Nature: An unusual visitor is causing a stir on Islesford



This Eurasian collared dove has recently been seen at a bird feeder on Islesford.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JOY SPRAGUE

A wanderer in the bird world is causing a bit of excitement on Isleford. A friend there has been having an unusual visitor at her feeder recently and she sent me a great photo of a Eurasian collared dove.

These beautiful doves were introduced in Florida in 1980 and are now seen throughout the U.S., including Isleford! These doves are very adaptable. They seem to avoid areas of thick forests and are very happy where they find open areas where grain food is readily available. They are not happy with very cold temperatures, which may explain fewer sightings in the Northeast.

The female lays one or two eggs each brood and has multiple broods a year. In their family life, the male chooses the nesting spot and tries to convince the female to also like it. He makes a lot of ‘coo-koo’ sounds and brings nesting material to her to use. These birds can nest year-round in warmer territories.

When getting ready to nest, the male brings the female twigs, grasses and such building materials he can put right under her. It takes about three days for the nest to be built out of feathers, wood, wool, strings and even wire. They may often use the same nest again and just add a few improvements. Normally they have three to six broods a year, and the young are covered in down.

Watch for them to be roosting on utility poles wires, tall trees and in open areas near feeding sites and/or foraging on the ground, as such birds are prone to do.

They like black-oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, cracked corn millet and milo. Please let me know if they visit you. As of this writing, they have not caused any problems where they are being seen.

Snowy owls are back on Cadillac! Michael Good, one of our birding experts on this island, recently reported some nice sightings. Snowy owls nest in the Arctic, but as the young birds search for food, they range farther away from home. Many come here about now to forage for hare and other such small mammals. Some years, these Arctic birds have been even seen as far south as Florida!

In the 50 years I have lived here, their yearly presence has greatly increased in the winter months. If their natural food – lemmings – has a good reproduction, the owls have plenty of food, but if not, they have to go farther afield.

You don’t have to actually climb the mountains to see them for they often are seen along the road sitting in a tree. One year the whole student body in the Trenton Elementary School had an owl that all the students and faculty got to enjoy. These owls are usually quite tame for they come from an area where there are very few, if any, people. The airport in Trenton and the open fields seem like home to them and one or two usually are quite visible from the road. Whenever you travel along that road, keep your eyes open now and through the winter. They are a large white owl and a daytime flier.

A few years ago we were having some roof work done by carpenters. One fellow came to the door to ask if the owl sitting on the roof was a pet. The bird just sat there all day watching them. It actually was a wild female snowy owl just hanging out for the day.

A snowy owl enjoys a feather-ruffling wind at the shore. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO.

They are more normally seen on the beach or a big rock near the seas. Even though this bird is very large, its mottled black and white coloring helps it blend in to almost any background and you can easily miss it. The first one I ever saw was on the beach having its feather blown in the winter wind. I thought it was an old newspaper with the pages flapping until I looked with my binoculars and saw a gorgeous snowy owl staring back at me. Keep your eyes alert for everything on the mountains or along the shore throughout the winter.

December is here and new and different birds will be visiting your feeder. Watch for redpolls. They come with the snowflakes and leave as spring approaches. They are about the size of a chipping sparrow and are darkly streaked grayish brown with white wing bars. The breast and rump are pink and the adult male has a red cap and blackish chin. Redpolls have a habit of ‘talking’ to each other as they move along. These colorful little wanderers move along often with goldfinches and pine siskins in large groups. Something may startle them as they are feeding and they all rise up, swirl around and then land almost in the same spot. This is a nice behavior to see on a winter’s walk.

Bundle up and go for a winter walk. There is much to be seen in our winter landscape.

Send any questions or observations to [email protected].

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

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