the African has a two note song while the Eurasian has a three note sound.  The Ringed Turtle Dove is nothing more than the domestic version of the African Collared Dove and escaped or released birds have not succeeded in the wild.  At present the name "Ringed Turtle Dove" has been discontinued by ornithologists and replaced by the original "African Collared Dove".
            This week's pictures of the Eurasian Collared Dove were taken in our backyard this spring.