Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bird Song Since the Solstice

A simple clean house is one that is rebuilt each year. In times past, Polish peasants annually whitewashed their walls and pasted up elaborate paper cutouts of flowers, leaves, animals and people.

I read that the first day of spring for the birds is the winter solstice (Birdsong by the Seasons: A Year of Listening to Birds by Donald Kroodsma). I, like the author, decided to determine if this is true. This winter's solstice occurred on Monday, December 21. My inquiry was cut short on two ends: my inability to rise in winter before daybreak and the need to get in the car and drive to work.

As a walked to the birdfeeder and filled it, I heard several notable songs:
A tufted timouse sang, Peter, peter, peter. Peter, peter, peter. A chickadee, Hey, sweetie. A white-breasted nuthatch sang, too, though not much of a song, it was other than the it's bleeting trumpet! A woodpecker drummed. I heard all this in just a few minutes, after not hearing any territorial bird song (except pieces of white-throated sparrow song - Oh sweeeet Cahhhnuu.) since the phoebe left.

Since then, I have observed several territorial displays. Perhaps the most interesting, was a nuthatch at the feeder. In typical nuthatch style, he hung upside down and flared his wings repeatedly at a titmouse. He appeared like a bat imitating a sunning turkey vulture. This week, a nuthatch seesawed at the opening on the great crested flycatcher nest box. Perhaps noted how much nesting material would be need to fill the box.

Today, the bluebird family inspected its previous nest box, as well as the kestrel box (from which a male bluebird ousted a curious starling just a week ago. Unfortunately, it also chased the great crested last summer.). Two male bluebirds sat in the kestrel box opening, peering in. They burst out as another bluebird exited the box.

On Thursday, I heard to titmice calling Peter, peter at Washington Crossing State Park. One called from near a building, the other from the picnic area. They timed their songs so that each Peter, peter occurred between the other bird's Peter, peter. Why waste time singing if your lady can't hear you?

So, the songs have continued since the solstice with increased territorial displays. I'm looking forward to the spring, but we still have 100 pounds of birdseed and much preparatory work to do in the garden.


The hedgerow below the garden before (above) and after (below). A former haven for my gardening companion, the song sparrow, and my garden's companion, the groundhog. I'd like to promise the wintering sparrows and the returning common yellow throats that their home will be rebuilt with far more delightful plants like persimmon and chinquapin. For now, goodbye multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet and Japanese honeysuckle.

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