Friday, March 8, 2013

So there was a little more snow to come...

OK, after my sunny disposition yesterday, it just had to go and snow today didn't it?! Yet again, March does its usual trick of swinging wildly from sunny to snowy then back again. A light dusting of snow covered the area this morning and flurries still continue, but it's mostly soggy stuff and not settling - and they're still forecasting sunny for tomorrow!

Despite the hiccup in the weather, some interesting birds have been reported today and the northward push continues. Indeed, it seems almost traditional that many 'firsts' for the year are found on yucky days. This morning, Vince Elia claimed this year's LAGU Award with his photo of a very fed-up looking Laughing Gull at the ferry terminal. I'm sure it would rather be in Trinidad right now!! An Osprey put in an appearance at Lake Lily this morning, which was probably also a newly-arrived bird. The long-staying Cackling Goose was at the Beanery field on the north side of Stevens Street this morning, while a prize of some sort for finding a seemingly 'lost' long-stayer goes to Tom Reed who re-found the Townsend's Warbler yesterday, lurking just inland of the dunes at St Peter's. Also yesterday, a Short-eared Owl was reported hunting at Stone Harbor Point - a bird very much in short supply here this winter. Latest news from the Coastguard Base is that the male King Eider has shown up again, hanging out around Cold Spring Inlet with the two Common Eiders that had previously been at the point.

Well wrapped up against the weather, I had an outdoor meeting with someone up at the Fort Apache section of the County Park South in Rio Grande this morning. As it turned out, it was a worthwhile visit from a birding perspective as we flushed a party of 12 Eastern Meadowlarks from the first field, and later I noticed a female Red Crossbill feeding on Sweet Gum fruits. Both Red and White-winged Crossbills seem to have taken readily to feeding on Sweet Gum fruits during the present southward irruption of these birds and it clearly shows that, despite their bills being heavily evolved to feed on conifer seeds, crossbills will readily feed on other seeds when they have to. Some years ago, I watched Red Crossbills in northern Norway, well beyond the tree line, feeding on dandelion seeds, while irruptions into the Scottish Islands often result in the birds feeding on thistle seed.

Don't forget that this is still good raptor-watching time too. My yard this morning produced Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks and a male Merlin in just five minutes, while a nice Northern Harrier was hunting the grasslands at Fort Apache. Now is also a good time to keep an eye on unusual visitors to your backyard feeder; if you regularly get grackles and blackbirds, keep an eye out for the off Rusty Blackbird among them, while before the month's end, there's a reasonable chance of you turning up your first Pine Warbler for the year.