Monday, November 14, 2011

Birds and Habitat: Cox Hall Creek WMA

 [The bird with the earth on its breast and sky on its back (John Burroughs' words, not mine) shows why Multiflora Rose is my "favorite" exotic invasive plant. Eastern Bluebird, Cox Hall Creek WMA Sunday.]

Many, many birds adorned Cox Hall Creek WMA on Sunday, and as we wandered and wondered enjoying them, I got to thinking about birds in context of habitat. They're pretty much always where they're supposed to be - imagine that!

Like, why is the WMA so good for Eastern Bluebirds? With at least 100 (!!) there today? Because it's a mixture of open woods and meadows, with abundant fruiting trees and shrubs like eastern redcedar and multiflora rose, and has water to produce insects the year round, and plenty of snags with cavities to roost in at night or in inclement weather. The definition of bluebird habitat. I sincerely doubt all those bluebirds will winter at Cox Hall Creek, but a sizeable chunk of them will.

[Cedar Waxwings love ripe multiflora berries, too. This one is at least a year and a half old, since it has wide waxy tips on the secondaries, thought to be a signal of maturity and/or fitness. Compare this bird's waxy tips and tail with the one below. . .]

 [So this waxing is a hatch-year, aged by the retained juvenal wing feathers lacking waxy tips. And, what's with the orange-tipped tail? Pigments in the bird's diet while those feathers were growing made them orange rather than the normal bright yellow - pigments probably derived from non-native honeysuckle berries, which have been coloring some waxwing tails since becoming well established in the 1950's.]

[There's a secret, secluded pond at the WMA fringed with oaks, and acorns rain down into the pond. Habitat again - the definition this time for Wood Duck habitat.]

[And again habitat. Wet leaves near a pond bank, perfect for Rusty Blackbirds to flip over and look for invertebrates underneath.]

[The Red-headed Woodpeckers hanging out at Cox Hall Creek all fall intend to stay. How do I know? Because they are caching acorns like crazy, preparing for winter.]

[Flashes of white - Red-headed Woodpecker going back to an oak for another acorn.]

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Don = This morning a friend and i visited and bird watched at Cox Hall Creek for the first time. It was wonderful! I found your photo of the Bluebird on Google images, and followed it to your blog here. I'm going to post the photo on my blog, and will credit you as the photographer.
    Thanks for this blog!
    Anne Higgins