Thursday, January 8, 2015

Where are the Mockingbirds?
by Adele Barger Wilson, author of Bonding with the Barn Swallows
Photos and text © 2015 Adele Wilson

Happy New Year!  Each year carries a different type of energy, and this year is no exception.  On the very day of the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2014, the Mockingbirds, who were still guarding all of my feeders, gave me a precious gift by posing for me on the spruce tree while I was sitting on the porch.  The male is on the upper left, with the female on the lower right.

On New Year's morning, the pair of Mockingbirds again greeted me.  I had become accustomed to them by this time and had even forgiven them for chasing other birds from the feeders.  After all, they had only been exercising their deeply ingrained instincts for guarding their food supplies.

That morning the Mockingbirds were perching on their favorite tree -- the tree on which I had traditionally placed my feeders for over a year, but also the tree that they had begun to fiercely guard in October.  This had caused me to place feeders on three additional trees around my building.

As I watched the Mockingbirds from my porch, they proceeded to take turns eating from the feeder, one bird eating with the other bird guarding the tree from a higher branch. 

However, those were the last photos I was able to take of the Mockingbirds!  A few days later, they were no longer in sight.  I would go outside several times a day and look for them, but I couldn't find them anywhere.

In the meantime, there was a prediction of snowfall for Tuesday, January 6th.  I began to remember that I had seen no Mockingbirds last winter during our many weeks of snow cover.

Do Mockingbirds migrate elsewhere to avoid snowfall?  I do not know the answer to this question, but all sources that I've read say that these birds stay in place during the winter.  Yet, there are many questions about birds that ornithologists cannot yet answer.

Interestingly, around the same time that the Mockingbirds disappeared, I began to occasionally see a Blue Jay sampling each of the suet cakes at my various feeders.  "A Blue Jay!", I thought.  Last winter, there were no Blue Jays at all visiting my feeders!  This had been quite a shock to me because Blue Jays had been at my feeders during March 2013 when I first put the feeders out.

Do Blue Jays chase Mockingbirds from their territories?  I have read that, instead, it is the other way around.  It is said to be the Mockingbirds who chase the Blue Jays away, not vice versa.

On the morning of January 6th, it was indeed snowing, just as had been forecast.  I stepped outside early and glimpsed some type of large bird at the feeder on the Mockingbirds' primary tree, the tree from which they had been feeding on the morning of January 1st.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some type of skirmish.  The larger bird on the feeder had chased another bird away.

Unfortunately, the entire incident lasted for only about two seconds, and I was therefore unable to observe details.  My memory is that of seeing a large, light blue bird on the feeder.  This might have been the light blue of a Blue Jay's breast.

Later that morning while the snow was still falling, I observed a pair of Blue Jays eating from the feeder on the smaller mimosa tree.  I have termed this tree "Tree #2" because it is the first additional tree on which I had placed a new feeder in October.

I had never seen two Blue Jays simultaneously at any of my feeders!  During March 2013 only a single Blue Jay would visit my feeder.

Along with the Blue Jays, I observed a Cardinal, a White-Throated Sparrow, and Dark Eyed Juncos eating from the feeder on the tree that had, for three months, been the Mockingbirds' primary tree.  So things have definitely changed for the New Year.  To the right is a photo of a Cardinal and a White-Throated Sparrow sharing what had been the Mockingbirds' primary feeder only five days previously.

I have learned that in the world of birds, nothing is entirely predictable.  One can read the results of ornithological studies, but these results are based on past averages and trends.  Even the geographical ranges of birds can change.
In her remarkable, beautifully illustrated book, The Bluebird Effect, Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds, songbird rehabilitator Julie Zickefoose states just that.   On page 21, she comments that "... birds, their distribution and behavior, are much more fluid than we realize" and that "... almost nothing where birds are concerned is set in stone...."  This hardback book is quite reasonably priced, and I heartily recommend it.  You can preview and discover more about this book by clicking on its image.

Each year can indeed be different.  For the past three months, my yard and it surrounding territory was dominated by one single pair of Mockingbirds.  Now an entirely new scenario seems to have unfolded!

Time will tell if and when the Mockingbirds return.  You can easily follow this blog by entering your email address at the top right.  In the meantime, I wish all of you a peaceful, prosperous, and fulfilling New Year.

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Wild birds are not dumb!  They are sentient beings who often communicate specific things to humans.  You can read about how I determined this to be a fact based on my intimate experiences with Barn Swallows as described in my book, Bonding with the Barn Swallows.

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