Monday, June 22, 2020

Red-headed Wonder in Essex!!

When a bird shows up that has been seen in Chittenden County only a handful of times, it's cause for excitement. When the bird is wearing brilliant red, white and deepest black, it's even better! 

A Red-headed Woodpecker has been hanging around a residential area in Essex Junction, first seen by the homeowners and now ogled by many local birders. Clem Nilan (who gave us an amazing photo of a very rare White Pelican last August) shared these pictures of the beautiful bird.

Red-headed Woodpeckers used to be very common in much of the U.S. but their population has been declining by about 2% a year since the 1960s. Possible reasons include the loss of most of the country's chestnut trees in the early twentieth century and the significant reduction in the numbers of beech trees (for food) and big dead trees (for nesting). The species is now considered threatened or endangered. 

About a third of their diet consists of insects, which they dig out of trees like other woodpeckers but also catch on the wing like flycatchers. In addition, they eat nuts, seeds, corn, berries and other fruits. They often save bits of food such as bugs and nuts by pushing them into small crevices in trees or even under house shingles, and then come back and retrieve the tidbits during the winter.

Male and female Red-headed Woodpeckers look alike. During courtship, they sometimes play “hide and seek” with each other around stumps or power poles. Once mated, the pair may stay together for several years.

Thanks to Clem for these wonderful photos! (Information is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Spring Rainbow of Jericho, VT. Backyard Birds

Photos of recent bird visitors to our backyard along with a poem to celebrate their arrival and in some cases, departure. 

Spring Rainbow
Bernie Paquette

From bleak 

black and white

chickadees brave the cold winter months.

Grey skies of early spring

bring gray catbirds 

whose tops remain black

lest the sky darkens with May ice. 

Goldfinches hedge their bets

some stubbornly or perhaps wisely

hold onto dark subdued olive green

while others bask in lemon yellow

sunning themselves to gold.

They too hold a black cap
black and white wings

like a funeral armband

in remembrance of winter’s cold embrace.

The bluebird’s entry reflects the true

turning point

breast of white like the last holdouts of snow

receding into orangish-brown of last year's foliage

erupting in bright blue of berries yet to come.

Perhaps second to announce
spring must come, it truly must

red-wing blackbirds 
with flashy epaulets of red and yellow

followed shortly thereafter by streaked females

blushing in burnt orange at the males' advances.

A few white-crowned sparrows and white-throated sparrows

passing through

tree sparrows swap out with chipping sparrows and song sparrows

trailing the fox sparrow departure,

as spring overlaps winter.

Grackles bear purple heads 

spring is colder than it looks.

Finally blue skies set the backdrop

spring locks in place 
with the black and white of chickadees


the black and orange

of Baltimore orioles 

shocking the senses against a still nearly barren brown landscape.

As a precursor to hot summer days

grosbeaks shatter all doubt

with rose-red bibs and flesh-colored bills.

Spirited rainbows of spring

join the enduring black and white 

for a blend of temperatures, colors, transitions.

A diversity of seasons

marked by temperature, migration, and color.

From bleak 

black and white,

chickadees change their minds*

as orioles seek oranges 

before trees swap drab black and grey
for every green imaginable. 


This female Baltimore Oriole came to us on May 17 about a week after the males showed up.