February Journal Highlights, Part 2

Last day of the Great Backyard Bird Count

February 19. Seven degrees at dawn and clear but quickly warming up to eleven degrees. In the middle of my daily exercises, Bruce came into the bedroom to say, “I think I heard a bluebird singing.” Could it be? I rushed outside, binoculars in hand, listened and scanned the telephone wires. Nothing! Then I heard it. Again I scanned the wires and this time I saw, perched on the wire above the bluebird box, a male bluebird, its gorgeous blue back silhouetted against the snowy field. That’s the first one we’ve seen in several months. Is he a sign of spring?

All the birds seem activated today. As I stood coatless on the veranda, a crow cawed overhead. Later, snowshoeing up First Field, I heard a singing Carolina wren and several titmice. In fact, titmice have been in full song mode for weeks.

Sitting on the fallen tree behind the spruce grove, I heard a pileated woodpecker and in the grove itself juncos “ticked” and chickadees “dee-deed.”

Marcia on snowshoesThe snowshoe trails have firmed up and the going was easy. Downies and hairies “peek, peeked” and once a chickadee sang his “fee-a-bee” song. At the Far Field a deer snorted and a cardinal sang a quiet “pretty” at the Far Field thicket. I also heard chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, white-throated sparrows, blue jays, and Carolina wrens. The latter, it seems, have made it through the cold snap. But I wonder about the eastern towhee. I snowshoed on over to the Second Thicket and sat on a log for twenty minutes, listening for any towhee call, but I heard nothing.

Snowshoeing on Pennyroyal Trail above the Far Field I did find three cedar waxwings feeding silently in the European buckthorn tree above the old red fox den. In the snow beneath the tree, two juncos and a white-throat fed on the fallen fruit. A pair of cardinals called back and forth. A song sparrow flew up with a junco along Pennyroyal Trail. I also heard another bluebird call. Altogether I had two more bird species, plus more numbers, to report to the Great Backyard Bird Count. During the last four days I’ve managed to find 26 species on the mountain.

A fat porcupine debarked a tree branch below the Far Field, the first one I’ve seen in several months.

Visitors to the Feeder

February 20. By mid-afternoon, it was 50 degrees in the sun on the veranda, and I took my afternoon tea seated in my chair, soaking up the sun and listening to the steady drip of snow melt in the drainpipe.

A smallish opossum ate birdseeds on the back porch steps at sunset.

February 22. Thirty-four degrees at dawn and mostly overcast. An all-time high record 32 mourning doves at the feeder area this morning along with seven gray squirrels. I also spotted the first chipmunk out and running along a log in the flat area below the back porch slope. Both titmice and Carolina wrens sang in the dawn.

February 26. Eighty juncos at the feeder area–another all-time record.

I waited until afternoon to set out and tried to walk in my old snowshoe tracks that I could barely discern under a couple inches of new, wet snow. Whenever I missed the tracks, I sank into four inches or so of snow.

Gradually, it began to clear. I sat on Coyote Bench and heard a guttural noise, probably from a squirrel. I looked up to see a white and gray bird flapping up from the valley. I managed to get my binoculars on it and saw almost totally white underparts with black wing tips–a male northern harrier. It continued on up over the mountainside and out of sight.

February 27. On this second day of Project FeederWatch, I had my first ever crow at the feeder, probably the same lone crow that was hanging out in the yard the other day.

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Photo: Marcia on snowshoes, Feb. 24 (Dave Bonta)