Some December birds

This has been a strange December so far.  A few freezing nights but daytime highs around 10ºC. I’m still gardening; usually the ground is frozen by now. This squirrel should have been fast asleep by now for the winter (the red squirrels are out whenever there’s a warm spell but I don’t usually see black/grey at all until spring)

Grey Squirrel
Grey Squirrel

I was wondering why this downy woodpecker was spending so much time in the weeds.  Usually I see sparrows, juncos, finches, chickadees and the like, feasting off the seeds, but that’s not a usual diet for woodpeckers though they do eat seeds (peanuts being obvious ones).  However, if you look closely just above its claws you will see a gall on a dead goldenrod head.  These are inhabited by small grubs. That is what it is after.  It spent about half an hour going through the galls in this patch.

Woodpecker on galls
Woodpecker on galls

Speaking of claws, the hawks win in that department.  This sharp-shinned hawk is a frequent visitor.  If I look out and see no birds, I can usually spot this one somewhere.  It is a magnificent flyer.  There are some pictures in last year’s posts of it doing aerobatics in a bush, in hot pursuit of a junco. I’d made a few guesses as to identity in posts at that time but at the moment I think this one is the sharp-shinned species on the basis of the shape of the end of the tail but it is rather similar to Cooper’s Hawk.

Sharp-shinned hawk
Sharp-shinned hawk

The next picture is the same one, zoomed out a little.  It looks like the hawk is pretending to be part of the carved fence-post, so the small birds will come back.

Hawk on carving
Hawk on carving

Another picture helps with the ID, although the one with the best view of the squared-0ff tail was a bit blurred so not included here.

Back view of the hawk
Back view of the hawk

 

Author: Eric Lawton

Eric is a natural philosopher living in rural Ontario

1 thought on “Some December birds”

  1. Hi Eric
    I really enjoy your blog. What a rare and amazing place you have on the Pigeon headwaters on the Oak Ridges Moraine! I have subscribed to your blog. Please keep up the interesting anecdotes and great photographs!
    Cheers and Happy New Year!
    James Pitropov OAA

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