Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Here we are at the end of another calendar year, and for the fourth time I find myself reviewing the bird-viewing moments of the past year.  Here are the highlights from Cary BirdCam in 2012.

Late 2012 has been a splendid year for two periodic irruptive species.  Top on the list are the Red Breasted Nuthatches (shown) but we also enjoyed seeing Pine Siskins -- or, was that lots of siskins!.  And as always we welcomed the arrival of guests for the summer (Ruby Throated Hummingbirds and Gray Catbirds) and for the winter (Yellow Rumped Warblers, White Throated Sparrows, Slate Colored Juncos, and especially the ever-smarter Hermit Thrush).  And, "Hermie" provided the shortest midsummer wait this year of only half a year!

As seems to be the pattern here, my nest box offerings were mostly slighted.  But the White Breasted Nuthatches seemed to make a go of one and the unpleasant House Wrens did hog my bluebird box. But at least we enjoyed the annual parade of juveniles including "Junior" the Red Bellied Woodpecker and the "Blues Brothers" (bluebirds, of course).  Flock/group sizes seemed to be up for the Mourning Doves as well.

Interesting, and even astonishing bird behavior was noted a number of times in 2012.  The wildest came from one crazed male Northern Cardinal who terrorized rear view mirrors in the neighborhood deep into November.  But we also dealt with a "pyscho Titmouse" and a succession of unlikely birds at sunflower seed tubes and suet baskets (Red Bellied Woodpecker, Chipping Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, and Northern Cardinal)  I induced a House Finch "cooldown" in January, but failed in June, no surprise with finches!  And we had visits from surprisingly well mannered bad boys like the Red Winged Blackbirds, Grackles, and Jays.  Not all the bad behavior belonged to birds.  Our squirrels generally stayed in bounds but I discovered one evil Einstein in the bunch who bears watching.

I've made some important changes in the landscaping here thanks to a very productive ten weekend stretch in the fall.  Out are the Leatherleaf Mahonias (which may annoy the catbirds) and an overgrown pair of junipers (which made possible a popular "scratch ground".  An increasing inventory of wildflower species should soon benefit my favorite songbirds.  Highly productive were new Columbines, relocated Helianthus, and our widespread Trumpet Vines.  The bird baths (two in parallel) had great payoffs for heat fatigued birds in June and towards attracting our first Cedar Waxwings in February.  And top of that, I spiffed up the gardens with about a dozen pieces of bird art created by a ceramic artist friend.  Rounding out the home "work" was the conclusion of my experiment measuring seed consumption here.  2011 saw 3 million sunflower seeds put out!

Not all the fun was at home.  We did take time to enjoy bird encounters on the road.  I didn't get the usual dazzling results at a hurricane-ravaged Pea Island in January, but did fine with a two-day "Waterfowl Prowl" at New Years, discovered a wonderful new haunt a few counties over in April and we found some birds of interest on road trips to ConnecticutOld Salem, and Wrightsville Beach among others.   And in April I enjoyed my charge of a bird walk with two fine young scholars at the office.  On top of that I reconnected with Blue Grosbeaks at two locations this summer and a Great Horned Owl just this week. 

What an interesting and entertaining year!  It has been a delight to document the fascinating moments along the way and to have the privilege of your readership.  I can't wait to see what 2013 brings!

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