Last week’s wet and colder conditions brought more birds into the area and to backyard feeding stations.
The considerable snowfall in many areas to our north will likely send even more birds our way this week. Several folks reported a noticeable increase in activity and consumption at their feeders, and a least one found an unusual backyard visitor among their usual flock of sparrows, namely a fox sparrow. Larger members of the sparrow family, fox sparrows are normally found during winter in brushy, weedy areas often near wetlands, but more severe winter weather will sometimes cause them to visit backyards with other sparrow species.
Like the more common backyard white-throated sparrows, fox sparrows seldom use feeders, preferring to forage on the ground with the typical sparrow hop-scratch behavior. A handsome bird with primarily reddish and gray coloration, a backyard fox sparrow is indeed a nice find.
The common merganser reported last week continues to be found associating with red-breasted mergansers at Pawleys Island. In addition to the creek near the south end of the island, the bird has also been observed in the company of red-breasted mergansers in the area of Pritchard Street boat landing. A sizable flock of black skimmers continues to be seen at the south beach inlet, and a few red knots were reported from from the south beach area last week.
Activity at my feeders in Conway during last weeks experienced a significant increase in usage during the cold snap. A Baltimore oriole flock visited throughout the day for sugar water, grape jelly, mealworms and shelled peanuts. A ruby-crowned kinglet became much more conspicuous while visiting for sugar water, jelly and mealworms, and a yellow-rumped warbler joined the fray for the first time this winter, primarily taking advantage of jelly and mealworms.
A number of hummingbirds continue their winter sojourns in our area and throughout the Carolinas. At least one person reported a finding a hummer for the first time this winter at their feeder last week.
Many of these tiny birds are entering the period of their annual molt (some Western hummers are already starting their journeys westward for the upcoming breeding season,) in anticipation of their upcoming departures. Research has demonstrated the hummingbirds that spend winter in our area are not the same birds seen during spring and summer. The winter hummers are from farther northern or western breeding areas, and most will depart by the end of March for their respective summer haunts.
Our earliest breeding hummingbirds typically start arriving in mid-March, with their numbers increasing until late-May.