BY: Jan Lloyd

For a few weeks, my eBird list numbers have been less than usual.

This year’s young Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and House Finches have scattered to find their own digs and I’m not having to refill the sunflower seed feeders quite so often.

Some birds do not stick around for the winter here so most of the hummingbirds are gone, too.

Some got so fat before then migrated that they looked like small ping pong balls sitting at the feeders.

Each morning when I wake up I am hoping to hear the song of one of our winter visitors – the white-throated sparrow.

Their clear whistled song is represented by many as sounding like “Ole Sam Peabody, Peabody” (or other phrases). It is fun to use an app to hear the songs of these birds.

They usually sound off for a while and then are pretty quiet until spring when they get ready for the trip north.

They will take up residence in the yard, scratching in the leaf litter under the trees and bushes.

They will also take advantage of the white millet that I feed on the ground in a couple of spots.

Each winter I usually have a small flock of Chipping Sparrow using the feeders and seeds that fall to the ground. Occasionally they will have another sparrow or painted bunting mixed in. I’m looking forward to seeing who joins them this year.

When the Eastern Phoebes arrived in the neighborhood this fall, they announced themselves with their call that sounds like their name.

Watch for them perched, singing, and pumping their tails. Check out an app for this song, too.

Last winter I had a wonderful visitor that arrived in December 2020. She was a Buff-bellied hummingbird who traveled to Pensacola from Texas or Mexico.

She liked the flowers and feeders and decided to stay until April 2021. After a rough year, she made my day when she showed up. After she left, I certainly missed her loud clicking greeting when I walked around the yard.

She made my day again a couple of weeks ago when she showed up at the hummer feeder by the back door one morning.

She was sitting in the same places and she knew right where the feeders were. I knew it was her again and Fred Bassett verified the band number the day after she arrived.

They are not dumb at all! I hope she sticks around for the winter again. I’ll make sure she has whatever she needs. She had 19 visitors come to see her and was very cooperative most days.

The past couple of winters I’ve had a Summer Tanager visiting. It joins the Northern Mockingbirds, Brown Thrashers, and Carolina Wrens to eat the mealworms on the platform feeder.  

These birds eat the worms year-round. The Wrens are not shy at all and will come to sit on the edge of the platform as I empty the worms into the tray. They plan to be first in line, but the others won’t come until I leave the feeder area.

I’m also waiting to hear the house wren and the ruby-crowned kinglets fussing in the bushes.

I will also mention that we get many shorebirds passing through or wintering here. These are yard birds for some of you who live on the shore. The rest of us have to visit the beach or other wetland areas to see a wide assortment of these birds.

Many of these birds nest in the arctic (Alaska and Canada) and travel 3000-15,000 miles round trip each year during migration. Many gulls and terns winter here in large numbers. Don’t be fooled by their dull plumages during the winter. They look quite different in many cases than they did during the spring and summer (breeding season).

Double-Crested Cormorants also join us by the thousands for the winter. Watch for these large blackbirds around the bays sitting on piers or pilings in the water.

Wherever there is food, water, and a safe environment, they will come. I hope you enjoy the winter visitors as much as I do. 

All images are from eBird.