Among the missing
The beginning of every month (more-or-less for the days often move faster than I) is when I transcribe the chart I have kept of bird sightings to my permanent album.
Its pages positively bulging (for I know it would be too costly and too heavy to transfer all to a five-inch binder), this book is organized by bird, not only when sighted but by the best pictures I’ve taken as well (if any).
I have no A, I, L, XYZs for I remain content to record only those birds I see on (or very close to) my home. The Ws, on the other hand, could fill an entire reasonably-sized notebook by themselves, full of warblers, woodpeckers and wrens. This suggests that, when space does demand, I could start Volume II at this juncture.
This is not, however, a project that need concern me today. My goal now is to list some of the birds, once common but not seen here much anymore. Certainly not by me.
Let me begin my nominations with the House Finch. The bushes just outside the dining room windows were full of them when I moved into the trailer. Their stays, mostly March to October, could be depended on until 2014. A few here and there after that year, mostly in June or July. They appeared this year in April (12 counted) but none since. Before, they could be depended on as a summer regular.
The Yellow-Shafted Flicker is another candidate. Obviously not a feeder bird, it did particularly prefer one portion of my back yard. If I spotted a bobbing head out there during (mostly) the summer months, it was a pretty safe bet it was a flicker. Now any viewing is cause for major acclaim.
I used to complain about the rudeness of the pushy Evening Grosbeak. Now seeing one — or many — would delight me. A feature article (undated) from the paper shows their decline by 2001. “Decline” as in “totally gone.” (I saw six one November day in 2001 and one at the same time in 2012.) Strangely, Cornell’s Great Backyard Bird Count made history for “an uptick in evening grosbeaks after two decades of decline.” By the time I published my article in 2015, they had already disappeared. I feel fortunate that the red-breasted cousin continues to pop in during the summer months.
I used to enjoy watching the Killdeer, remembering the one in California who ran the feet of my show dog to blood. I could look for them on occasion from May to October. Now I feel lucky to see one or two annually.
One year I put up a very nice apartment house for the Purple Martins and they did come — for a while. By now that poor house is battered but still used. I can attest to that when it’s my turn to clean it out. But Purple Martins? None that I’m aware of these past couple of years. Excerpt for the money that went into buying and erecting the thing, that’s OK. I have many other birds who love to live there and some are very adept at zapping my bugs out of the air.
The Hooded Merganser is a common visitor — if “common” can be applied to such a stunning duck and Common does pop in with regularity but what happened to the Red-breasted? I haven’t seen one in twelve years.
A lovely Ring-Necked Pheasant used to add such color when he strutted though the yard. I suspect it may have been a pet though understand they are stocked around here. For six years I’d see this one — nothing since 2007. I miss the novelty.
A friend and I were talking about the Redpoll recently. That’s an easy one to recognize with the reddish head — but has it really been over four years?
2009 was a banner year for the delicate Pine Siskin. Although it’s been here every three years, the appearance in ’15 earned a mere question mark.
The Towhee still occasionally peeks in to say hello but daily visits stopped in 2011.
And I haven’t even seen a turkey in two and a half years!
Warblers are all chancy — and waxwings even more apt to disappear. Add to those missing the American Wigeon.
How about your sightings?
Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at Susancrossett.com.