Feeder Watch During a Pandemic:
Many people in Westford have bird feeders and avidly watch them throughout the year, especially in this year when we are home more due to the Covid pandemic. Others start feeding birds in November or December when the bears are snoozing in their warm dens. Some of us participate in Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project Feeder Watch. This involves simply writing down the birds you see on your feeder once a week, and reporting those observations to Cornell. The data are compiled and reported by the Lab. Citizen science has proven to be a powerful tool for gaining insight into bird population trends, and bird behavior.
A recent Cornell Lab publication, entitled Winter Bird Highlights 2020, summarizes Feeder Watch reports received from many regions in the U.S. Numbers of participants varies widely by region. The northeast region, of which Westford is a part, has by far the most reporters, with 7614 sites reporting.. The next closest is the southeast region, with 1676 sites. Hawaii has the lowest number of reporters; only six sites reporting from all the islands combined. Some national trends appear in the data. House sparrows, for instance are declining everywhere, even in their native land of England. It is not known why the decline, but it seems to be associated with the suburban and urban habitat these birds prefer, as they are not declining in rural areas.
Its interesting to read the “Top 25” lists of birds from each area. In the northeast region, the most frequently reported bird is the black-capped chickadee, which is reported from 95% of sites. The average flock size seen is two birds. Next on the list for our area is the dark-eyed junco, our winter “snow bird”. These birds which arrive in October or November, are reported from 93% of sites, with an average flock size of four. Next comes Downy woodpecker reported from 92% of sites. The top six species have been stable in population for the past years. But some birds are showing either upward or downward trends. Red-bellied woodpecker, number ten on the list, is trending up in numbers seen and sites reporting. American robin, number 11 on the list, is trending up in numbers seen, as are Carolina wren and northern flicker. These are all previously “southern birds” that, perhaps due to warming of the climate, have been able to greatly expand their range to the north. Two species whose numbers are mysteriously trending sharply down, are American crow and purple finch.
Its a lot of fun to watch and record your feeder birds. If you are interested in joining the Project Feeder Watch citizen science group, go to their website at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and click on Project Feeder Watch. There you can find simple instructions for how to join. While you’re on the Cornell Lab site, you might want to take the time to look at their many projects. On the website, you will find many publications, including Winter Bird Highlights 2020, instructive videos, bird cams, classes for kids, a real-time interactive migration map, and much more.
Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of November. Please send reports by December 26, to be included in next month’s column. You can call me at 692-3907, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write me at 7A Old Colony Drive.
Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. November report: November 3, “a hermit thrush hit our sliding glass door. It was stunned and laid on its side. About 15 minutes later, it stood up and sat for a while, then went to edge of deck and flew off. I ordered more window strike stickers to put on the window.” Seen at feeders, purple, house and goldfinches, two pairs of cardinals. One tried to take a bird bath in this cold weather. Two pairs of blue jays, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers. The female downy keeps pecking on the shingles on the side of the house. Chickadees, tufted titmouse. November 16, juncos arrived–late this year, field sparrows, hawk circling. November 20, bear visit 1 a.m. Male deer in back yard, turkeys visit under feeders. One afternoon, 3 turkeys pecking on one upset turkey. Then two females ran in and joined in the melee. I tried to go over, but they dashed out into the street. Also, squirrels, Canada geese flying over. Beaver evidence on trees at East Boston Camps. Many bittersweet bushes on our walks, strangling and killing trees and bushes. Two dandelions blooming–a surprise. Leland pond is filled again. Also have seen princess pine, partridge berry, wintergreen.
Marian/Bill Harman, Old Colony Drive. November 4, fifty degrees and sunny. Five goldfinches on feeders, two juncos, one Carolina wren, two chickadees, one white-breasted nuthatch, two titmice, a goldeneye duck on Keyes Pond. November 22, 40’s and heavy rain. At feeders, one hairy woodpecker, one red-bellied woodpecker three goldfinches, three chickadees, two titmice, nine mourning doves, one blue jay, one male cardinal, two grey squirrels.
Bob Oliphant, Robinson Rd. November 9, report from a Ring camera in one of the houses at the end of Flagg Road: This morning at 8:25 a.m. as I was walking up Parkhurst from Hildreth St., a black bear walked across the road right in front of me. He was headed towards Hildreth near Flagg Rd. intersection. I turned around and walked up through the center and down Main St. to complete my walk and stay out of the bear’s way. He was near the power lines, that runs up to Quebec. I’m convinced this is the main route for many of the larger animals to reach Westford. November 10, saw a pileated woodpecker in our back yard this morning, and also about a week ago.
Rose O’Donnell, Sassafras Rd. November 9, saw two very small birds, distinctive yellow band on head, mostly greyish, smaller than a sparrow, not fearful. November 23, a flock of about 30 robins in my front yard, soaking wet. But they keep flying into my windows, 3 now. [Rosemarie Koester and I have used Window Alert decals on our windows with great success-MH]
Anita Aubin, on the trail that connects Leland and Court. November 9, Saw a coyote that didn’t pay my dog and me any mind, just kept trotting through the woods.
Fernandes Family, Vineyard Rd. November 15, twelve goldfinches on feeders, lots of chickadees and titmice.
Emily Teller, at Hayrick Lane. November 16, male bluebird on tree branch, one or two ravens flew over, and possibly a broad-winged hawk.
Mike Woessner, Bradley Lane. November 21, spotted three bobcats here in Blanchard condominiums. Walking on Blanchard Lane, we saw a bobcat and two kittens. Unfortunately I did not have a camera….
Leslie Thomas, Old Colony Drive. November 21, a small dark bird got in the house late at night. Leslie just went to bed and closed the door. The next day it was at a window. Leslie just opened the window and it flew out [good call Leslie!-MH] It now seems it is roosting every night in the autumn wreath on her door. Leslie just has to be careful to not disturb it when she comes home after dark.
Tom Luminello, Old Colony Drive. November 21, two pileated woodpeckers working together to make a hole in a tree in the yard.
Esther Donlon, Providence Rd. November 26. My wildlife camera caught a photo of a buck, several times. [Esther sent an outstanding daytime photo of this handsome buck-MH]
Elona and Michael Hart, November 15, Woodpecker seed bars seem to be favorites at our feeders and attract a wide variety of our feathered neighbors. today, we recorded nine different species around our feeder in a single hour. ” While downy woodpecker, hairy woodpecker and white-breasted nuthatch took turns at drilling into the bar, a small flock of dark-eyed juncos and a pair of cardinals were busy picking seeds and crumbs falling to the ground. Several black-capped chickadees and tufted titmice were continuously flying in and out to partake in the feast, whereas a Carolina wren and a female American goldfinch stopped by once to pick out their own favorites. One can never get tired of watching that busy scene!” [Elona and Mike sent great photos of the birds-MH]
Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. November report: November 3, “a hermit thrush hit our sliding glass door. It was stunned and laid on its side. About 15 minutes later, it stood up and sat for a while, then went to edge of deck and flew off. I ordered more window strike stickers to put on the window.”
Marian Harman is a member of the Westford Conservation Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Westford’s open spaces and trails. The Trust welcomes new members and volunteers. Check out our website at westfordconservationtrust.org, or visit us on Facebook.