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.
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.