Monday, December 17, 2007

Doorstep Dove and Family in the Junco's Spruce Tree

Today there were 27 Mourning Doves in the flock in the feeding area. With so much snow covering wild food, and the frigid temperatures, wind chill below zero, the country doves are also coming into town and availing themselves of the feeders.

For two days there have been long periods of time in which the passerines make themselves scarce. This of course makes me wonder where the raptor is, but after two days of searching I have yet to discover it's perch.

Doorstep arrived by herself with only two brave Juncos as the vanguard to the feeding area. They ate, making up for lost time. The mass of Mourning Doves and an increased flock of Dark-eyed Juncos then arrived at which time Doorstep flew up into te closest Maple and perched. The Red-belled Woodpecker made a cameo appearance at the cylinder feeder. Yesterday during the snow, I was standing directly outside the door and very near to the wooden feeder when I heard a "meep, meep" and the White-breasted Nuthatch flew directing above my head, nipped a sunflower seed and took off with it. It was as if I wasn't even there.

Eventually, Doorstep flushed off the Maple branch and flew directly to one of the Junco's Spruce Trees. The entire flock followed her in. I begin to believe that she, having already eaten, had taken on the job of sentinel. The Juncos flushed as well but took off for the Spruce trees on the other side of the yard. Within minutes the Juncos were back eating seed off the snow under the feeders.

But the Doves, sat in the Spruce for their evening lull in the sunset warming themselves as the light became progressively more golden. It's interesting that they've never gone for the Spruce before. It was always the wires or in pre-raptor days, Doorstep and Company circled the bath in the evening as the sun went down. As the all followed her, I began to wonder if Mourning Doves had a matrilineal society. Occasionally the males may do a hop, hop at each other it's rather rare. Doorstep's family follows her behavior. And today the whole group went to an entirely different sunset spot by her lead.

Which brings us to the one Junco in the Junco Spruce. He'd been inside the Spruce somewhere and when the Dove's landed he mosied out to see what was going on. And to tell you the truth he seemed rather stunned by the whole thing. This has been a Junco tree for years. Then I realized, wait, all the other Junco's were at the feeding area. Was this the sentinel Junco of this Spruce. Do they leave someone to watch and make sure that a Cooper's doesn't sneak into the Spruce and lay in wait for them so he can nab them as they come in after being flushed?
The laying in wait technique is popular with some predators. When my African Grey Parrot, Quicksilver had recently arrived to live with us, I went to put him into his sleep cage for the night and what did I find? Chekhov our Maine Coon cat was inside Silver's cage sitting as neat as you please on his perch--waiting for him.

Mr. Junco comes out a step further as a Mourning Dove flies in precipitously and somewhat unsuccessfully for the previously selected perch.

He ends up in the bottom row, acts like he had meant to do it all the time, and begins to eat snow.

One dove keeps watch to the left, the second to the right, and the third keeps an eye on the portal through the tree.

He heads towards it for a better vantage point.

Three in a row. One looks left, one looks right, and I guess if you're in the center without a necessary vantage point you get to nap.

Mr. Junco comes down from his high vantage point to watch the snow eating Dove. Still possibly wondering if they're going to leave tonight or if there won't be much room at the inn tonight for his extended family. Then he begins to watch Snow Eater even more closely. In less than a minute Junco begins to imbibe of it as well.

It gets darker. The sun is down. Soon all the Mourning Doves fly away to a more usual roost. Mr. Junco seems quite relieved and takes off for the feeding area for a little seed to go with his snow.
Donegal Browne

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