This column concludes the final report of the annual Allen Benton Bird Feeder count. In analyzing the total number of birds reported, the total number of species observed as indicated last week was 29, which consisted of 273 individual birds reported. The top six birds reported in last week's column in order of abundance were hairy woodpecker, downy woodpecker, blue jay, northern cardinal, white-breasted nuthatch, and dark-eyed junco. I made a note of reporting and hearing from many of you that there were good numbers of irruptive species such as the pine siskin being spotted and heard at many feeders. Two members of the raptor family were also sighted at or near feeding stations. These were the sharp-shinned and coopers hawks, of whom both enjoy a meal of birds. The feeding habit of both these birds is interesting: unlike its more typical raptor cousins like the common red-tailed hawk that enjoy meals of small mammals, these two birds will usually find a perch from which they can observe a bird feeder or other areas where small birds gather and quickly swoop through the gathering, panicking the unsuspecting birds and usually picking off a small victim.
Some of the less abundant species reports that I thought were interesting, were of the low number of song sparrows, house sparrows, european starlings, purple finches, white-crowned sparrows, and the notorious northern shrike that is usually present at feeder areas. Why these birds were not observed as much as we are used to is worth studying at a future time. Perhaps many of you can assist me in determining a reason. In discussing each of these birds I will start with the common song sparrow usually seen at many of our feeders, gardens, and backyards and yards. This common bird was only reported at four of the feeders in our area, which is unusual as it is considered an all year species in our region. Normally an all year bird in our county, it was only reported at eight feeders. The house sparrow in similar fashion too, an all year bird, was only sighted at eight feeders. Other low reports were of the yellow-bellied sapsucker, which was unusually absent during the period from the second week of January to the fourth week of March, eastern bluebird, considered an all year bird, as is the house finch. I am going to request future information from you, the reader, with respect to the strange absence of these species at this time. Perhaps in future columns I will request observation reports of these species. While this column serves as an information tool for you, the reader, with respect to nature activity in our county, I am noticing that you as readers are actually contributing to many scientific questions with respect to the status of the plant and animal world in our county. While we have had scientific studies and analysis by many researchers regarding the plant and animal world in our area, it becomes obvious that we are in a position to quantify that data and give us a an excellent overview of the living organisms of our region and if there are any positive or negative processes affecting any of those organisms. This is a simple way of my defining the study of Ecology, which is described as the relationship of living organisms to their environment. I, and Allen Benton, thank you all for your data contribution. Remember, get out and enjoy the natural world around us; it is educational and healthy.
Photographs, sightings and article suggestions can be sent to me by U.S. Mail at 38 Elm St. Fredonia N.Y. 14063, or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
At right: A purple finch eats from a feeder.