Wild Bird Crossingof Sturbridge
4 Cedar Street
(Rte 20 & Cedar St Intersection)
Sturbridge, Massachusetts
508-347-BIRD

 

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FEATURED STORY: Swan Song

 

Where Are All the Birds?

Where are all the birds? This seems to be the question on everyone's mind this season. Since late fall the same question has been asked time and time again. Did I do something wrong? Is my seed bad? How come there aren't any birds at my feeder?

The answers to these questions are not as simple as one might expect. It involves a number of factors, first and foremost being that the summer of 2000 was quite wet. Lots of water meant that everything grew well, including all of the grasses and berry producing plants. The pines also produced a lot of pinecones this year. When fall came along all of those grasses and plants went to seed and fruit. The birds had a field day! All of this natural food everywhere, they didn't have to look very hard for a bite to eat.

Then the annual migration began, and the well-fed birds started on their migratory routes. The birds that we usually begin to see in the winter season, the winter finches such as Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, as well as Red breasted Nuthatch, Crossbills, and Redpolls did not make a showing this year. There may be a few here and there but not in any great number. And our feeders stayed full of seed just waiting for some action.

As the season turned colder, the natural food became frozen under the snow and the birds returned to the feeders, although not in the numbers that we usually see. At this time of the year it is also very important for the birds to have an open source of water, and your heated birdbath is an attractive option to the birds coming to the feeders.

At Wild Bird Crossing, our feeders have been busy with birds. The birds that are visiting are Mourning Doves, by the dozens, Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, and Blue Jays. At one point we counted 11 Blue Jays around the feeders! And our little winter friends the Junco's have come to visit our feeders by the dozens.

The 5th Annual Sturbridge Christmas Count was held On December 15, 2000, and in case you didn't think there are many birds in the area, Mark Lynch birding guru and compiler for the Sturbridge Christmas count has put together some of the highlights of the day.

THE 2000 STURBRIDGE CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT:
Friday December 15

The count WAS scheduled for Thursday, but a dangerous ice storm caused the count to be postponed till the next day. The weather Friday was fine, but the roads and most of the vegetation were ice covered. Our early cold temps had already frozen much of the water, so waterfowl were tough to come by.

That said, PIED-BILLED GREBE (1); MUTE SWAN (1); AMERICAN COOT (2) and COMMON SNIPE (1), all species associated with water were new for the count circle! A single CANVASBACK, though recorded once before on the count, is a rarity this late in the season in this part of the state. Other "good species" recorded that are not usually seen at this time of the year in this part of the state included (1) NORTHERN HARRIER and (2) AMERICAN KESTRELS. The first species is a regular fall migrant, but decidedly rare in winter. The kestrel has been decreasing as a breeding bird in the central part of the state for some time for reasons that are not clear, and is now considered uncommon and local in these parts in winter. Other "new species" for the count found this year included FISH CROW (1 heard along the Quaboag, a species increasing in the Connecticut River Valley); SAVANNAH SPARROW (4 in Brookfield, thanks to little snow), and (5) RUSTY BLACKBIRDS. These blackbirds were seen in a large flock of Common Grackles (232) and Red-winged Blackbirds (608) roosting in the cattail marshes of the Quaboag.

Though it is not uncommon to find a handful of either of those icterids on this count, THAT many was unprecedented. Interestingly, unusually high numbers of blackbirds were found on several other MA counts. Finally we garnered a new "sub-species", an "OREGON JUNCO". The total number of juncos itself was news: 5421 were tallied. This broke the CBC (Christmas Bird Count) record for the entire United States which was 5073 seen on the Manhattan, Kansas CBC in 1978. However, we did not hold the record long, because just a few days later, the Athol MA CBC tallied an amazing 7205 juncos. THAT'S a LOT of sparrows!

High counts were also tallied for the following species: Belted Kingfisher (11); Red-bellied Woodpecker (24); American Crow (1033); Carolina Wren (11); Winter Wren (3); Hermit Thrush (2); Northern Cardinal (147); American Tree Sparrow (424); Song Sparrow (180) and White-throated Sparrow (649). The southern Red-bellied Woodpecker continues to make dramatic inroads into MA. Only 20 years ago, I traveled 60 miles to see one in the state. Now they are all over.

Take heart everyone, the birds are around and in no time the spring migration will begin!

Swan Song

Wild Bird Crossing has received numerous calls about the Mute Swan that is on South Pond. Many customers and concerned residents have been afraid that the Swan was stuck in the ice and would die. We learned that calls had been made to many of the local environmental agencies to see if something could be done.

On Wednesday, January 4, Bill decided it was time to act. He contacted Juanita Longwell at Capen

Hill Nature Sanctuary to find out if she would be willing to rehabilitate the swan if he could catch it. Juanita agreed and gave Bill some advice about Swans - they are very strong, and can break your arm with their wings. The best bet would be to sedate the bird. The next step was contacting the Sturbridge Veterinary Clinic next to Wild Bird Crossing. They agreed to help if the Swan needed to be sedated. No one knew what state the bird was in, so it was a gamble if tranquilizers would be too much. Now the only trouble was to get on to the ice near the small space of open water where the bird had been. Was the ice too thin in that area? The next call went out to Dan Meloche of Better Products to see if he would be willing to bring an ice rescue boat to South Pond to assist the Swan. Dan, a sales rep and trainer for Rescue Alive ice rescue apparatus immediately agreed, and said that he needed to contact the Brookfield Fire/Rescue Squad to let them know of the impending swan rescue. The plan was set, and the attempt to help the Swan was scheduled for Thursday, January 5, 2001.

Well the Swan and it's Goose friend will wait for no man, and it took some searching by Bill and Jean Dahler to find the pair on Thursday. There were no tracks to follow, so we can only speculate that the Swan can in fact fly. The Swan and its Goose friend were discovered under the bridge near the river. As it turns out, Marc Caya and Charlene Whitney, residents and owners of the DAWG House, a seasonal food stand have their own domestic ducks and keep a circulating pump with a water fountain in the river to keep the water open for the ducks. Marc is thrilled to see that the Swan and Goose have made it to his house. He said that on Christmas day he thought that the Swan was stuck in the ice near his house, and he went out to check on it. The Swan was not stuck and it moved away.

Since January 5 the Swan and the Goose have discovered that "hanging out with the joke ducks is not a bad thing." The ducks, the Swan, and the Goose all get fed a great diet of cracked corn and pellets and of course, people always stop by to feed them bread. The Swan seems quite healthy, and Marc is hoping that both the Swan and the Goose stay with his ducks.

So all is well with the Swan and the Goose, and Wild Bird Crossing has made a donation of seed to help feed the pair. For these two, I guess it's just a ducks life!

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