mid December

Unusual, that is not previously observed, behaviour among the cardinals this morning. For some weeks I have seen two females, one with a male and one on her own which was usually chased away by the pair; yesterday the loner had reinforced her ranks by one and today there are three unattached females. The three seem to travel as a group although not approaching one another much closer than about a foot; the pair try to chase them away but do not really put much effort into it.

Previous winters it has been clear that our garden was divided into two cardinal territories, more or less on either side of the garden, each maintained by a pair. So what has changed? This is the first winter we have had only one area of bird feeders, in the place of the old feeder pole furthest from the house; we have also left the curtains up on the deck canopy; although they are bunched into the corners they present a larger visual presence than the pillars so perhaps offer more of a sheltered feel. The bird bath is being used by more species than previously observed, especially the Red-breasted Nuthatch(es?).

Later I was able to see that the flock of cardinals was feeding on the Buckthorn berries on the tree in the back corner, just like starlings and waxwings.

The following morning after snow and freezing rain overnight and more starting, there was a lot of bird activity: the redpolls which had arrived yesterday were still around, the Carolina Wren arrived early and then brought a friend later – I’m sure they know when it is a FeederWatch day so they avoid being counted! However, the Red-bellied Woodpecker did show up on the right day.

It is 18 months at least since the butternut tree was felled, so the second winter without it. Shrubs have grown up more in the cat run bed near the house but the feeders which were near the deck last year have been moved to the further site. It will be interesting to see if the group of unaccompanied female cardinals continues to come and if they attract males.

20 December: three males as well as the three females around the feeders – together for Christmas??