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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Late Fall/Early Winter Birding (Blog Nine)

Whether I am hiking, hunting, fishing, or just out walking, I really enjoy bird watching during the late fall and early winter period.  I especially enjoy observing bird behavior and identifying what foods the creatures are eating.  Today while walking, for example, I observed Robins dining on holly berries - a fruit that many avians, including Robins, won't consume until the weather becomes much colder.  Many people incorrectly believe that Robins fly southward for the winter, but in many areas, including Southwest Virginia where I live, this thrush merely transitions from being yard and field birds to spending much of their time in woodlots or forests that border fields.

Sometimes I see birds that I can't identify.  For instance, last Saturday while on a Monroe County, West Virginia mountain I spotted a warbler-sized bird flitting about in a low growing tree.  The bird featured a dark bib like that of a Mourning Warbler or a Connecticut Warbler, yet given the range of these two species such a spotting would have been highly unlikely.  The former winters in Central and South America, the latter in South America.  I would really appreciate it if someone could send me a best guess on what species I observed.

On Thanksgiving Day, I witnessed a Hermit Thrush, my first of the season.  This winter visitor was uttering its "chuck"  call note and cocking its reddish tail.  Sometimes in very late winter, I will be fortunate enough to hear the Hermit Thrush's flutelike mating song.

One of my favorite migratory birds to see and hark to this time of year is a White-throated Sparrow.  In the mountains of Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia, this sparrow usually begins to arrive some time in October.  By late November, vast numbers of this species are present, often found feeding in brushy thickets.  I love to listen to its "Old Sam Peabody" song.

And yesterday while cutting firewood behind our house, I watched a Brown Creeper performing its "hitching" gambit on a tree.  Who knows what I will see today.

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