A flock of starlings, settling into their roost for the night.
The snow has been falling all week, gently but steadily, and the world is blanketed in the deep silence of winter. The birds are starting to depend on our backyard feeder – there’s a Downy Woodpecker that has made permanent residence on the suet, the Cardinal pair shows up regularly at dusk, and the Goldfinches chatter away in gossiping groups, nibbling on the niger seeds.
Meanwhile, the squirrels are doing all they can to stake their claim to the spoils. While a seed or two gets tossed to the ground by the birds, there isn’t much but crumbs for the mammals to scrounge for. This little guy positioned himself under the feeder, staring at the window, and almost seems to be pleading, “please, please, take pity on me – all I want is a few sunflower seedsto fill my empty belly!” He is kinda cute (check out his chestnut-coloured vest!) and I do feel a tinge of sympathy for him, but then I remember how he chewed through my Christmas lights, and what a bully he is to the red squirrels, and I don’t feel all that charitable. Then again, it is the Christmas season…I think I might just embrace the spirit of the holidays and put out some peanuts.
(Click through to see the 5 images in this post).
Of course, being in the Caribbean without kids meant I had the time and opportunity to do some serious birding. While the biodiversity of Central and South America is better, there were still lots of endemics and beautiful birds to observe. Ironic that the best place to bird was actually at the resort, even though we spent over 8 hours in the Nacional Parque del Este (with a pricey private guide and boat tour), where we barely heard a peep. And you know what? Not much can beat birding in a bathing suit with a rum punch in your hand.
All of these images were taken with my trusty 70-200 mm f/4, which is a bit of a bulky beast to carry around on vacation. More to come on that later.
White-necked crow (with a crazy red eye):
Black-crowned palm tanager:
Hispaniolan lizard-cuckoo (so cool watching this guy hunt!):
Hispaniolan woodpecker, excavating a cavity:
It’s amazing what the birds know that we don’t. A few days ago they arrived en masse, and descended on the feeders and trees, calling and posturing, and feeding in a frenzy. Then they were gone – just before the cold snap hit. Headed north, ahead of the storm, slowly working their way to where they’ll set up territories for the breeding season.
Our neighbourhood is filled with Common Grackles, European Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. The American Goldfinch males are changing into their resplendent yellow plumage, there’s a Carolina Wren singing in our maple, and the Cardinals are pairing up.
It’s happening – spring is near – just listen to the birds.