Saturday, February 6, 2010

What Would Witmer Think

[Fox Sparrow, Del Haven (10 miles north of Cape May on the Bay) today. "This, the largest of our sparrows, seems to be a regular transient in March and November while a varying number remain through the winter." (Stone, 1937) Click to enlarge all photos.]

20+" of snow fell, and it falls still. Birds rained on the feeders today, and, now that the power's back on, we can let Witmer Stone cast wise light on the scene. A re-read of his 1937 classic was overdue - what better for a birder to do in a Cape May blizzard, in between laying on the floor and poking the camera's nose out the dog door towards the feeders?

[Cape May birders profit from those who came before - Wilson, Stone (here), Peterson, and more modern giants.]

[White-throated Sparrow this morning. "This large plump sparrow is a regular winter visitant to the Cape region and a more abundant transient in autumn. . .The brilliant coloration of the old males with their black heads, and conspicuous crown stripes is in strong contrast to the duller females and young males. . ." - (ornithologists of Stone's time didn't know the details about the white-striped and tan-striped forms of the whitethroat.)]

[Dark-eyed Junco today, "Slate-colored" Junco to Stone: "'Snowbirds' as they are usually termed, here, always occur in flocks, sometimes by themselves, sometimes mingled with the various winter sparrows and often drifting about with the flights of Myrtle Warblers in windy weather and snow flurries."]

[Song Sparrow today. "The Song Sparrow may be regarded as a regular resident about Cape May, but whether the birds that we find in winter are the same as our summer breeding birds is open to question." (Stone, 1937). Song Sparrow has been as ubiquitous as you'd expect along the bayshore roadsides of late.]

[Brown-headed Cowbird today. "Snow, when heavy enough to cover the ground, disturbs the Cowbird flocks not a little and on March 11, 1934, a number of them were forced to repair to the orchard on Otway Brown's place at Cold Spring and flew down close to the house to feed on the scraps we threw out to them." (Stone, 1937).]

[European Starling today. "The Starling, which man so unwisely introduced from the Old World in 1890. . .has been increasing since its first appearance. . .by consuming the winter food supply it makes it difficult for many of our former winter residents to survive the cold months." (Stone, 1937) ]

[House Sparrow with female Brown-headed Cowbird today. "Those that come to feed on scraps of bread thrown out in our garden for other bird visitors defer to Starlings, Grackles, and Red-wings but they do not leave the field and by watching their opportunity will snatch up a crust form under the very bill of one of the larger birds and fly off with it." ]

[Female House Sparrow. "Even this familiar bird would seem to warrant further study!"]

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