Saturday, January 3, 2009

Nature Guide

Jon Latimer, Parcel 1 resident and the author and editor of many field guides, writes:

"Despite the cold weather, there is still plenty of birdlife to see in and around Princeton Landing. You may see fewer birds in our area, but that's because during winter many birds gather in flocks and stay in wooded areas for protection against the wind and to find food. You might see a flock in one place and find nothing in others.

"Small birds such as chickadees, titmice, and sparrows form mixed flocks that can often be seen at bird feeders. They are sometimes joined by House Finches, goldfinches, and small Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. Larger birds such as robins and starlings sometimes gather together but form independent flocks. They are often joined by cardinals and sometimes by Mourning Doves.

"Princeton Landing is home to a flock of about a dozen crows. (In medieval times, a flock of crows was known as a "murder" of crows.) You might hear them long before you see them. You will also hear formations of Canada Geese passing overhead and can see hundreds of them gathered together on grassy fields. These geese have become so numerous they are considered pests.

"Finally, two winter visitors deserve mention. You may see sparrow-sized birds with black backs and light gray undersides on the ground around your house. They are Slate-colored Juncos. These "snowbirds" travel in flocks and are easily identified when flying by the white feathers on the edge of their black tails.

"Another winter visitor can be found on Lake Carnegie. If you see a duck with very white sides and a dark head, it is a male Common Merganser. The female almost looks like a different species, with a gray body and a bright rusty head. They occasionally mix with Canada Geese, but more often keep their distance, diving for fish in small flocks. When our weather warms, they will follow the cooler temperatures to their mating grounds in northwestern Canada."

The bird population is constantly changing in our area. We'll be posting about birds and other wildlife from time to time.