Birds at Galax Thanksgiving week

We traveled back to Galax from Florida for Thanksgiving week and were not only surprised by the beautiful warm sunny weather but the number of birds and their willingness to vocalize. There were lots of sparrows (white crowned, white-throated, Savannah, field, swamp, song, chipping), a purple finch, 3 WINTER WRENS, a BROWN CREEPER, a YB sapsucker, hermit thrushes, 4 red tailed hawks in a group, a "pair" of HARRIERS, a kestrel, a sharpie, a KINGFISHER (still here!), lots of bluebirds, meadowlarks, cedar waxwings and the usual cast of characters. Our numerous and well cultivated "weeds" are getting a lot of attention from the seed eaters.

A quick photo out the window documented a behavior we had not seen before- namely a chickadee feeding on the seed pods of rose of Sharon or althaea. I knew that this hibiscus/mallow was very attractive to hummingbirds for its flower nectar, but the value of its seeds to winter birds had not been that obvious to me previously. So this is one exotic Asian species that is quite beneficial to birds. It can be invasive in some circumstances, but if you plant one of the newer hybrids that produces few seeds you will get the flowers but will not provide a benefit for winter birds. I advise planting the fertile varieties and just pulling up seedlings that are unwanted.

Margaret had incredible looks of close golden-crowned kinglets, in one case a kinglet with a huge yellow crown & next to it one with a large brilliant orange crown. So what is so different about the feeding habits of ruby crowned and golden crowned kinglets that the GCK can stay so far north while the RCK must migrate further south?

So overall we really enjoyed a late fall visit to SW VA, but aside from one autumn meadowhawk dragonfly, a few lethargic grasshoppers and a stink bug, the insects were MIA.

Bill & Margaret
Galax, VA