The Heat of Winter

4.11.2006, 1245-200 pm
Wharton -> Backyards -> Fieldhouse

With temperatures in the high 60’s, and birds singing everywhere, it truly felt like spring, but the best birds present were of the winter variety, moreso than yesterday, which paradoxically was a slightly cooler day. Only my 2nd Brown Creeper ever observed on campus was seen in the woods today, with the only other observation inexplicably coming from Parrish Circle during my first visit to the campus, while still a junior in high school (has it really been four years since then?!).

In addition to the unusual sightings, the common residents are beginning to change, with nearly every Robin now in song. Carolina Chickadees at the hemlock bluff were also giving very unusual vocalizations that are probably unique to the breeding season.

I tried to find a means of accessing the supposed ‘marsh’ that’s adjacent to Skunk Cabbage Hollow, as outlined by the Natural Lands Trust habitat map, but wasn’t successful. I need to take a closer look at the map, and also possibly explore the oxbow swamp on the other side of the creek, via the ford under the railroad bridge.

edit: There was a short path I explored in the Hollow which led to some man-made works, possibly irrigation/drainage ditches and a concrete cap. Surprisingly, this location corresponds exactly with the small ‘marsh’ on the map, even though it didn’t look any different from the floodplain forest and thickets surrounding it. This is probably another change in the Crum since the drawing of those maps. In addition, looking at the maps, it doesn’t like like there’s trails leading into the oxbow swamp, as it’s likely a sensitive area. I’ll explore the nearest path anyways, just to see the habitat, and if any sightlines are possible.

  • 1 Brown Creeper – behind Danawell, spiral feeding pattern, flew to bottoms of trees and worked its way up as usually described
  • 1 Hairy Woodpecker – behind Danawell. No binoculars, but obviously in the Downy/Hairy complex, and appeared quite large and long-billed. I’m fairly confident that it was a Hairy
  • Carolina Chickadee – giving unusual vocalizations at the hemlock bluff, including a Gnatcatcher-like jumble, and a two-note song
  • 2 Wood Duck – probably a breeding pair, first sighted from the ford, and later good looks were obtained from the hairline path below hemlock bluff. Birds bobbed their heads while swimming and were constantly edgy, unlike motionless Mallards.
  • 2 Mallard – Crum Meadow. These have been encountered consistently for the past few days, and are probably not a highlight-worthy species any longer
  • 2 American Goldfinch – heard only at swampy bend
  • White-throated Sparrow – singing loudly at backyards past Skunk Cabbage Hollow
  • Chipping Sparrow – seen singing above Sharples

Wood Duck, male. Photo by Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART


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