Miriam and I have both been busy of late with projects of one kind or another that have kept us in the house a little more than we would want, so we decided to get out for a while and check on the birds.
One of our favourite locations (covered recently on my blog) is Three Bridges Road, always potentially productive at any time of the year.
I have mentioned that some kind fellow keeps a couple of suet feeders stocked and provides bird seed too, and Miriam took a picture of this spot today to show you how insignificant a location it is - but don't tell that to the birds!
Actually, today one of the first sightings was of a rodent, anxious to get its share of the bird seed.
My level of knowledge of this taxon is pretty limited, but I think it is a vole in the genus Microtus, possibly a Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum).
Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) are migratory and most of the population migrates out of Ontario during the winter, but a few always remain to tough it out.
The same may be said of White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), and an adult bird is surely one of the most handsome of all the sparrows.
The default sparrow in winter is Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) and as expected there was no shortage of them.
You can clearly see the white outer tail feathers which are so characteristic of this species. Normally they are not quite so prominent as they appear in the picture above, except when in flight.
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) is quite common and several individuals have come to know where the suet feeder is and certainly get their share of the food.
One always associates woodpeckers with trees, but some species are not reluctant to feed on the ground if the opportunity arises. This male Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) remained there for several minutes, obviously finding the feeding much to his liking.
Our biggest surprise was to see a Brown Creeper (Certhia americana). This species is primarily migratory but some birds always spend the winter here. I had never before seen a Brown Creeper take advantage of a bird feeder, but this one made a beeline for the suet.
The familiar, and always appealing Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) seemed to be everywhere, and it was not unusual to have half a dozen of them at the same time.
Hairy Woodpecker (Leuonotopicus villosus) is basically a larger version of a Downy Woodpecker, with a longer more dagger-like bill. Both species were formerly in the genus Picoides, but molecular analysis reveals a greater degree of separation and they are now placed in different genera.
You will also notice that the outer tail feathers of Hairy Woodpecker are pure white. This feature helps to clinch the identification. Downy Woodpecker has black markings on the outer white portion of the tail as shown below.
Another distinguishing feature concerns the red patch on the back of the head of a male of either species. In the Hairy Woodpecker the red is discontinuous and broken up by a dividing line of black; in the Downy it is solid.
Several Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) were perched in nearby trees, and every so often came down to feed for a couple of minutes before returning to their perch.
Other species put in an appearance too, although we were unable to get pictures of them, but it was a very agreeable stop, and there was constant activity. We were happy that we had decided to get out of the house for a spell.
Before heading back for home we checked out the Conestogo River but there was nothing to be seen.
As you may observe there is a little ice on the river, but not much. Normally it would be frozen over by now but this winter has been so mild there is open water for the most part, especially where the flow is rapid.
We'll see what our next visit to this familiar spot delivers.