Wednesday, February 28, 2007

2007 Great Backyard Bird Count Results for the Colvin Run Habitat

Here is a re-cap of the results from the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count here at the Colvin Run Habitat. Let’s begin with a few antidotes:

>In each of the three 15-minute counts, at least one hawk was present; in two of the counts, two hawks were present.

>A pair of never before observed yellow-bellied sapsuckers was observed.

>A pileated woodpecker was observed from his call.

>A well-formed V of Canadian geese fly over during one of the 15-minute periods.

>The Habitat experienced a snow shower during the third period that left nearly an inch of additional snow on the ground.

>Bird totals for the three 15-minute periods were 103, 64, and 99, respectively.

>Nine white-tailed deer wondered through during the first day; they were not included in the submitted count.

The conditions were:

>Weather: excellent

>Snow Depth: 2 - 4 in (5.1 - 10.2 cm)

>Habitat(s): deciduous woods, grassland, suburban

Here are the links to the Colvin Run Habitat blog posts discussing the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count:

>Cooper's Hawk, Red-Tailed, and Red-Shouldered Hawk All Appear for the Count

>Cooper’s Hawk and Red-Shouldered Hawk Arrive to be Counted Again

>2007 Great Backyard Bird Count Continues at the Colvin Run Habitat

>Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Arrives for First Time

>Showing Up to be Counted

>Great Backyard Bird Count

>Nine White-Tailed Deer Show for the Count

Below are the three 15-minute counts submitted to the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count from the Colvin Run Habitat:


Feb 17, 2007

9:00 AM

Feb 17, 2007

11:30 AM

Feb 18, 2007

5:45 PM

American Crow


American Goldfinch


Blue Jay



Canada Goose


Carolina Chickadee




Carolina Wren




Cooper's Hawk



Dark-eyed Junco




Downy Woodpecker




Eastern Starling



Eastern Towhee



House Finch



Morning Dove


Northern Cardinal



Northern Mockingbird


Pileated Woodpecker


Red-bellied Woodpecker


Red-shouldered Hawk



Red-tailed Hawk


Tufted Titmouse




White-breasted Nuthatch



White-throated Sparrow




Yellow-bellied Sapsucker


White-tailed Deer


Monday, February 26, 2007

White-Breasted Nuthatch

Someone in the family who has recently joined the ranks of bird watchers emailed me to ask what the bird that he had photographed was. He had photographed a white-breasted nuthatch.

This nuthatch is so often seen in the Colvin Run Habitat that he gets little mention in the blog. Past nuthatch blogs are at Here are four nuthatch photos taken this winter in the Habtiat.

As you can see from first three of the photos, this guy loves to eat – one at the suet nut feeder, one with a piece of suet in his beak, and one seeking food in the bark of the maple tree. The food could be sap, like the sapsucker, or food stored earlier. says that, “the nuthatch in the fall stores food for winter in crevices behind loose tree bark.”

The other thing that you can see from three of the photos, the nuthatch spends most of his time upside down on the trees and feeders. Creeping headfirst down a tree trunk is a trait of the nuthatch.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cooper's Hawk and Red-Shouldered Hawk Tuck Feet to Stay Warm

Earlier in the month a wrote a post titled How Do Birds Stay Warm? The post was widely read and way the second response listed to the Google questions “How to birds keep their feet warm?” A few days later, I showed some of the small birds fluffing their feathers.

In addition to the ways that I discussed (fluff their feathers, seek shelter out of the wind and cold, eat which gives them the energy to shiver), birds will also do what humans do – minimize the amount of skin exposed to the raw wind and cold air. We humans do this by wearing gloves, hats, and even earmuffs. The legs and feet of birds are exposed, so birds minimize exposure by tucking one leg in their body feathers.

And here are two examples, last Sunday, the end of a third week of record low temperatures here in Virginia, ended with a series of snow showers and high winds. The snow was so blinding that two hawks – a Cooper’s hawk and a red-shouldered hawk – rode out the showers perched in trees in the Colvin Run Habitat. The first three of these photos show the Cooper’s hawk clearly with only one leg/foot holding onto the branch. If you look very closely (click on the photo to enlarge it) in the first photo, you can see the yellow leg tucked up under the body.

The red-shouldered hawk employs this same technique to stay warm in the last photo. Sorry for the very poor quality in this last photo, by I was shooting through tow lines of trees and the snow.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Carolina Wren Enjoys the Sun

Enjoying the February sunshine, this Carolina wren was uncharacteristically not singing this morning. Rather, he was sounding an alarm call that is a series of screeching-clicks.
This guy was on the wood pile, most likely searching for insects in all of the nooks and crannies, and rather upset about something. I am guessing that a squirrel was too close, but who knows. Note in the second photo, how far around his head can rotate; he can basically look behind himself.
Hope he enjoyed the sun, whose time is increasing daily with the coming of spring, but who will not been seen as freezing rains arrives overnight.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Colvin Run Habitat In Wikipedia

Colvin Run Habitat made its first contribution to Wikipedia, the on-line, collaboratively-written encyclopedia. Go to Wikipedia and on the left hand side search box, type in ‘Copper’s Hawk’. You’ll see two small photos on the left side of the Wikipedia article – and yes the second photo is the Colvin Run Habitat contribution. Click on the photo and you will get a larger view and the photo credit.

The Habitat also contributed the sentence, “They are increasingly seen hunting smaller birds in backyards with feeders. They will perch in trees overlooking the backyard feeders, then swoop down and scatter the other birds in order to capture one in flight.”

A second Habitat photo can be seen at the Wikipedia media center.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nine White-Tailed Deer Show for the Count

Late in the first day of the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count, the white-tailed deer arrived. They arrived in the Habitat’s lower meadow area and were clearly unclear where to go (see the first photo). Nearly all of the regular deer visitors have a set path through the Habitat; they come, stop, eat, but always continue on the same path. I suspect that these deer were looking for something to nibble on, but with the snow-covered ground they found little. The herd totaled nine (as seen in the second photo). From the third and fourth photos, you can see that we have a maturing young male who was tolerated by mom. He will be leaving her in the next season.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Cooper's Hawk, Red-Tailed, and Red-Shouldered Hawk All Appear for the Count

The 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count concluded its second day at the Colvin Run Habitat. In a truly amazing display, over these two days we have seen the Cooper's Hawk, Red-Tailed, and Red-Shouldered Hawk. I filed four sets of observations with Audubon Society; here is the raptor report:
Saturday, 9:00 AM - Cooper's Hawk perches in tree
Saturday, 11:30 AM - Red-Shouldered Hawk
perches in tree, Red-Tailed Hawk flies high over head
Sunday, 8:00 AM - Cooper's Hawk
flies through below tree-top level and Red-Shouldered Hawk perches in tree
Sunday, 2:00 PM - Cooper's Hawk
flies through and perches in oak tree 25 feet from feeders
Sunday, 5:45 PM - Cooper's Hawk
perches in tree, Red-Shouldered Hawk perches in another tree
Here are some photos from the Sunday 5:45 PM. We were in the middle of a snow shower, when the Cooper's hawk perched 10 feet up in a Bradford pear tree 30 feet from the feeders. This Cooper's hawk was relatively small, and I am guessing a male. The first photo shows the Coop in the burst of snow.
After a few minutes, a red-shouldered hawk perched in the maple trees, which are about 40 feet behind where the Cooper's hawk is perched. Click on the second photo to get a larger view, then notice the red-shouldered hawk in the upper left hand corner and the Cooper's hawk in the lower right hand corner. The red-shouldered hawk was nearly twice the size of the Cooper's hawk. The red-shouldered hawk stayed less than five minutes. Pardon the quality of the red-shouldered hawk photo (thrid photo) as it was taken in the snow through two lines of tree branches.
On the other hand, the Cooper's hawk stayed nearly 30 minutes, which caused a traffic jam of cardinals afraid to go to the feeders. The second photo shows part of the cardinal gridlock. I estimated nearly 4 dozen cardinals in my count.
Finally, the snow ended and the Cooper's hawk left.

Cooper’s Hawk and Red-Shouldered Hawk Arrive to be Counted Again

The Colvin Run Habitat is participating in the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count, and we hope that you are as well. This morning’s 15 minute period of counting was exceptionally exciting. I counted birds while shaving and looking out the upstairs bathroom window. It was early, so the Habitat residents had the feeders to themselves (that is, it was too early for the starlings).

The two dozen plus mix of downy woodpeckers, titmice, cardinals, wrens, and sparrows quickly flew to shelter – a sure sign that there is a hawk in the Habitat. And sure enough, within 2 seconds, a Cooper’s hawk flew from over the house and through the Habitat about 15 feet off the ground. He flew slow enough that I am not sure he was hunting or just passing through. He continued down into the meadow and found a tree to perch in.
Fifteen minutes later (literally the end of the counting period), I did a quick count and look around only to find this red-shouldered hawk perched in the side oak about 25 feet off the ground. Within a few seconds he was gone. A red-shouldered hawk was included in yesterday’s second count period as well.
I began the afternoon bird count when this Cooper's hawk paid a visit.
Of course, when this guy shows up, flies within a few feet of the feeders, and perches 5 feet of the ground and 25 feet from the feeders, he is the only bird to be counted.
He only stayed a minute, and within minutes there were tens of birds back at the Habitat feeders.

2007 Great Backyard Bird Count Continues at the Colvin Run Habitat

Here are a few more photos from yesterday’s Colvin Run Habitat participation in the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count. We start with the Habitat’s signature northern cardinal.
You have to love the blue jay’s colors in the still snow-covered ground. The same maple trees that attracted the yellow-bellied sapsucker yesterday also encouraged this Carolina chickadee to grab a hold of the maple tree trunk. Is there sap running? Could be. Anyway, I have never before observed the chickadee on the trunk like a woodpecker.
And we close with this crow doing what he does best – making lots of noise.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Arrives for First Time

As if not be left out of the 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count, a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was observed in the Colvin Run Habitat for the very first time.

Showing Up to be Counted

It seems that all of the birds in the Colvin Run Habitat bird are showing up for the Audubon Society's 2007 Great Backyard Bird Count. Here are a few of the early morning visitors. The eastern towhee showed again this morning...
and the tufted titmouse is always present... is the white-throated sparrow...
...and, of course, the Cooper's Hawk.
With the temperature in the 20's (F) this morning, all but the titmouse had their feathers fluffed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Woodpeckers in the Snow

Yesterday’s snow and last night’s sleet put a beautiful white highlight across the entire Colvin Run Habitat. A pair of downy woodpeckers (first two photos), a sparrow (third photo), and an American goldfinch (last photo) arrived today to create more peaceful winter photos. Of course, the cardinals posed yesterday.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Maintains Order at the Feeder

We had snow yesterday, but overnight we received about 4 inches of sleet. The result was a hard crust of ice that prevented the birds from feeding off of the ground.
The feeders, and especially the two window feeders, became busy places. At times (first photo) there were three birds feeding at the window location. Other times, two would feed there and another would hover until there was space enough to land. The starlings came and created total chaos.
The red-bellied woodpecker arrived to feed and to maintain order. She simply pecked the starling against the window. When the starling attempted to take a seed or to get out of corner, the woodpecker just pecked him back into submission. Finally, the starling gave up and flew away.

Cooper's Hawks Visit Together

Multiple, simultaneous hawks are beginning to be more common in the Colvin Run Habitat. An immature Cooper's hawk returned today (first photo). He perched about 20 feet off the ground for about 15 minutes then left.
A mature Cooper's hawk perched about 40 feet up in one of the oak trees. He showed no interest any of the smaller songbirds. The mature Cooper's hawk was content to just watch what was going on; he stayed perched in the same place for over an hour. I got the third photo as he left.

Starlings Bath in Hot Tub

The heater for the bird bath has worked hard during today's winter storm. The mockingbird (first photo) comes to the Habitat only to drink; he never visits the feeders.
The starlings come several times a day to bath (second photo), something that the other birds just do not do. The heater keeps the water just above freezing, but the starling play as if it was a hot tub.