Indigo Buntings create a lot of excitement when they appear on birdfeeders at this time of year. A handful now nest along power lines on the Upper Cape and a few pairs are nesting in wooded heavily wooded sections of the Vineyard.
Ospreys, “the Cape and Islands harbinger of spring” returned on Saturday afternoon, March 15th, in at least 5 places almost simultaneously. This is very early and all these reports and careful, excited observers were accompanied by photos indicating they knew what a big deal this is. Ospreys were reported from Orleans, Dennis, Falmouth, West Barnstable and Nantucket from 2:30-4 P.M. on March 15th, which is really early. Just knowing these birds are back brings a smile to not only my face but to all happy to see that the winter is finally going to come to an end.
No one really knows what the Snowy Owls are going to do next: when are they going to leave, are they going to nest here, will they be back? It is assumed most will start making their way north, but some may very well take a leisurely route back, which will bring them into contact with many species that they have never encountered and conversely have never encountered them. With ospreys on the move out of South America, the first males arriving here about a week from now, the potential for conflict is very real.
In March and April one of the best kept secrets on the Cape and Islands is the display of the American woodcock. Woodcock are nocturnal birds, and while rarely seen, they are surprisingly common. They make a living by eating earthworms at night with their ridiculously long bill as a probe.
While nasty for most humans, poison ivy has immeasurable value to shoreline areas and wildlife due to its salt tolerance and ability to grow in impoverished soils. For many birds it is vitally important, as its fruits provide calories that would otherwise not be available, and without which the birds would not survive the winter at this latitude.
Dovekies are crazy cute, small black-and-white birds resembling nothing so much as a wind-up bathroom toy. Once ashore Dovekies are in serious trouble as they cannot walk on land or take off unless on water. Helpless on land, they become victims of gulls and other predators. Humans, glad to take a little “penguin” under their protection, adopt others.
As we creep toward spring, roaming flocks of blackbirds may show up at any time.
Red-winged blackbirds are one of the most widespread and successful land bird species on this continent. They range across its entirety, breeding from central Alaska to Newfoundland south throughout the United States. They occur in winter south to Costa Rica in Central America. They are hardy, adaptable and abundant.
On Saturday February first, WCAI’s Morning Edition Host, Dan Tritle and his wife Janet Gardner were visiting Nantucket to participate in the third annual Moby Dick-reading marathon. Having heard me carry on incessantly about this year’s Snowy Owl incursion, Dan and Janet were hot to see one of these magnificent birds. So after they had completed their Moby Dick readings, we headed out to try to find one.
This winter is breaking all the records as we experience an “irruption” of Snowy Owls that is unprecedented and historic. For birders and photographers, Snowy Owls are a dream bird: they are big, stay out in wide-open areas (making them very visible), and, unlike most owls, are active in the daytime. Because they nest “in the land of the midnight sun” - an expression that describes life in the Arctic during the summer months, when the sun literally does not set for almost 3 months - they must be able to hunt by day.
If you feed birds then you know what a scene is going on just outside your windows. All the birds that have been visiting your feeders sporadically are now left with no choice of a place to find food. The drifting snow has covered all food that they had access to and now they are counting on your ice-free and food-filled feeders and scattered seed to make it through this stressful and lean time. Most birds will still have some stored fat reserves that they are likely burning through, and access to food is critical during and especially after fierce winter storms.