Woodpeckers galore

Reader Kelly Randolph had this array of woodpeckers show up at her feeders.

May is here and all the wild creatures are trying to get on with the business of raising families despite the continued cold temperatures. Around the town of Gingles we're seeing more coyotes and foxes out during the day. They seem to be leaving the neighborhood chickens alone, and unfortunately for gardeners they're also ignoring the cottontail rabbits. Most of our rabbits survived the winter, which suggests to me that we don't have many owls or other raptors around to keep the population down. I haven't heard any owls this spring so they must be setting up their nests and territories elsewhere. Owls, if you're reading this, we have plenty of rodents to support your families, so come on over! Also, our resident nuisance bear is back in action, knocking over garbage bins and taking out bird feeders that are left out overnight. I've haven't seen it in person yet, but it's only a matter of time since it isn't at all impressed by humans and their efforts to scare it off. We also have three deer that come into the yard to graze every morning and evening from the wooded area to the southeast.

Right now the bird feeder visitors are more varied than they were over the winter. The dark-eyed juncos and fox sparrows have moved on, but I haven't yet seen any of the chipping sparrows that take over their niche in the summer. We have large flocks of goldfinches, some purple finches, a pair of northern cardinals and song sparrows visiting. The male red-winged blackbirds clean out the feeders pretty quickly and our blue jays scare away the chickens so they can eat the scratch grains. I also have one plump little white-throated sparrow that cleans up under the feeder every morning. We have several in the area going strong establishing their territories and calling back and forth. So far this week the only new migratory arrivals have been the house wrens as the persistent northeast wind seems to be slowing everyone down a little. And the ruby-throated hummingbirds haven't made an appearance yet, but I was a few days late putting up their nectar feeders.

It's been fun hearing from readers sharing their bird sightings and experiences and I have several to pass along this week. Russ reports a number of barred owl sightings, including one eating a rabbit down to pretty much just the head and the fur. He says when he's out in the woods for his work as a forester, they sometimes follow him from tree to tree. Susan reports seeing a snowy owl near Ashland by Fish Creek on the 25th of April! Neither of us was aware that they stayed in the area so late in the spring. The snowy owl had been hanging around the estuary in January and February, and I hadn't even thought to look for it this late in the season. Researchers note that snowy owl migration tends to be strongly correlated with prey numbers, which leads me to wonder why they haven't been hanging around my yard controlling my rabbit population. Let's hope it's safely on its way back to the tundra. Dianne in the Ashland area is seeing lots of phoebes with their tails twitching and hearing plenty of grouse drumming. She's also working to attract bluebirds to her nest boxes and keep the swallows out. Jean from Lake Namekagon is seeing woodcock and grouse trails and her friend and neighbor Mary reports that she's hearing the snipe winnowing out there. And Diana Randoph from the Drummond area had a big group of woodpeckers arrive on Easter. Diana has a lot of cowbirds moving in and saw four mergansers on Hammil Lake. She also shared some spring bird haikus written in April:

After a Long Migration

The phoebe’s tail flicks

up, down, on the deck with joy

announcing, “I’m here!”

Taking Turns

Blue Jay on the stump

eats my offering — meal worms

then Robin returns.

Thanks for writing in, everyone, and keep in touch. Now that trailheads are back open, I'll be getting some much-delayed spring hiking and reporting back next week. Stay well!

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