Trash Talk: New EGT/EEC Sustainability Series Publication

As we recently posted, we are in the midst of the worst recycling environment which we have seen in the last 20 years and all indications are that the market for recycling materials will not improve in the foreseeable future.  You may have read about the restrictions placed by China on importing recyclable materials from the United States.  China has closed its doors to many types of recycling materials and is requiring that the material be 99.5% free from contamination.  According to the staff at the Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA), the contamination rate for recycling collected from Mercer County communities is 11.4%.  This means that we have significant work to do to make our recycling acceptable for the market.

China was also the largest consumer of US recyclable volume and no longer is purchasing the volumes that it did in the past.  This means that there is a glut of supply in the market which is significantly driving down the value of this materials.  As a result, in many cities across the nation, recyclables are ending up in landfills.

What this Means for Us

We must do a better job of recycling or face:

  • Higher taxes because of skyrocketing recycling costs.
  • More landfills to bury contaminated recycling.
  • Risks for wildlife, waterways, oceans and the quality of life on our planet.
  • Imperiled futures for our children and grandchildren.

There is no magic want to wave away our trash!  We are now facing the consequences of thoughtless consumption and waste,  We MUST rethink our disposable lifestyles.   In some of our upcoming posts, we will discuss ways in which each one of us can make a difference in combating this relentless crisis.

Ewing’s Green Team and Environmental Commission have joined together to publish a new addition to our Sustainability Series of publications, the attached recycling flyer, Trash Talk: Recycling in Crisis, for easy reference to answer your recycling questions.

To summarize:  One piece of garbage makes it all garbage!  We advocate that when it doubt, throw it out!  We ask that all residents keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind when recycling:

Recycling Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO remember the first of the 3Rs of recycling: Reduce. Make every effort to reduce the amount of waste that you produce.  Single-use plastics are a significant component of that waste stream because they “don’t go away and essentially, last forever.  Make every effort to eliminate single-use items such as plastic grocery bags, straws, utensils and cups, bottled water, take-out containers…   Use reusable versions of those products instead.
  • DO recycle all empty bottles, cans, paper and cardboard.
  • DO recycle clean materials: i.e. keep foods and liquids out of recycling.
  • DO keep plastic bags out of recycling.
  • DO check out this site for more information about how you can do your share to Reduce | Reuse | Recycle.
  • DON’T bag your recyclables. Plastic bags and film get tangled in the machinery.  (Our local supermarkets have plastic bag collection bins at their entrances.)
  • DON’T include soiled food items. They can turn an entire load of recycling into trash.
  • DON’T add sharp or dangerous materials like needles and electronics. They can cause injury to workers.
  • DON’T include bulky items like propane tanks or construction debris (no wood). The Township Convenience Center at 136 Scotch Road will take a lot of materials that you cannot leave at the curb.  Please check our website or call 609- 882-3382 for accepted materials.
  • DON’T add items that are not on the list of accepted materials. This will contaminate the entire load.

 

American Elm Tree – Plant of the Month

American elms were the dominant tree species along city and suburban streets across the Eastern United States through the first half of the 20th century. These graceful, towering trees with their vase-shape form created cathedral-like canopies. The elm was prized for its fast growth that provided quick shade and for its ability to tolerate poor soil conditions along city streets.

Disaster struck when elm logs shipped from Europe to the United States released the European elm bark beetle, carrier for the fungus that causes Dutch Elm Disease.   First found in Ohio in the 1930s, it spread from state to state and by the mid-60s it had killed millions of trees, leaving cities with the task of removing thousands of massive elms.

The loss of the American elm as a street tree left a hole that was difficult to replace. Maples and ashes were planted in larger numbers along streets to replace the elm, but now ash tree populations are being decimated by another introduced pest, the Emerald ash borer.

The search for an elm resistant to Dutch elm disease that grows in the typical vaseshaped form has been going on for decades. Three promising American elm cultivars, ‘Valley Forge’, ‘Princeton,’ introduced by Princeton Nurseries from around Kingston, and ‘New Harmony,’ are showing good Dutch elm disease resistance.

On Arbor Day [April 27th] a ‘Princeton’ elm tree donated by members of the Environmental Commission and Green Team was planted along the driveway to the Benjamin Temple House at Drake Farm Park.   Mayor Steinmann spoke to those gathered about the importance of planting trees in Ewing Township.

Ewing Council passes RGGI Resolution

Ewing’s Mayor and Council recently passed Resolution 18R-81 supporting New Jersey’s steps to return to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an innovative 9 state cap and trade program that has successfully reduced climate-changing carbon pollution from East Coast power plants. Climate change is a dire threat to the citizens of Ewing. The State’s withdrawal from RGGI in 2011 posed a risk to our town and region; efforts to rejoin RGGI are underway. This resolution seeks to support that goal.

CLICK HERE for the full text of this resolution.

Emerald Ash Borer Information Session Rescheduled for Tuesday, April 17th

The Emerald Ash Borer information program that was originally scheduled for March 20th and cancelled for inclement weather, has been rescheduled for Tuesday, April 17th, beginning at 6:30 pm.

So don’t Kiss Your Ash Goodbye, but come to the Ewing Environmental Commission’s April meeting to learn from the experts about the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) threat, how it will affect your property, options for managing your ash trees, and potential solutions.

The Emerald Ash borer has been found in Ewing Township.  (See the Rutgers  EAB Rapid Ash Survey Report and Management Options, Prepared for the Township of Ewing, Mercer County , NJ, By The Rapid Ash Survey Team (RAST) October 2015.)  As this invasive pest can easily spread to neighboring trees, all residents should check their ash trees for symptoms of infestation.

“The emerald ash borer will kill 99 percent of all ash trees within the next few years,” said Bill Brash, the NJ State Certified Tree Expert with whom the EGT has been working about the EAB threat to the municipal tree canopy. “Residents should identify ash trees on their property and monitor for signs of damage or decline such as unusual woodpecker activity or missing bark.”

EAB Facts

Since the discovery of emerald ash borer in Michigan in 2002, the beetle has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America. In May 2014, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture confirmed New Jersey’s first detection of the emerald ash borer in Bridgewater in Somerset County, NJ.

The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic green, non-native invasive pest. Trees can be infested for years before the tree begins to show symptoms of infestation. Symptoms include canopy dieback, woodpecker activity, missing bark, D-shaped exit holes, shoots sprouting from the trunk, and S-shaped larval galleries under the bark.

Ash Tree Management

If a tree is already infested or in poor health, it may be best to remove the tree before it becomes infested and poses a hazard to people and surrounding structures. But for those residents with high-value ash in good health, trees can be treated before they become infested.

A Certified Tree Expert can help residents evaluate, then treat or remove ash trees. Contact the Board of Certified Tree Experts at 732-833-0325 or njtreeexperts@gmail.com for a list of professionals serving your area.

Report any signs. If any signs of the EAB beetle are found, call the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at 609-406-6939. Visit http://www.emeraldashborer.nj.gov for more information and check out our own EAB resource page.


untitled-5This program is being provided by the Ewing EAB Partnership, a coalition composed of Ewing Green Team  and Environmental Commission members and representatives from Mercer County, Rutgers University and PSE&G under the direction of NJ State Certified Tree Expert Bill Brash.  It is funded by a 2016 PSE&G grant Partnering for the Restoration of the Community Forest: The 3P Plan, Partnerships-Plan-Planting which funded development of partnerships  to manage the spread and removals of trees infected with the Emerald Ash Borer on Ewing municipal lands.

Date: Tuesday, April 17th
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Ewing Senior and Community Center, 999 Lower Ferry Road, Ewing
Details:  Free and open to the public. No registration is required.
Additional Information: Contact EGT Chair, Joanne Mullowney at 609-883-0862 or email: ewinggreenteam@gmail.com

Emerald Ash Borer Presentation Cancelled

The Emerald Ash Borer presentation scheduled for Tuesday, March 20th has been cancelled due to impending snowstorm.  It has been rescheduled for April 17th.  Hope to see you then instead.  In the meantime, stay safe and warm.

Feeder Watch Update – Two for the Price of One!

by Lee Farnham

Apologies for not having sent these separately, but I never got around to sending in the 3/10-11 until today, so it’s the last two columns to look at.

Weekend of March 10-11

This was a pretty low key affair after the deluge that came with the snow the previous week…but the numbers show that most of the regulars were there except for the White-Breasted Nuthatch; this was its first miss since we began watching in early November.  My presumption is that it all has to do with when you’re watching, not just that you are watching because Nuttie (as we call him) stands out immediately.  We first see him on our Cherry tree, about 15 feet above the Sunflower Hearts, and a little to their east.  He wastes no time in getting to the feeder, for he swoops down and makes a three point landing on the Squirrel Buster’s Cardinal Ring, and from there grabs a seed or two and flies off to a close branch.  Then, like the Carolina Chickadee, he puts the seed on the branch, held by one foot, and pounds on it until it gets a little smaller, and then it’s gone and time for another feeding run, so he repeats the swoop and feed.

Meanwhile, we were thrilled to see a Northern Flicker, though briefly!  This time “Flicikie” zeroed in on the Peanut Butter Suet, a favorite of the Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Carolina Wren and Juncos.  He was first spotted as he hung onto our suet cage and banged away at the slab of suet.  Of course, some of it was staying on his beak, but some also fell to the ground where a Junco and Carolina Wren waited to dispatch it; it’s almost as If they knew he was going to be there.  After a couple of minutes on the suet the Flicker left, but we trust he’ll come back next week.

One more thing, about the Northern Junco.  You know that we spread Thistle Seed (Niger) on our deck rail and deck itself, in addition to putting it In two feeders.  The Juncos take it on the deck mostly, perhaps because they also seek cover in the vine that’s coming up from beneath the deck. Anyway, we can always count on seven or eight at first light, getting an early breakfast.

March 17 – 18

It was difficult to get as much time in this weekend because the Green Expo at Rider College was on, and the Ewing Environmental Commission and Green Team had separate, adjoining, exhibits which needed staffing.  Although there was no birding presentation (unlike in some years past) we had Feeder Watch brochures for one and all, so there was some birding emphasis at our table.  There was more emphasis on the damage tree volcanoes can do, and we had information on the Emerald Ash Borer seminar for the public on 3/20 at 6:30PM at the Ewing Senior Center.

That over, one thing interesting about the birds this past weekend was that the Northern Flicker was back, for the second week in a row!  This may be a harbinger of spring, as we’ve only seen a Flicker about 25% of the time this winter, but it’s now two weekends running!  If you want to contemplate beauty in bird design, with black, tan, red and white, then the Flicker is the one for you.  Something about its coloring, and design, really attracts me.

A surprise turned up on early Sunday afternoon, a bird that we had only seen nine times in the 240  we’ve reported for Feeder Watch over 13 years…a ratio of 3.375%;  it was a textbook example of a male Purple Finch,  and it was nibbling on the Safflower Seed we spread under our Safflower Feeder for birds which are more ground feeders.  I’ve always said that a Purple Finch looks like a Finch that’s been dipped in raspberry Juice, and it was a textbook example of that.  Even better, it was right next to a male House Finch, so you could compare the two side-by-side to see the marked difference.

The only disappointment this past weekend was that “Wrennie,” our beloved Carolina Wren(s) had a schedule different from ours so we didn’t see one.  This LOUD bird, for one so small, must’ve been travelling, so we’re looking forward to seeing it next weekend, the penultimate one in the Feeder Watch season, which ends on April 7 (since we’re supposed to report two consecutive days with a gap of five days between the last report, it doesn’t look like we’ll be reporting on the last weekend because we won’t be able to do two consecutive days.

Emerald Ash Borer Information Session – Tuesday, March 20th

Come to the Ewing Environmental Commission’s March meeting to learn from the experts about the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) threat, how it will affect your property, options for managing your ash trees, and potential solutions.

The Emerald Ash borer has been found in Ewing Township.  (See the Rutgers  EAB Rapid Ash Survey Report and Management Options, Prepared for the Township of Ewing, Mercer County , NJ, By The Rapid Ash Survey Team (RAST) October 2015.)  As this invasive pest can easily spread to neighboring trees, all residents should check their ash trees for symptoms of infestation.

“The emerald ash borer will kill 99 percent of all ash trees within the next few years,” said Bill Brash, the NJ State Certified Tree Expert with whom the EGT has been working about the EAB threat to the municipal tree canopy. “Residents should identify ash trees on their property and monitor for signs of damage or decline such as unusual woodpecker activity or missing bark.”

EAB Facts

Since the discovery of emerald ash borer in Michigan in 2002, the beetle has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America. In May 2014, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture confirmed New Jersey’s first detection of the emerald ash borer in Bridgewater in Somerset County, NJ.

The emerald ash borer is a small, metallic green, non-native invasive pest. Trees can be infested for years before the tree begins to show symptoms of infestation. Symptoms include canopy dieback, woodpecker activity, missing bark, D-shaped exit holes, shoots sprouting from the trunk, and S-shaped larval galleries under the bark.

Ash Tree Management

If a tree is already infested or in poor health, it may be best to remove the tree before it becomes infested and poses a hazard to people and surrounding structures. But for those residents with high-value ash in good health, trees can be treated before they become infested.

A Certified Tree Expert can help residents evaluate, then treat or remove ash trees. Contact the Board of Certified Tree Experts at 732-833-0325 or njtreeexperts@gmail.com for a list of professionals serving your area.

Report any signs. If any signs of the EAB beetle are found, call the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at 609-406-6939. Visit http://www.emeraldashborer.nj.gov for more information and check out our own EAB resource page.


untitled-5This program is being provided by the Ewing EAB Partnership, a coalition composed of Ewing Green Team  and Environmental Commission members and representatives from Mercer County, Rutgers University and PSE&G under the direction of NJ State Certified Tree Expert Bill Brash.  It is funded by a 2016 PSE&G grant Partnering for the Restoration of the Community Forest: The 3P Plan, Partnerships-Plan-Planting which funded development of partnerships  to manage the spread and removals of trees infected with the Emerald Ash Borer on Ewing municipal lands.

Date: Tuesday, March 20th
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Ewing Senior and Community Center, 999 Lower Ferry Road, Ewing
Details:  Free and open to the public. No registration is required.
Additional Information: Contact EGT Co-Chair, Joanne Mullowney at 609-883-0862 or email: ewinggreenteam@gmail.com

FeederWatch Update

by Lee Farnham

Sometimes, when you look forward to doing Feeder Watch each week, you build yourself up by expecting to see something new (a new bird, a record number of one Species, a bird that shouldn’t be in this area, etc.).  This past weekend was not a good one for that because it combined a number of different weather related events To keep the numbers quite modest.  The rain started early Saturday afternoon, and didn’t stop until late on Sunday afternoon, that wasn’t fun.  Higher temperature may have had an effect too.

Consider these numbers, for example:

  1. We’ve been averaging around 45-50 Goldfinches for the season, but saw only 8 while we were watching!
  2. Likewise, White-Throated Sparrows were down to three, Mourning Doves were 10 and House Finches just four.
  3. On the other hand, Cardinals were seven, pretty high; it was fun to watch them zooming around the safflower feeder and perching on the Sunflower Hearts feeder, and then sitting on nearby branches watching others.
  4. Several species were higher than normal, three Downy Woodpeckers and TWO Hairys, three Titmice, three Carolina Chickadees and a relative, one Black Capped Chickadee.

The temperature was pretty mild when compared with weekends past, and it got over 60 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, which had its effect too.

Strangest of all was something we didn’t report to Feeder Watch:  on Wednesday a.m. around 0800, we counted 83 Goldfinches on our feeders, the deck rail, the deck, in the trees and around the Sunflower Heart feeder!!!  Maybe they were stocking up for the seasonal change which will take them elsewhere, it was quite a sight.

Six weekends are left in this season’s Feeder Watch reporting; we’re looking forward to reporting some Pileated Woodpeckers if we’re lucky.  They’re around; we saw one on an early morning dog walk this week, so maybe we’ll report our first for the year hammering away at the suet next weekend.  Here’s hoping.

Project FeederWatch Report Jan 27/28

by Lee Farnham

Seed was put out early on Saturday a.m., but Juncos and Goldfinches were already on the deck and deck rail clamoring for breakfast (there’s plenty of old seed there but they like fresh), so more was added and I went inside to start watching, along with Reina, our cat, who watches with me.  Suddenly,  ALL birds left  the deck in a hurry, ditto the feeders at the bottom of the yard, which usually means a hawk is coming (or perhaps a Red Fox)….and then we heard a clunk as one of the departing birds hit a window in the rush.

Since the deck feeders are within ten feet of the house we’ve taken some precautions against birds hitting windows….it’s mostly that we’ve bought decals for the windows which refract light differently, so the bird knows there’s something there ahead of time.  This poor Goldfinch was woozy when I found him standing on the deck, but he listed to port instead of being upright.  Usually, if the bird has knocked itself out, we pick him up,  put him in a small box lined with tissue paper, and close the lid (and take him inside).  That way he’ll be in a dark place, away from the outside, and he’ll recover after a while.  If he doesn’t, but is still alive, read on.

I thought of doing that with this Goldfinch, but decided not to because he was almost upright.  Instead I left him alone for ten minutes with the hope that he’d recover and be on his way.  However, one of the overfed squirrels needed a drink, and his abrupt visit to the deck spooked the Goldfinch, who tried to fly off but hit another window in the process!  Now he was down on his side, though still conscious, so I gave him another ten minutes….and during that time there was another scare and he flew straight off the deck and into the  Dogwood tree nearby!  It looked as if he had recovered well, and that all he needed was some quiet time.

So we didn’t have to make a trip to the Mercer County Wildlife Center on the east side of Route 29 in Titusville, south of Lambertville, but  they’re there if you need them, and they will take birds that knock themselves out on windows near feeders.  It’s supported, in large part, by donations, so we’re happy to contribute annually to their continuing welfare, because we’ve taken birds and squirrels to them over the years.  They are very conscientious about following up with every patient they get; you’ll get a note when one of their “guests” have been released back into the wild.  While they are run by Mercer County, Wildlife Center Friends partners with them, and is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization.

Check out the Mercer County Wildlife Center.  They’re at 1748 River. Rd., Titusville, NJ 08560.  Phone:  609-303-0552. Hours are 9 am – 4pm seven days a week.  They take all types of injured, ill and displaced native wildlife, provide them with medical treatment and a temporary refuge before releasing them back into an appropriate wildlife habitat.

 

Project FeederWatch Catchup

By Lee Farnham

Weekend of Jan 13/14

It wasn’t quite as cold this past weekend, and that might have accounted for our seeing one species fewer, but 55 fewer birds among the ones we did.  When you compare the numbers of Goldfinch with last weekend and this, it was 54 v. 29; Juncos were 16 v. 9; White-Throated Sparrows were 19 v. 7 and Mourning Doves were 20 v. 14….and the Flicker seen last weekend didn’t return 😦 .  The rest of the supporting cast was there, as always:  Carolina Wren, Titmice, Cardinals, White-Breasted Nuthatch, three Downy Woodpeckers, one Hairy and two Red Bellies.

There may be another thing at work….squirrels!  We normally spread seed on the ground beneath both our Sunflower Hearts Squirrel Buster feeder, and the Safflower tube feeder because we’ve seen, over the years, that some birds are ground feeders, and don’t go to a suspended Feeder.  White-Throated Sparrows, Juncos and Mourning Doves are ground feeders, while House and Goldfinches prefer feeders…but what if the ten fat squirrels that hand around our feeders are the cause of the White Throats and Juncos shifting their feeders some?  Could that account for the greater numbers of same we’ve seen on our deck, where we spread the Thistle (Niger) seed, as well as be a deterrent for other hungry birds?

Time will tell, so be sure to tune in next week for the results of Feeder Watch for 1/20-21.  This was our 231st submission to Feeder Watch, and it’s more enthralling than ever.

Weekend of Jan 6 & 7

With the bitter cold, and snow still on the ground, we expected a big number of birds this past weekend, and weren’t disappointed.  It seemed like there were hordes on the feeders, whenever we looked out the window at our deck or at the lower yard, under the feeders or suet, …  and don’t forget the water.

On Saturday night I emptied the water out of the bird bath, carried the rocks, water heater and bird bath into the kitchen, cleaned the moss off everything, and then ran it all through the dishwasher so the birds would greet Sunday, the coldest day so far, with clean, warmish water and clean rocks to perch on.  The effort was rewarded by a Northern Flicker late Sunday a.m., who flew directly onto the deck rail, jumped onto the side of the bird bath and took many swallows of water, and also wiggled his face in it!!   What a treat to see such a beautifully colored woodpecker within ten feet, and to watch while he tanked up and washed his face.  When he flew off he didn’t stop for any suet or Sunflower hearts, he just went (but he came back the next two days around the same time, so maybe he’ll be a regular).

Aside from that thrill, it was interesting to see how two species which are mostly ground-feeders here, the Northern Junco and the White-Throated Sparrow have expanded their ranges in our yard.  Normally seen underneath the Safflower or Sunflower Heart feeders, we now see them on the deck where we’ve spread Niger seed for the Goldfinches.

Juncos, in fact, take over the deck (but not the deck rail), and we’ve counted more than twenty of them having an early breakfast there.  The White-Throated Sparrows have started to appear on the deck, but not in the same numbers, and they are still mostly under the Safflower and Sunflower heart feeders….still, to see fourteen White-Throats on the deck at one time is unusual.

One thing particularly evident this weekend was how the different species which feed together under the feeders get along so well.  It was particularly evident under the Safflower feeder where Mourning Doves congregate.  This time, in the early afternoon, they were joined by Cardinals (male and female), White-Throated Sparrows, House Finches, Juncos and Carolina Wrens.  Each was busy pecking at some loose seed, but none was paying any attention to the other birds.  The only upset came when the Squirrels (there are about ten, rambunctious and well fed) ran through the feeding area scattering everyone…but it was momentary, and order was soon restored.

For the week we bought another 40# of Niger Seed as we’ve been running through it at a great rate, now that we’re also spreading it on our deck.

Next week we’re going to keep an eye out for Pine Siskins (which look like a cross between a Goldfinch and a House Finch, but aren’t because those two species don’t hybridize).  If winter supplies for them in Ontario run short, they’ve been known to come south looking for food.  In 2009 there was just such an irruption, and we saw a few at first, but then reported a maximum of 55 in one weekend before they started tapering off.  Our cat will help us look too, as she sits on her cushion and watches the deck activity each day.

Weekend of Dec 30/31

At 0715 on Saturday a.m., I opened our bedroom curtains to the backyard and saw a Coopers Hawk sitting on a horizontal branch 20′ from me.  He was looking west, and fidgeting hungrily, but staying where he was.  A quick check of our deck and yard feeders showed no birds at all….they’d sensed his arrival and disappeared, a good thing because Coopers Hawks prey on birds, and we’ve found remains of Doves and Titmice that they’ve probably done.

Before long the hawk was gone and things began to return to normal.  Our deck, where we have the two Thistle feeders plus spread seed on the deck rail and on the deck itself were doing a land office business:  fourteen Juncos busied themselves on the deck itself poking around in the Thistle seed (they like to poke around in the vines at that level too; on the deck rail, and on the Thistle feeders themselves, we eventually counted 33 Goldfinches this past weekend, a few were in trees waiting for their turns, and a couple were on the Sunflower feeder, but most were on the deck rail and the two feeders there.  A lone Song Sparrow was also spied among the Juncos on the deck; they’re not often seen.

The suet feeder, hung off a cable between a Dogwood and our deck had a nice collection of clients, and a new peanut butter suet cake to boot.  The three woodpeckers, Red-Bellied, Hairy and Downy were all on it, but also the White-Breasted Nuthatch was seen, as was the Carolina Wren.  Other species like Juncos and White-Throated Sparrows will sometimes station themselves below the suet, on the ground, to catch extra pieces as they’re ripped off by the bigger woodpeckers….you should see the mess a Pileated Woodpecker makes, with its massive bill…. but it helps the small fry share in the booty.

Since it snowed later that morning, there were a few more species than usual, two English Sparrows showed up to go along with the Song Sparrow, but the Grackles and Crows from a few weeks ago weren’t close enough to be counted.  The Safflower feeder had its usual collection of Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice taking a seed at a time, flying to a nearby branch, pounding on the seed and eating it, and flying back for more.  On the ground below it, Mourning Doves, Carolina Wrens, Cardinals, White-Throated Sparrows and House Finches poked around.  On the other side of the bushy Holly which provides cover, the Sunflower feeder was mobbed by Goldfinches, House Finches, Blue Jays, Cardinals, the Red Bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, and White-Breasted Nuthatch, while the squirrels gobbled up what had been spread on the ground for the White-Throated and English Sparrows, and Cardinals, Doves and occasional Carolina Wren.

It was a satisfying weekend for Feeder Watch, and the birds knew that we bought another 20 pounds of Niger Seed, 40 pounds of Sunflower Hearts and 16 pounds of Safflower Seed to go with six more cakes of suet….they’ll be back next weekend to do their part (of course they’re fed on a daily basis, and we’re adding much water to the heated basin they use…, and will clean it next weekend, weather permitting).  It is colder than we can remember, so make sure your birds have food and water for they depend on us.

Weekend of Dec 23/24

The Grackles and Crows seen recently had family obligations elsewhere over Christmas, so did not show up at our feeders either day.  However, it was not a total loss because The Red-Tailed Hawk was back, this time late morning on Saturday.  Instead of sitting on a branch and looking directly into the house, he chose to sit about 50′ up an Oak tree, where a big limb branched off from the trunk…there was a superb view of our feeders, but he wasn’t inclined to get any closer, which proves that he’s not preying on birds.  Had he been a Cooper’s Hawk or Sharp-Shinned Hawk, that would not have been the case, and ALL feeder activity would’ve stopped until the threat was long gone.

The number of Mourning Doves, while not setting records, changed because, of a sudden, they’ve discovered that we’re spreading Niger Seed on the deck rail for The Goldfinches, and half of the 24 we saw were on our deck!  (Since we have feeders in three different locations, the highest number of a species we see at any one time includes all three feeders plus any others of that species waiting their turn in the trees.  Goldfinches and Mourning Doves spend a lot of time perching in the trees before finally coming to the feeders.

Feeder traffic starts to dwindle around 3:30PM these days, but that’s a good time to see the ones who are late feeders, principally Cardinals and White-Throated Sparrows; that’s how we noted seven of the latter this time.

So far this season, in six reports, we’ve seen 19 species, with House Sparrows already showing up twice (practically never in the past 12 years).  At the same time it appears that there are fewer Red Bellied and Hairy Woodpeckers than usual, but slightly more Downy Woodpeckers.  The rest of our visitors are about in the same numbers as last year.

Weekend of Dec 16/17

I’m trying something different with this report….showing the % of FeederWatch reporters who report the birds we saw.  That’ll give you an idea of the rarity, or not, of what we’re seeing.  I can’t edit the FeederWatch chart, so here’s a rudimentary chart by species, % reporting it in SONJ, and what we saw.

Species %
Mourning Dove and Dark-eyed Junco 84
Northern Cardinal 81
Blue Jay 79
Downy Woodpecker 78
Tufted Titmouse 77
House Finch 71
Red-Bellied Woodpecker 66
White-Breasted Nuthatch 63
White-Throated Sparrow 62
Carolina Wren 43
American Goldfinch 32
Hairy Woodpecker 20
Common Grackle 16
Carolina Chickadee 15
American Crow 12
Red-Tailed Hawk 4

What surprises me is that Hairy Woodpeckers were in the 30’s last year, and it was the first I’d seen this year (Ann sees them during the week).  We Used to get the Brown Creeper regularly, one or perhaps, two…but they started disappearing late last year and are now seen by only 1-2% of those Reporting, down from 4-5% last year.  On the other hand it appears that Carolina Wrens are being seen by more as their numbers were in the low 30s last year.

The best sighting was the young Red-Tailed Hawk.  It was later on Sunday, about 3PM, and he flew in and perched on a Sassafras branch looking right into our family room.  I looked at him for 10″ and he flew off to another house, but the thing that impressed me most was that five or six Mourning Doves continued to feed about 20′ behind him, paying him no heed and vice versa.  He looked just like he does in Sibley:  Big, clear white patch on the upper part of his breast, streaked below and above that, and definitely not a Coopers Hawk (no white patch, size, slim, gray).  What a treat.

Weekend of Dec 9/10

Snow was in the air; we noticed this on Friday when larger numbers of birds were at the feeders, which repeated on Saturday, when it started snowing around 0800, and didn’t stop until early morning Sunday.  In the interim we probably had 6″ of loose snow and more activity at the feeders than normal.  It helped that we were able to spend more time watching too, and an overnight guest, who has written six books about birding in South America, was happy to sit and check the feeders with us on Sunday morning.

Early on Saturday morning four Crows were in the feeding area; their presence discouraged other birds from getting food, but the Crows didn’t get much other than water because the safflower’s in a protected tube, the sunflower feeder has a weight ring which closes when something that heavy jumps on it, the suet cage is Too small for their size, and the Niger seed wasn’t to their liking….but they were there and recorded.

Three different woodpeckers favored us, the reliable Downy pair, and a Red Bellied Woodpecker kept coming back to the sunflower hearts.  There was a Hairy sighting on Saturday a.m. which was much anticipated since the Hairy is a neat bird.

The biggest surprise of the weekend came around 4:30PM on Sunday, just as all birds were calling it a day, when a Hawk flew in!  This hawk, which turned out to be a Cooper’s Hawk, flew to four different places trying to find something to attack:  he was on the Sassafras tree first, but moved to the Dogwood’s top…no luck at either, so he then hid in the Hemlocks at the back of the yard, but was impatient and flew off after thirty seconds.  He was about 15-16″ in length, but the key I use is that the corners of his tail were rounded, unlike those of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, whose tail corners are square.  But, with the appearance of the Coopers Hawk, we were able to log sixteen species on this snowy weekend.

Weekend of Dec 2/3

Species seen were:  Goldfinch, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee, Titmouse, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Red Bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Junco, White-Throated Sparrow, Blue Jay and Carolina Wren.  My comments follow:

Still puzzled by the absence of the Hairy Woodpecker (seen once in three times), and the Red Bellied Woodpecker (twice out of three, but only seen once each time when there Are usually multiple sightings of both on weekends).  Goldfinches were down A LOT from first two weekends, maybe it’s weather related.  Mourning Doves down too, and only saw them once…but I’ve got to spend more time watching.  Highlight of the weekend was the Carolina Wren which, yesterday, busily inspected a cluster of small brown pots we have Hanging on a lattice.  It went into one pot so all you could see was its tail sticking out, inspected, turned around and went on to the next, and repeated – very heart-warming.

The secret (major) to the ones we do get is that we have heated water available on our deck rail…a Chickadee and the Carolina Wren shared it yesterday, the Blue Jay bathes in it, Squirrels love it, all  birds need a source of water when it freezes, so our supply of same attracts many.

Weekend of Nov 18/19

Feeder Watch has started again, but our cat, Reina, doesn’t seem as interested in it just yet.  Maybe it’s because the bird count is down and we’re still waiting to see more consistency among the Woodpeckers.  E.g.  The Hairy and the Red-Bellied were seen only once, the Hairy last week and the RBW this week; they are usually Guaranteed visitors.  Same goes for the delightful Carolina Wren, who pokes around under the Safflower feeder getting what’s jettisoned from above by the Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and House Finches (it saves squeezing into the protected feeding tube).

Last weekend, the first, also had no White-Throated Sparrows, but there were 8 English Sparrows (down to two this past weekend).  They’re not often seen at our Feeders.  And where is our favorite Brown Creeper?  …we only saw him a couple of times last year, and not this year so far.  Has his range changed so that we’re no longer in it?  Well, only 5-6% of Feeder Watch’s New Jersey contingent (generally more than 200 a week) report the Brown Creeper.

Of course the low count may also be because we’re still working in the yard and I haven’t spent as much time watching the feeders as I should…