Friday, January 2, 2015
The only person there when I arrived was the ubiquitous and widely traveled Carlton Schooley. He had seen the shrike from afar before I arrived. I hadn't been there but ten minutes or so when the cooperative bird flew right in, and landed on a wire close at hand. It was almost as if it wanted to be admired, and admire we did.
Loggerhead Shrikes were once fairly common and widespread in Ohio, but now are among our rarest birds. Only one or a few are reported annually. Adams County produces the most reports, and insofar as I know, the only recent breeding records have come from this county. I hadn't seen a Loggerhead in the state for a number of years, and needless to say was quite pleased to share this animal's company for a bit.
I was not alone in this game plan. This juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk was watching over a weedy, temporarily drained lake bed that was full of sparrows. I suppose the big raptor was lusting after sparrow meat, but it'd probably be a fat chance that this hawk would fly down a nimble sparrow. The raptor didn't much object to me, and distance was no problem for making images. Obstructions were. It would be nice if all of those intervening branches weren't in the way, but there was nothing to be done. The best that I could do was move until the raptor's eye was free and clear, which improved the shot. With animals, always shoot for the eye.
Rather than take just a plain mug shot, it is best to wait until a bird shifts into a more interesting posture, if possible. Finally this sparrow looked over its shoulder, giving me a better pose, and I fired away.
I got out of my car near a small meadow surrounded by forest, and was greeted by the soft warbles of Eastern Bluebirds. Very good, I would be happy to make bluebird images. However, their presence also likely meant fruit was at hand, and sure enough there was a bunch of fruiting staghorn sumac at the back of the field. I worked my way back there, and it wasn't long before I heard the soft chuck note of this Hermit Thrush. A few imitations of his call, and the thrush came out to investigate.
Flocks of fruit-eating birds are always worthy of a closer look. Often, other frugivorous bird species, like this thrush, will be amongst their ranks.
Wrens are busybodies, and quick to chastise anyone or anything that displeases them.
This is a truly elfin songbird; at only 6 grams, it is our smallest (in Ohio) passerine. A kinglet weighs less than two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (which is not a songbird), and that's really small. What's more amazing is that kinglets are almost entirely insectivorous, but they ride out winters in Ohio, and even points well to our north.
Kinglets have no time to trifle with foolish humans. It is work, work, work. Golden-crowned Kinglets must harvest a considerable percentage of their bodyweight in tiny invertebrate prey each day in order to stoke the fires and keep up their metabolism.
Where, you might rightly ask, are all of these insects in winter? How do the kinglets, clever and industrious as they may be, find them?
I'll delve more into that mystery a bit later. Suffice to say that our trees and shrubs are not lacking in spiders, caterpillars, stoneflies and other insects, even in the dead of winter. Kinglets are extremely adept at finding them, and thus reduce the need to make perilous long distance migrations as nearly all of our other highly insectivorous songbirds must.
Posted by Jim McCormac at Friday, January 02, 2015