In 1972, when our family moved to Mount Desert Island, mockingbirds were only summer visitors. Then, as years went by, more and more of these birds were seen, even in the winter. It soon became a common sight to see them in the snow and feeding on numerous berries still found on local vegetation. In the last 10 years or so, I have been getting fewer and fewer reports. In some years, I get none about this bird. I have wondered about this.
Here in South Carolina where I am for few weeks this winter, mockingbirds are a familiar sight and they are regular nesters. They fly about and land with a flourish and are quite vocal. Along the beach and through the vegetation where the park paths lead you behind the beaches, they are very noticeable and easy to see. These lovely birds often sing in the night and they have quite a long repertoire of songs. When I was writing a nature column for the Norwalk Hour many years ago, I received a letter from a column reader asking me how to stop the mockingbirds singing outside her house at night. She was from New York City and said it kept her awake! If you have seen one recently or regularly, would you please let me know?
Not too long ago, I wrote about Oreo, the now grown up skunk that lives at the Kisma Preserve and that is popular with visitors there. This skunk was brought to the preserve by a woman who had just found it wandering on the road, upset since its mother had just been killed on the highway. The lady scooped it up in her hand and left it at the preserve. It is now full grown and is a beautiful, very friendly skunk. A column reader friend of mine mentioned to me that he, too, came upon five very young skunks playing in the road one day, oblivious to the danger they were in. He picked them up one by one and moved them off the road to a nearby, but safer, spot. They didn’t object and went right on playing together. Hopefully their mother was not too far away. Skunks only release that obnoxious odor when they are afraid or hurt. If you are walking with a dog, go the other way as fast as possible and tell your dog “NO BARKING!”
Around your home, don’t leave any food trash out and easy to get into. Raccoons are masters at opening cans and boxes Be diligent about such things and you’ll not be bothered by wildlife looking for food.
Male red-winged blackbirds are being seen already! It is the male that is seen first. They come northward and try to find what they think is good place for the nest. The females arrive a few weeks later and often ignore the males’ plans. Listen for that beautiful ‘honk-er-ee‘ musical call of the male. I love this sound! An easy place to see these birds is at the causeway near Seawall.
Column readers frequently send me photos of plants, animals, birds, insects, tracks, etc. I always try to identify the photo with help from many experts I know. It will help tremendously if you would include some familiar object in the photo so we have accurate size comparison. Use a shoe, piece of money, glove…just any familiar object you have with you at the moment. Also note time of day, location, etc. Give lots of clues!
With an unknown bird, send a photograph (good or bad), specific location, length of bill, tail and legs, time of day and behavior. Compare size to a chickadee, robin, crow, eagle or turkey and give a general location. All of these clues help.
Wintering purple finches begin singing this month. These birds are among the most melodious of our American finches. From the top of a tree, a male finch pours out his ecstatic warble in an attempt to impress a female. If his chosen mate is near, he will launch himself into the air, still singing and fluttering about with quivering wings.
This raspberry–colored finch is by nature a forest bird, but it has adapted to civilization and comes to feeders readily. Coniferous trees and a good supply of sunflower seeds will attract this songster. Males in the winter start showing a little red in their plumage as March comes along. When he is in full breeding plumage, he is all red and he uses his color to woo the female. Females are brown and heavily striped birds with a broad whitish stripe over the eye, looking quite like a sparrow, but their bill is typically finchlike, large and stout. Although pine grosbeaks are similarly colored, they are much bigger and nearly the size of a robin.
Send any questions or observations to [email protected].