Coyotes Howling

moon phase Week of 12/21/2003 Excellent days to harvest for drying

The sun broke through the clouds to stay and felt pretty good after three day of gloomy weather. The new warmth felt so good to the birds at the feeders that they sang as they ate. The chickadees chicked, the nuthatch beeped, the cardinals chirped, the juncos twittered and the red-bellied woodpecker chattered, a very nice afternoon concert indeed.

Coyotes Howling

Seven sassy turkeys walked into the yard, their beautiful glossy feathers reflecting the sun. They wasted no time finding the spot where I sprinkled seed on the ground. It takes them about an hour to clean up whatís on the ground then they just walk away, off into the woods and gone. Turkeys travel in small to large groups, sometimes numbering 50 or more. In the winter, they spend their days walking through these hills and valleys, searching for a tasty opportunity. A flock of turkeys can eat a lot and as they walk along, they snap up anything edible. They snip off the buds on the shrubs or they may pluck up some fat acorns. They may duck down to snap up some green clover or discover some bits of shell corn in a picked field.

Wild turkeys are very resourceful and do just fine through the winter, as long as they can find plenty to eat. They are the largest members of the grouse family and like most grouse, they will fly up into a tree and feed on the buds meant for next summerís leaves. This means that they have a source of food even when the snow gets too deep on the ground. At night they fly up into the branches of tall trees where they will roost for the night.

These are the shortest days of the year, not to mention the longest nights and soon the days will be getting longer. We may not notice the changes real soon but for many of natureís wild things, itís the beginning of spring. By he first of January, the red foxes will begin their courtship play. The great horned owls are also amorous this time of the year and begin softly calling to each other.

The coyotes too feel natureís call and howl to each other in the night. As the moon rose one night last week, it brought forth a chorus of coyote music that gave me goosebumps. For some, these short days are a prelude to a song of spring that will pluck at the heartstrings. They are among the first to feel the promise of spring.

The loud, sharp calls of a piliated woodpecker come from up the valley. He has been chiseling large holes in the trunk of a big, dead cottonwood tree. The reward for his hard work is the wood-eating larva of beetles, the piliatedís favorite food. Many people would cut the dead trees down and use them for firewood. I like to leave many of these trees standing so that I can watch the woodpeckers at work. The holes left by them may provide a home for many other needy birds or animals. In the summer, a large dead tree may be a perfect perch for a hawk, owl or heron.

I will be spending all day Saturday doing an annual Christmas bird count. Birders from all around the United States will attempt to count the birds they see in a 15 mile area from where they live. Itís always fun to go birding for a day with other folks who enjoy wild birds as much as me.

This time of the year, if we see 25-30 different kinds of birds, itís a good outing. The totals of birds seen around country are compiled by the national Audubon club and reveal the bird populations for given areas each winter.

The four of us enjoyed a pleasant, sunny day with temperatures in the mid 30s. We did some walking but mostly we slowly drove some 80 miles down the country roads and watched for birds from the car. We didnít spot any rare birds but we did see some very interesting ones among the 29 different species of wild birds we saw.

Hereís a list of birds that we saw on the 2003 Christmas Bird Count.

cardinals - 38
bluejays - 41
juncos - 64
goldfinch - 50
purple finch - 10
downy woodpecker - 8
hairy woodpecker - 5
red-bellied woodpecker - 8
piliated woodpecker - 2
red-tailed hawk - 15
rough-legged hawk - 1
Cooperís hawk - 1
sharp-shinned hawk - 1
bald eagles - 3
barred owl - 1
great horned owl - 1
crows - 78
white-breasted nuthatch - 1
mourning doves - 2
chickadees - 33
turkeys - 167
kingfisher - 1
rock doves - 57
starlings - 162
tree sparrows - 80
English sparrows - 153
pheasants - 8
tufted titmouse - 1
kestrel - 3

Total - 995

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