Darkness Comes Early These Days

November 19, 2014  •  2 Comments

Most people are counting the days until Christmas.  Well, me too, but first I'm counting to December 21st, the first day of winter.  Why in the world would I be doing that?  Beginning mid December, we gain a minute of daylight each day.  My daily work schedule, busy weekends, and early darkness has limited my opportunity to spend time with nature.  The little time I've had recently, I lingered around habitats favored by a Kinglet. 

The Golden-crowned Kinglet and Ruby-crowned Kinglet are the only two kinglets in Pennsylvania.  They are hopping about in our grasses, shrubs, deciduous trees and tall evergreens looking for insects hiding in crevices. They are not an easy bird to photograph because they don't sit in one spot longer than a second or two.  Plus, when they are close to the ground, they are among dense branches and grasses.  So far, I haven't found a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

When searching for a Golden-crowned Kinglet, you can give yourself the best chance of seeing one if you listen for Black-capped Chickadees.  Kinglets like to travel with other small birds like Chickadees and Tufted Titmouse.  Last weekend, a small flock of Chickadees came through feeding where I was standing.  Soon, I could hear the faint kinglet call, Tsee Tsee Tsee.  The dried up stems and flower heads of Goldenrod began to shake as a Golden-crowned Kinglet traveled repeatedly from shrub to grasses to goldenrod, over and over again.  The kinglet is our smallest bird next to the Ruby-throated Hummingbird so it can be fairly invisible in thick vegetation.

Golden-crowned KingletGolden-crowned Kinglet


Here is one of the Black-capped Chickadees traveling with the kinglet.

Black-capped ChickadeeBlack-capped Chickadee


Earlier this fall, I found myself sitting against a tree in the middle of a hardwood forest, listening.  I had many visitors that morning from red and gray squirrel, an opossum, and various birds.  This was a good morning for woodpeckers.  Below is a male Red-bellied Woodpecker making his way up a dead Cherry tree limb.

Red-bellied WoodpeckerRed-bellied Woodpeckermale


The Downey Woodpecker and Hairy Woodpecker look very similar.  The primary way I can tell between the two is the size of their beak.  A Downey Woodpecker has a short beak about half the size of its head.  Whereas, the Hairy Woodpecker's beak is about a long as its head.

Below is a female Downey Woodpecker.

Downey WoodpeckerDowney Woodpeckerfemale


Here is a male Hairy Woodpecker.  A female does not have a red spot on her head.

Hairy WoodpeckerHairy WoodpeckerMale


Birds of different species, like kinglets, chickadees, and titmouse, travel together.  Many times, when I see woodpeckers, I find a nuthatch or two traveling along.  Below is a White-throated Nuthatch with the sunlit, golden leaves of a maple in the background.

White-breasted NuthatchWhite-breasted Nuthatch


The remaining photos were made in my backyard.  We have two crabapple trees, but one in particular, is very popular to birds in the fall.  Over a couple days, we had cardinals, crows, starlings, robins, waxwings, and even a Northern Flicker visiting the tree.

Here is a female cardinal giving me attitude.

Northern CardinalNorthern Cardinalfemale


The American Robin is so common, I don't think they get any credit for how attractive they are.

American RobinAmerican Robin


There was a flock of five or six Cedar Waxwings that frequented the tree.  I will close with a few shots of them.

Cedar WaxwingCedar Waxwing


Below is an immature Cedar Waxwing tossing a shriveled up crabapple fruit into the air.  They toss it up and down several times before eating it.  I guess no one ever told them "Don't play with your food".

Cedar WaxwingCedar Waxwing


Portrait of a beautiful adult Cedar Waxwing.

Cedar WaxwingCedar Waxwing


So much fruit to eat! 

Cedar WaxwingCedar Waxwing


The crabapple tree is nearly bare now.  I still get some visitors but the waxwings have gone.  If there is one thing I've learned, next fall will come fast enough and I'll get to do this all over again. 

Thanks for looking,




Jim Weixel(non-registered)
Outstanding photos, as usual!
Betty Mack(non-registered)
Thank you for posting these beautiful bird photos.
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