Turkey Vulture photo from northshoreinfoblog.com
via Google Images
My last posting highlighted the American Kestrel that we saw on our group's walk along Webster Rd. yesterday. However, that wasn't the only notable species that we saw. Within seconds of seeing the Kestrel a member of our group who was still scanning the sky spotted something much larger and darker. When I got my binoculars on it I identified it as a Turkey Vulture. This is the first one for White Memorial in 2011, and arrived it right on target with usual first date of arrival for this species here. It headed due east, so I'm sure that the second one which appeared a few minutes later from the south and headed east was a different bird, as was the one that came in from the west a few minutes after that and headed north right over us. Since 3 deer have been found dead on the Property this week, and other dead ones may be out there, vultures may be able to find enough to eat now that they are back. They also could dine on road-kill, like the Opossum that we encountered a little farther down the road. We also found a squashed Short-tailed Shrew, but I think that it was too flattened even for a vulture to eat. Back to the live stuff, but still on the subject of eating, we saw an interesting behavior as we were watching a group of Golden-crowned Kinglets in Catlin Woods. They kept going down to the snow on the ground, and were obviously picking up and eating things. Upon closer examination with my binoculars, and later with my eyes, I could see that they were eating Snow Fleas. Usually, we think of these birds as eating scale insects, adelgids, and various pupae and larvae from the leaves, needles, and bark of trees, but this observation shows that they will take advantage of whatever insects or other invertebrates that they can find. In that same area, as well as farther east along the road, we also saw Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Brown Creepers foraging for insects in various ways among the trees and shrubs. This may very well have been due to an increase in invertebrate activity brought on by the sun's warmth and rising temperatures. This is something for people to remember when looking for birds in the winter or any other cool time: go to places in the sunshine. That's why it is often productive to look for birds on east facing slopes in the morning and west facing slopes in the afternoon.