At least a dozen Dark-eyed juncos, the feathers on their backs and flanks darkened from overall slate-color to overall black by the determined snowfall, fed this morning on seeds of the Agastache. The White-tailed deer may have robbed the American robins of a treat of Winterberries, but another native plant has provided sustenance another native bird.
Earlier this week (15 January) — the same day a Bluebird perched on a box I hope it will use in the spring to make a nest — a sizable flock of European starlings descended on the many suet feeders much the way the robins came in for the Winterberries last year. The ground was frozen but not snow covered. Those waiting their turn at the suet feeders foraged with their powerful, straight, pointed bills for insects in the grasses at the meadow’s edge. With binoculars, I could see their larger finds: insects that looked like dirt covered grasshoppers. Were they shaking off the dirt or defrosting carcases as they shook their prey? Either way, I could see the advantage of the suet.
Starlings, fortunately, are not regulars at the feeders here. But on the 20th, the day of the second light snow of the season, the feeders were visited by the usual suspects in unusual numbers. The one usual bird I did not see that day was the Norther flicker. The birds who did show up included the Bluejay, the Downy woodpecker, the Red-bellied woodpecker, the Mourning dove, the Northern cardinal, the Tufted titmouse, the Dark-eyed junco, the White-breasted nuthatch, the Black-capped chickadee, and the White-throat sparrow.
This year’s regulars no longer include the House sparrow in what appears to be a positive outcome of last year’s trapping program. The Grey squirrel population also has declined substantially but not quite to zero. The feeders stay full longer. Queuing up for a place at the feeders seems to work better without the House sparrows and the squirrels who took longer turns than the others.