[CT Birds] Red-breasted Nuthatches (tri-state area)
Robert DeCandido PhD
rdcny at earthlink.net
Wed Sep 7 06:24:40 EDT 2016
Red-breasted Nuthatches have been seen in large numbers recently
after originally (first!) being reported at several locations in the
tri-state area: in Connecticut (Stamford) on 26 June by Brenda
Inskeep; in northwest Connecticut by Fred Baumgarten about 20 June
(Fred - do you have an exact date?); at the "Point" (Stratford?) on
or about 26 June by Patrick Comins; at the New York Botanical Garden
(2) in the Bronx (NYC) on 25 June (Deborah Allen and Robert
DeCandido); in Central Park on 26 June (Jeffrey M. Ward with DA and
RDC) and on Staten Island on 3 July (H. Fischer). The first report in
New Jersey was on 27 June at Lord Stirling Park, Basking Ridge (bejoba at ...)
Migrant Red-breasted Nuthatches are most often found in conifers, but
I tracked down five in the same area within a group of deciduous
trees in Central Park on Labor Day. In years past, an early date of
arrival is on or about 15 July. In exceptionally "early" years,
individuals arrive by late June. These early arrival years are
indicative of an "irruption" meaning lots more are on the way. In
some years, other seed eating birds such as Purple Finches, Pine
Siskins, Crossbills and other species also head south to the
tri-state area and beyond, in large number - autumn 2007 was a good
year for multiple species with Red-breasted Nuthatches leading the
way. So the little Red-breasted Nutchases are an augur of what else
might come south.
I cannot find any historical notes on Red-breasted Nuthatches in
Connecticut, so one from the Washington DC area, with a brief mention
of Stamford, will have to suffice:
From: The Auk 10: 87 (1893)
Sitta canadensis appearing in Numbers in the District of Columbia.
Last autumn the writer collected birds quite extensively at Takoma,
D.C., and vicinity, especially in the southern part of Montgomery
County, Maryland. During all that time and the following winter not
a single specimen of the Red-breasted Nuthatch (S. canadensis) was
observed, and there is every reason to believe that they were not at
all represented among the fall migrants of that season (1891 - 1892).
This autumn, however, (1892) the case is entirely different, for in
the same localities the bird came early, and in most unusual numbers.
They have appeared in loose flocks, associated with the usual autumn
small birds, as Juncos, Titmice, Wrens, etc., and upon several
occasions one could count as many as thirty or forty of them from a
single point of observation. There would be no trouble in collecting
as many as fifty specimens in a day. Many birds of the year are
among them, as is indicated by their duller plumage and less decided
markings. A number of years ago I remember this species appearing
thus suddenly one autumn in the neighborhood of Stamford,
Connecticut, a place where the writer collected birds for a long time
early in the sixties and where the species had not been noticed for
many seasons.--R. W. SHUFELDT, Takoma, D. C.
Finally, for those interested in censusing for Red-breasted
Nuthatches in their home patch or wherever - since these birds can
turn up anywhere including backyards, try this: in the Sibley
electronic guide for birds on your I-phone/I-touch, play the first
call provided for this species (called the Toots #1_NY). Put it on a
loop on your hand-held device and let it play for about 2
minutes...then switch to the call named: More Calls #1_NY
(Red-breasted Nuthatch). Play that for about two minutes (put on a
loop so the call keeps playing continuously for the two minutes).
Having a small blue-tooth speaker will aid your field research.
In my experience, these birds are very social and if any are in the
area, they will come in and work their way down the tree trunk to
very near the sound...it is possible to get many more coming in
simultaneously - I have gotten as many as five at a time recently.
They will fly back and forth overhead...usually landing nearby to
give their "yank-yank" call in return. They look happy hearing calls
from their compatriots (on the "tape"), but why I believe this is a
discussion for another day in a different forum. Even in Washington
state where Deborah and I visited a few weeks ago, it was possible to
bring for a close look (all the way down from the top of 150-200 foot
tall conifers) at families of these birds. Indeed if we did not use
the calls from an electronic device we would not have known the birds
were in the area.
Now before anyone gets bonkers about what I am writing regarding
playing calls to census for birds, please be advised that (a) you are
doing this to learn about birds, their numbers and distribution = you
have scientific intent; (b) the birds will respond for 1-2 minutes
then go back to doing what they were doing = you have not permanently
(or even temporarily) damaged them...you have simply changed their
behavior for a brief amount of time...and you may even see them
feeding near you too; (c) this has nothing to do with being ethical
or not-ethical and you are not a bad/good person for interacting with
birds in this way; and finally (d) if you have children or other bird
watchers with you, they will be amazed and their enjoyment
(appreciation) of these birds will increase greatly particularly if
they (the nuthatches) fly back and forth in front of your nose and
attempt to land on your head (yes this happens).
So, if you are inclined, go out in your backyard and census for
Red-breasted Nuthatches...and bring your camera and a 300mm lens. If
not, or you hate what I wrote, don't...try pishing instead. But pray
tell, what's the difference between electronic calls and pishing?
These are both valid ways of locating birds.
Robert DeCandido PhD
6/26/16, 0630 - this morning there was a Red-breasted Nuthatch loudly
vocalizing and seen well at the corner of Shippan and the drive to
West Beach in the spruce grove on that corner. It is my 3rd sighting
of RB Nuthatch in southern areas this month. Brenda Inskeep in Stamford
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