Welcoming our Canadian Friends to Reynolda this Winter

Come late summer and early fall, our summer visitors flee south to the Tropics.  The locals stay around all year and are soon joined by visitors from the North. 

Who are the locals?

 And who are these visitors from Canada? 

The local year-rounders are blue jays and chickadees, woodpeckers and nuthatches, mockingbirds, cardinals, goldfinches, many hawks and sparrows, and many more.  These species thrive on insects in the summer and berries and seeds in the winter.  The species that depend exclusively on an insect diet, often the more colorful ones like Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, and Indigo Buntings, head south in the winter. 

While our summer friends head south, our northern neighbors, breeding in Canada or the northern extremes of the United States, head to our neck of the woods.  And the Reynolda grounds are the perfect habitat for them.

The most common among these visitors are:  

  • White-throated Sparrows who appropriately sing “O-Canada-Canada-Canada” just before they return north. 
  • Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets: tiny, flitting avian specks with colorful crests if you are lucky enough to spot them.
  • Dark-eyed Juncos: sparrow-sized birds, white belly, dark gray or brown above, who display white outer tail feathers as they fly away.
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers: woodpeckers whose yellow belly is not so conspicuous but whose distinctive sap-sucking habits result in a drilled series of shallow holes in trees to which they return to drink sap. This one is my favorite, especially for its name!

Other winter visitors are Purple Finches, Winter Wrens, Pine Siskins, Brown Creepers, Hermit Thrushes, the occasional Red-bellied Nuthatch, and a number of other sparrows.

How should we welcome these northern visitors?  Since they come looking for berries and seeds, we can serve them meals of suet and sunflower seeds at our feeders.  And we can plant flowers and shrubs that provide good cold-weather eating —— mature seeds and winter-ripe berries (“Mmm, mmm, good!”)

And although these particular Canadians can’t come to the museum itself, we do have some bird-friendly art in Reynolda’s collection. This includes prints from John James Audubon’s famous elephant folio (representing the common Blue Jay and the extinct Bachman’s Warbler).  

And one of our latest acquisitions — a portrait by John Singer Sargent of the woman who loved birds and wanted to protect them — Mrs. Augustus Hemenway (Harriet or “Hetty”). She founded the Massachusetts Audubon Society, a precursor to the National Audubon Society, among whose current members many are often seen haunting Reynolda’s woods, binoculars in hand, tallying what winter birds they spot.  Reynolda is recognized as an outstanding birding hotspot!  This is especially true for the upcoming annual Christmas Bird Count.

(And if you are inclined toward aquatic friends from the North, get out to Salem Lake and see a whole passel of ducks, loons, mergansers, grebes, and more this winter.)

by Jeremy Reiskind
January 29, 2023