December 6, 2005 [LINK]

Winter arrives, catbird remains

It snowed yesterday for the first time this season here in Virginia. We got about four inches, altogether. As the ground slowly turned white, we had as many as 25 ravenous goldfinches (see new closeup photo) at our feeders, plus a few juncos, Carolina wrens, and song sparrows. About 3:00 a Sharp-shinned hawk swooped into the back yard, frightening the smaller birds away. After resting for about 15 minutes on a tree branch, it zoomed away at an amazing speed.

This morning, bright blue skies framed the snow-covered trees, reminding us that tropical countries don't have all the fun. So, I went out for a walk (or a "trudge," actually) behind the Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad with camera in hand to record the "winter wonderland." To my delight, I soon heard and then saw that "straggler" Gray catbird that has been lingering in that area. A Sharp-shinned hawk (same one as yesterday?) spooked it and other birds to take refuge in the bushes, but it eventually ventured back out and posed for this picture. It is the first catbird I have ever seen during the winter months; perhaps the snow will persuade it to join its friends further south. Catbirds normally winter in the Deep South and parts of Mexico, ranging as far north along the Atlantic coast as Tidewater Virginia. I also got a decent picture of a Song sparrow, and saw some Yellow-bellied sapsuckers (male and female), and even a Pileated woodpecker (female), which are seldom seen in this neighborhood.