There is no surprise that the North East has been blasted with a cold front and the storm has rudely moved through the area dropping over a foot of snow. Last Thursday I found myself here in Allegany State Park driving the roads looking for birds that are not well equipped for our kind of winters.
Hermit Thrush searching for worms and bugs
I located many American Robins, Common Flickers and Dark-eyed Juncos anywhere there was dirt along the road. When I looked closely between all these birds there were numerous cool birds (in my case, three)! The first “cool” bird was a Hermit Thrush (CHECK, first for 2007)! It was observed working the roadside for any kind of worm or bug that it could find. I followed it for about a mile and took a hundred or so pictures of it. It was fun watching him because the thrush would fly about 5 feet, land and then perk its head up searching for food. If it found something the bird would quickly hop over to its location and then swallow its food whole. It would then fly further up the road in search for more food!
American Pipit feeding on the side of the road
Returning back to the Red House lake area, I had come across my second “cool” bird. It threw me for a little loop because it wasn’t anything that I was expecting to find. I kept on focusing on its tail which had a similar pattern as the Dark-eyed Junco and Vesper Sparrow. Although it had some comparable belly markings as the Hermit Thrush! Hmmm what the heck is this thing?? Then I noticed one of its behaviors that gave away its identification!! This “cool” bird was bobbing its tail like a Kestrel or Hermit Thrush (ok, not the best example since I am trying to say it isn’t a Hermit Thrush)!! Duh-Tom, this bird was a Water Pipit CHECK, first for 2007!! Ok, they now call them American Pipit but it’s hard for me to change my ways. Throughout the rest of the evening, I probably located 3 or 4 different Pipits along the roadside.
Savannah Sparrow finding roadside seeds
I spent a great deal of time looking at every little sparrow that I had come across. Most were Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows and even a few Fox Sparrows (although the Fox’s are very camera shy). Suddenly this one “cool” sparrow showed very little fear of my truck and I practically pulled right up to it. CHECK, first for 2007, Savannah Sparrow!! I am soo glad I found these three “cool” birds because the Savannah and Pipit’s are birds that I always need to work hard to see yet alone photograph!!
Eastern Phoebe eating worms from the road
Continuing on the post that the weather can seriously stress many of our early migrants and this snow will reduce the available food for those that are in the area. Many of our insect eating birds will come out of the woodwork and maybe by watching birds under these circumstances will assist us in understanding how they are able to survive these hard times.
White-throated Sparrow finding roadside seeds