Monday, 5 March 2018


     The biggest story here is the amazingly benign weather we are having, in total contrast to what we see from Europe on the television news.
    Overnight last Thursday we were forecast to get a substantial snowfall but it fizzled out and what we received barely coated the ground, and was gone by mid afternoon. 
     When we looked out of the window on Friday morning the first American Robin (Turdus migratorius) of the spring was in the backyard.

      Many robins spend the winter here of late, with the result that the first migrants no longer generate the excitement they used to in times past when their presence was a true signal that spring had come.
     You can see the paltry amount of snow that I referred to above. The daytime temperatures are now consistently in the plus column and as you may see the Conestogo River is totally ice-free and the fields and lanes are bare.

        We noticed an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) at one of our feeders the other day with a bad case of avian conjunctivitis  (Mycoplasma gallisepticum) in one eye. The pictures below show the "good" side and the "bad" side.

     This condition is generally indicative of other health problems in the bird, but doubtless it renders the individual far more prone to predation by accipiters who can attack it from the blind side. Mouldy bird seed, or an accumulation of bird droppings and stale food contribute to this condition, and it helps to clean bird feeders in a 10% bleach solution before refilling them. Metal, plastic and glass surfaces are much preferred over wood.
     Yesterday, while out and about on a little birding foray, the highlight was this stunning male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus).

     Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are pairing off and we saw evidence of this a couple of times yesterday. One member of the pair remained long enough for a few pictures.

     Each day now holds the possibility of new migrants so there is a great deal of anticipation each time we go out. Riverside Park in Cambridge is the destination for tomorrow's Ramble with David. Stay tuned for what we might see there.


  1. Hi David, Glad you have spring going on up there the frigid wind has keep me at bay the past couple days, nothing worse than a cold stiff wind! I used to catch the finches that I found with conjunctivitis if you creep up on their bad side you can literally reach out and grab them off the feeder. After a week of treatment they would be completely healed and the eye working. I worked for a bird rehab center for a couple yrs as a volunteer, and I learned all sorts of tricks. I have a little cage I keep in my shed for this purpose, and keep the eye suave (Terramycin)handy you can get it at most farm supply stores or purchase it online. Just put in on with a q-tip. AND you can get Bird Doxycycline powder to put in their water they respond very well to treatment. Or take them to a bird rehab center. IF you can catch it! At one time I used a Fishing net on a long pole, but that was harder than just sneaking up them.

    1. Thanks for all the tips, Sondra. I might just try to see if I can help them.

  2. Hari OM
    ...I always stop and ruminate on the fact that it was the 'red belly' the wood pecker was named for... &*> It has indeed been fierce and wintry over this side of the big water and another week of less-than-spring ahead of us it seems... though I did notice a pair of pigeons doing the 'dance of the dearest' yesterday morning. YAM xx

  3. Hello David!
    Lovely images of the fields and the river!
    Very beautiful birds visiting your feeders and your yard!
    Great shots of the American Robin and the Red Bellied Woodpecker!
    Feel sorry for that poor bird!Enjoy your new week!

    1. Yes, it is sad to see birds in this condition.

  4. The American robin is beautiful too, and I love it. Regret the sick bird. The woodpecker enchanted me. Regards.

  5. The American robins are wonderful! They have also returned to my neighborhood.
    It's very sad to see Gold Finch being sick. I didn't know that feeders can cause health problems for birds. You gave a great advice about keeping feeders clean. Red -bellied Woodpecker and Red Tail Hawk are great!
    I enjoyed this post very much!

  6. The American robin is far prettier than I thought it was, lovely photos. The Red-bellied Woodpecker though is outstanding, superb photos, well done Miriam. Have a great week Diane

  7. Hi David,
    You cannot trust winters anymore these days. In the Netherlands we haven't had much snow, but it has been freezing strongly, for a short period. In combination with a strong wind it was not pleasant to be outside: a few minus degrees changed into a feeling of about -20°C.
    You show us here again a couple of beautiful pictures of birds we don't ever see here. Looking back at your previous blog it is once again clear that we have a completely different kind of wildlife. That makes it interesting to visit your blog.
    Greetings, Kees

  8. I'm pleased to report that our cold spell has now retreated - for the time being anyway - we even reached a temperature with double figures (just!) today. I hope your warm weather continues, and soon brings the delights of spring.

    It's sad to see that Goldfinch in such a sorry state. What a horrible ailment!

    Miriam's shots of the Red-bellied Woodpecker really show off that magnificent bright red crown to full advantage - a truly spectacular bird!

    My love to you both - - - Richard

  9. As always, beautiful. My finches aren't gold yet, but they are regular feeders and I look forward to their bright colors soon! Glad the storm missed you.

  10. Hi Both,
    As you say you are having a milder than normal winter, we are at last having a proper winter, lets just hope a proper summer follows.
    Some super images, the American Robin is such a colorful little bird but greatly outshone by the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Also the Red-tailed Hawk is such a splendid subject.
    I have never seen a bird with conjunctivitis.
    Super images Miriam.
    All the best, John

    1. I hope you never do, John. It is not a pleasant sight.

  11. I do love your Red-bellied Woodpecker, it is beautiful.

  12. The colors of the Red-bellied are so pretty. We have a pair that hangs on our feeder several times a day and entertains us from the kitchen window. Poor little goldfinch. I hope he survives the winter. Does it ever clear up spontaneously? Or is he doomed for life?

    1. Spontaneous recovery, as far as I know, does not occur. I suspect that this may be, at least in part, due to the fact that the affected individuals and far more likely to fall victim to predators.

  13. It seems that global warming is doing its thing, with that "benign" winter that your accounts. For these latitudes we are having a hot summer, with many days exceeding 30ºC, I do not remember one so warm with the plus of the La Niña phenomenon, which here leaves drought. Beautiful birds are seen despite the winter, I really like the woodpecker, which as I told you once are my favorite group of birds, and that is very colorful so they have great appeal

  14. Nice to see this fluffy Robin. I have been seeing more and more of them.

  15. Hope the Goldfinch recovers...........

  16. Sad to see a not so well bird as I always seem to see what appears to be healthy ones.
    Still travelling Tasmania :) be home by the end of the week.

  17. Hi David.

    Wonderful this environment.
    Birds and certainly the Woodpecker are very beautiful.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  18. That bad side is, well, bad. Love the woodpecker.

    cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  19. The fluffy Robin in the snow is pretty, and how beautiful the Red-bellied Woodpecker is!
    Have a good day.

  20. Hej David!

    Do you mind if I use the Swedish language? Google translator is not perfect, sometimes very funny but it´s understandable.

    Ja, vårt väder blir alltmer oförutsägbart, här har vi haft en ovanligt mild vinter med ett tunt snötäcke men längre söderut har det varit mycket kallt och mängder med snö. Arktis drabbas hårt av klimatförändringarna och det påverkar hela vädersystem. Ännu har vi ingen vår trots att den borde börja infinna sig.

    Jag trodde nästan att den lilla rödstjärten (robin) är densamma som anländer tidigt varje vår till oss men det var inte samma lilla fågel, kollade och här heter den Erithacus rubecula. Den anländer tidigt och är en av de sista flyttfåglarna som lämnar oss på hösten. Har den i trädgården varje sommar.

    Hackspetten på bild är oerhört vacker! Här finns nästan bara större och mindre hackspett kvar. Skogsbruket med allt kalhygge som numera är den dominerande tekniken har förstört alla miljöer för t.ex. den vitryggiga hackspetten Dendrocopus leucotos. Skogarna städas på allt och återplanteras med monokulturer som inte har något gemensamt med en levande skog.


    1. Of course you may use your own language, Gunilla. You are right we have found more ways to destroy the environment than anyone could have imagined. As humans we never seem to learn the lesson that the natural ecosystem sustains us too.

  21. Such amazing pictures of birds! I think we might have gotten some of your predicted snow out here in the West. I’m glad to see it go although it is so pretty when it first falls. I do wonder how the birds survive when they get caught in a belated winter’s blast.

  22. Hi David,
    Very beautiful images, but it's very sad for the American Goldfinch. In France, we have the same problem in winter with the feeder.

  23. Super shots of this colorful Robin.. And others birds.. ;-)

  24. What a contrast in the weather with you and with what we've had here! A shame about the Goldfinch, it's so important to clean the feeders!

  25. Hello David, I am sorry for the bird with the blind eye. Hope it will recover. The Woodpecker is stunning. And as I wrote the cold spell is over and gone. Spring is well on its way.

  26. Awww, I love the shot of the American Robin - they're so differently coloured to our European ones, and so cute! - Tasha

  27. Beautiful pictures of the woodpecker David, what a beautiful bird is that.
    Your other photos are also very nice to see.
    Greetings Tinie

  28. Hello dear David,
    thank you for your huge sweet response and not just your reaction. Also your e-mails that you sent me have done very well. Xxx You are really a sweetheart and a very warm and sweet person.
    My life has indeed changed forever and will never become like it once again. The awful scar will hopefully become slightly less sharp, but our dear grandson will never return. The pain of the loss and sorrow of my children is terrible.
    I hope indeed to find some distraction in nature and that this will help me to give the drama a place.
    Many dear greetings and a big hug,
    Now about your beautiful photos.
    What a beautiful photo of this beautiful variety of birds. I love the woodpecker but I see so many more beautiful birds. Seeing these birds really does me very well David. The American robin is beautiful, just like the buzzard. My compliments.

  29. Thank you for the lovely comments on my blog David, glad to be back! - Tasha

  30. Hello David,
    I'm sorry for the bird with the sore eye.
    I hope it will recover.
    The woodpecker is amazingly beautiful.
    Best regards, Irma

  31. Hola David, me apena el ave enferma, las fotos son espectaculares y las aves preciosas. En cuanto lo de hablarles es curioso pero yo siempre tengo la necesidad de hablarles y los Petirrojos creo que me escuchan. Enhorabuena. Besos para los dos.

  32. Olá David, que lindas aves, o Robin tem cores maravilhosas.

    Em Portugal, temos Março com muita chuva, aguardamos a primavera para poder fotografar com mais luz.

    Bom fim de semana,

  33. We also have beautiful sunny days here :). Soon it's going to be spring! The Red-bellied Woodpecker is really stunning like you wrote. We don't have them here in Finland.