Thursday, February 11, 2010

American Tree Sparrows; Snowfall Totals

[This American Tree Sparrow appeared at my feeders first thing this morning, new for the yard. Another appeared in Dave LaPuma's Villas yard today, too. Click to enlarge.]

Continuing my project to read both volumes, cover-to-cover, of Witmer Stone's 1937 Bird Studies at Old Cape May, last night I came upon these startling lines: "The Tree Sparrow is found in flocks all winter long and sometimes as many as two hundred may be found together. It forms the bulk of most of the mixed sparrow flocks of winter but is as frequent in flocks of its own."

Holy population collapse, Batman! American Tree Sparrows are now rare at best in Cape May County, so rare I have been searching in vain for just one for the year since January 1 and the one that appeared at my feeder today is a yard bird. Christmas Bird Count data shows American Tree Sparrows plummeting in the early 1970's. I'll put the CBC graphs up on the blog in a minute - it's not just Cape May, though the bird still remains fairly common to the north.

Since we had the high sweep through last night, with stars overhead at 5:00 a.m. or before, I wonder if David LaPuma's and my tree sparrows came in overnight from points north, or if they, like so many other birds, were wintering locally but forced to the feeders.

"Preliminary Official" snowfall totals from the NWS:

Philadelphia - 28.5" February 5-6; 15.3" February 9-10.
Atlantic City - 18.2" February 5-6; 7.1" February 9-10.
Wilmington - 25.8" February 5-6; 5.6" February 9-10.

It seems to me Cape May matched Philly for the first storm, at least in the northern part of the county, but had closer to what A.C. got with the second storm - with a fair bit of rain before and during the snow. At least two local gas stations had their roofs over the pumps completely collapse under the weight of rain and snow.

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