Starting in late summer, when you drive on Wildlife Drive, flocks of birds often fly in and out of both sides of the road in front of you. There could be hundreds of them, and they are mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, and sparrows, sometimes mixed together. The moment you stop your car to look closer, the birds land and disappear in the dried reed and grasses. Last week I stopped long enough to find them and take some photos.
Finally, a European Starling perched above the reeds, on a road sign.
Everyone has probably seen flocks of European Starlings, sometimes numbering in the thousands, flying as swarms over open fields. They are capable of incredible communications among themselves that allow the whole swarm to instantly change direction or reverse course as if they were all just one bird. Here’s part of such a swarm that I saw last week at the refuge.
Following are some shots of a juvenile bird that landed on the side of the road very close to my car. There were also Red-winged Blackbirds mixed in with the Starlings.
For comparison, here’s a photo of an adult bird taken this past winter during a snowstorm.
This week a second Nor’Easter dumped heavy snow in our region, with as much as 2 ft (60 cm) in some areas, but much less in coastal areas. I stocked up the bird feeder and many birds braved snow and wind to come during the storm.
Here are some shots of the birds. It was so dark I had to use the flash.
Last week, at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, I saw for the first time an American Avocet standing among other familiar birds. In fact I did not know what it was until I got home, saw a strange bird in the photo and looked it up.
The following photo is unusually wide so that all the Cormorants in that one spot can be seen.
Finally, many smaller birds were flying around: Grackles, European Starlings, and Red-winged Blackbirds. I did not get a good shot of the Red-winged Blackbirds, although they appeared to be leading packs of small birds around the marshes.
It was really windy and cold two days ago, perhaps causing many birds to come to our feeder as I have mentioned before. In addition to the ones that came regularly, there was a newcomer. It was an European Starling that somehow strayed from the large flocks it usually belongs to. You may see them as small black clouds drifting from one part of the sky to another.
The white dots on this bird are part of its winter plumage.
This bird is not native to North America. One hundred of them were brought from Europe to New York’s Central Park at the end of the 19th century by a group that wanted America to have all the birds mentioned by Shakespeare. Today there are 200 million of them from Alaska to Mexico, all descended from the original 100.
The single starling that came to our backyard only stayed for about two minutes. It watched other birds congregate around the bird feeder, but did not trying to compete for the sunflower seeds. Then it flew away and has not been seen since.