Notes From a Northwestern Ontario Backyard – December 2017

Hello again!  My deepest apologies for being so sporadic in my monthly postings. This kitchen rebuild/renovation my husband and I have been working on since last March has taken up nearly all of our time. I will sincerely try to post more in 2018.

I have to say it’s been quite an exciting winter in my yard so far.  I have a special visitor to my feeders: a lovely Brown Thrasher. I first saw it on November 10 & 11. Then it disappeared for 3 weeks.

Second sighting of the Brown Thrasher in my High Bush Cranberry Shrub on Nov. 11’17

It’s extremely rare to see this species around here at ANY time of year but in winter, it should be around Florida! This one showed up in my backyard again on December 2 and has been here every day since.  Something obviously went wrong in its migration so I will do what I can to help it survive the bitter cold we’ve been getting. It has already handledtemperatures in the low -30’s C.  The Thrasher discovered my platform feeder and now gives the Blue Jays a run for their money. It will chase EVERY bird off the feeder and take all the food for itself! It’s quite entertaining to watch. It seems to have a preference for peanut hearts and raisins so I cater to it with those foods to help it along. Fingers crossed it continues to do this well.

Brown Thrasher in the flowerbed under the feeders

Wayward Brown Thrasher on the ground under my feeders.

Another special visitor to my yard recently was a solitary Snow Bunting.  It only stayed for about 3 days before moving on and hopefully catching up with its flock.

Snow Bunting nibbling on seed under my platform feeder

Pretty little Snow Bunting in my pine tree.

I’ve had Grouse coming around the yard again this fall & winter but not as steadily as they have in past seasons.  It’s been just 1 Ruffed Grouse most of the time but I have seen a pair of them in the yard only once.

Ruffed Grouse in my ornamental Crab Apple Tree

Grouse visiting with Santa on the platform feeder! (Webcam Snap)

I’ve had both Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers coming around.  They like the peanuts and the suet/peanut butter log that is hanging over the feeders.

Female Hairy Woodpecker

Male Downy Woodpecker

A flock of 10 Starlings has been around since November. They come to the feeders a few times per week.  I love their plumage!

2 of the 10 Starlings that come around a few times per week.

A pair of my beloved Gray Jays comes around sporadically. Last winter, I had 3 Gray Jays visiting. I think I can safely assume that the third one was that year’s juvenile and it was eventually sent packing by its parents to find its own territory. This season so far, I have only seen two.

Beautiful pair of Gray Jays

Gray Jay in its element: snow!

I have about 10 Blue Jays in my area. I normally see 5 to 6 at a time and it can get incredibly noisy! Because of the Blue Jays, I suspect I have a Northern Shrike in the neighbourhood. They will start SCREAMING like banshees out of the blue and all other birds will instantly disappear! I’m hoping to actually see the Shrike eventually this winter.

Blue Jay

It’s been a very quiet winter so far for Grosbeaks.  Pine Grosbeaks are around the neighbourhood constantly but the most I’ve had in the yard so far this season is 18. The norm right now is about 6! Very low. Evening Grosbeaks are hardly around the yard at all right now.  The most I’ve seen so far this winter is 7. Pretty amazing when I think of the years where I had over 150! I dearly miss the Grosbeaks at the feeders.

Male Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeaks getting a drink at the birdbath.

Male Pine & male Evening Grosbeaks

Up until last week, I still had 3 Dark Eyed Juncos coming around.  As of today, I only have 1. This is quite late in the season to still see them here.

Dark Eyed Junco with Black Capped Chickadee

I thought this photo below was a neat combination shot:

Brown Thrasher with Black Capped Chickadee (on base of lighthouse feeder) and Red Breasted Nuthatch

And to end this month, I’m sure people are wondering: Where are the Redpolls? Well ….. I’m wondering too!  I had a dozen of them finally show up on my feeder last week but they only were only here that one day and have not returned. When I’m out in the woods, I see flocks of them so I know they are definitely around.  They are just still getting their food from natural sources instead of feeders. That may change as the season goes on and the snow deepens. We shall see.

3 of the 12 Redpolls that visited my feeders for just one afternoon last week.

So that’s a quick catch-up from my area.  Say a little prayer for the Thrasher that it continues to handle the winter weather & I’ll do my best to keep it fed & sheltered.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year & Happy Holidays to all … thanks for reading!

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12 Responses to Notes From a Northwestern Ontario Backyard – December 2017

  1. Tammie Hache says:

    LOL! We’ll see, Gilda! Thanks for the comments. 🙂

  2. Tammie Hache says:

    Hi Rosie, the Thrasher found its own shelter in my spruce tree during the day and down in a gully behind our house at night, in thick trees at the base of a hill, well protected. I doubt it would use a human-made shelter.

  3. Tammie Hache says:

    Thanks so much, Jane! Glad you’re enjoying my photos & such!

  4. Salman Atsal says:

    Thanks for sharing such nice pictures. And i really like Blue Jays. The can make a large variety of call that can carry long distances.

  5. Jane Sharf says:

    I’ve been watching your feeder through the Cornell website since I discovered it last year. I love it! Thank you for all the wonderful photos and live camera. I live in Delaware and don’t see many of the birds you get, so it is a real treat. Now that I found your blog, I hope to follow you that way as well (I don’t have Twitter or Instagram). Happy Holidays in the cold north and Happy New Year!

  6. Rosie LaLonde says:

    P.S. You mentioned keeping it sheltered. Is there a way to make one for him/her? In other words, do they generally seek a shelter or would he go into one?

  7. Rosie LaLonde says:

    What a surprise about the thrasher! So cute sitting in the middle of the feeder chowing down on the seeds.
    I sure hope that sweet bird makes it and thanks to you for taking care of it!

  8. Thomas W Brown says:

    Here in Pa. we had a brown thrasher almost every summer. This year it never arrived. Of all the birds you have shown we in this posting, we don’t get the snow bunting, gray jays, pine gross beak, evening gross beak, red poll, however from time to time we have seen the rose breasted gross beak and though we haven’t seen the ruffed grouse (native to Pa.) at our feeder it is in the wooded areas nearby.

  9. Gilda Blackmore says:

    As a city apartment dweller I can only envy you your wonderful assortment of birds. Thank you so much for filling the void with your wonderful feeder reports. Happy Christmas and New Year to you and yours.
    Perhaps, when the renovation is completed, you might insert a photo of your revised kitchen?

  10. Lesley Booth says:

    Merry Christmas to you too. Hope the lovely thrasher continues to do well. I’ve never seen one here (Alberta, west of Edmonton) but we have a lot of the same. Our winter hasn’t really started yet, too warm and no snow. Quite unusual! But I’m sure it’s on it’s way! I love to see your photos and enjoy hearing the stories. Thanks very much and here’s to a great 2018.

  11. David O’Neill says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family
    Wonderfully written. nice mix of beautiful birds

  12. Becky says:

    It’s been an amazing season so far- – – the Brown Thrasher is a real treat. I so admire you for making the feeder so hospitable for it. It is really a trouper!

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