May 21, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 04 November 2010 11:58
You’d think that a Mute Swan, which is basically a living boat, wouldn’t need an artificial boat to cruise the waters of a local lake. But at least one adventurous swan spotted by Marty Gold of Ridgefield decided to give “sailing” a try.
The swan came across a plastic “surf board” type toy floating on Rainbow Lake on Oct. 17.
“It took some time of looking and poking at the board before first trying to step on the board,” Marty said.“There were at least five separate boardings; he fell off each of the early ones after a couple of minutes. The last several tries were more successful: The swan was able to stay on top at least 7-10 minutes each of those times.
“Moreover, he/she was able to move the board on the water. He used his beak or head to propel himself.
“In between the last two rides and after he was done, the entire group of swans gathered around the board. When they were all together they generated very loud squawking, as if they were talking loudly about what had just occurred.”
“The Pine Siskins are back — quickly cleaning out my tube feeder stuffed with sunflower hearts!” reports Matt Robey of Redding. “Do you think we’re in for another year of heavy activity?”
Just about the same time we got Matt’s note, the latest issue of Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird newsletter arrived, with an article by finch expert Ron Pittaway of Ontario, who reports some species, like Redpolls, should irrupt into the northern United States this winter. Siskins, however, are supposed to be uncommon!
“Pine Siskins Banding recoveries show that siskins wander from coast to coast searching for conifer seed crops,” Pittaway says. “They were uncommon this past summer in Ontario and the Northeast. Some might winter in northern Ontario where the white spruce crop is heavy. However, siskins are currently uncommon in the Northeast so there are potentially only very small numbers that could irrupt south in eastern North America.”
Matt lives near the Saugatuck Reservoir where the old Bridgeport Hydraulic Company planted thousands of evergreens in the watershed. These are probably siskin magnets.
Pittaway says “Redpolls should irrupt into southern Canada and the northern United States this winter. Breeding range in Ontario is mainly in the Hudson Bay Lowlands from the Manitoba border southeast to southern James Bay.
“Redpolls in winter are a birch seed specialist and movements are linked in part to the size of the birch crop. The white birch crop is poor across much of northern Canada. Another indicator of an upcoming irruption was a good redpoll breeding season in 2010 with double and possibly triple broods reported in Quebec...
“Redpolls will be attracted to the good birch seed crops on native white birch and European white birch ... and to weedy fields. They should be frequent this winter at feeders offering nyger and black oil sunflower seeds.”
Also interesting in Redding is Hannah Blank’s sighting of three bluebirds, checking out her bluebird box.
Two broods were hatched in the box this spring. She took down the box to clean it, then reinstalled it recently. In early October, two males and a female were checking it out as if they were ready to nest. What’s going on? she wondered.
Bluebirds are very early nesters and typically begin prospecting for nesting cavities in January or February. Now that many bluebirds are year-round dwellers, they may be checking out sites even earlier. In the fall and early winter, they generally hang out in flocks, spending their time looking for food in fields and swamps.
Some may use the boxes as roosting places in severe winter weather.
Halloween Owl Prowl, with naturalist Frank Gallo, Saturday, Nov. 6, 7:30 to 9 p.m., free, Weir Preserve, park at Branchville School, Florida Road, Ridgefield, for shuttle vans to the preserve, Bruce Beebe, 203 834-5066
Project FeederWatch, how to be a citizen scientist with Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Saturday, Nov. 13, 1 to 2:30, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich.audubon.org, 203-869-5272 x230
Copyright 2010 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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