[Tweeters] Junco of the winter

earthman1950 at whidbey.com earthman1950 at whidbey.com
Sun Dec 13 18:30:27 PST 2015

I have only been birding for 20 years, so maybe I just haven't been birding
long enough to get bored with some of the more common birds. I feel as if I
have barely begun the learning process. The Song Sparrow is my favorite
bird, and I can see them any day of the year in our yard and many other
nearby places. I could not possibly ever get bored by them.

Same goes for the Junco. In fact, I think they are quite special. First,
they are very attractive birds and their behavior is certainly interesting.
I love their assorted calls, and when they begin singing in late winter
through early summer at our place, their wonderful trill, especially when
several are singing at once, sets such a calming mood to the whole outdoors
that I could just melt into the surroundings on a nice day. And their songs
can vary quite a bit, from the more common bell-like musical trill to a dry
rattle and everything in between, and they vary their songs sometimes and
sing two or three or more quick trills (rattles) instead of a longer
single one.

I love how when I am standing somewhere along the edge of our field and a
junco is heading for a spot that is directly behind me that they will fly
right at me and veer off at the very last second, the sound of their wings
quite loud as they blast by, white tail feathers flashing. I couldn't
possibly count how many times I have been both startled and amused by that
behavior. No other bird in our yard regularly does that. I love how I can
count on seeing them in a blackberry patch along the north edge of our
field on a sunny day, sunning themselves and preening after a dip in our
small pond.

They will even tell you about what type of predator is around when the air
is filled with their alarm calls. An accipter will elicit lots of quick
alarm calls but usually it's time for the nearest cover to wait in silence
when one is nearby. The neighbor's cat, on the other hand, often gets some
well deserved "scolding calls" (my interpretation because I don't like the
neighbor's cats) that persist when the cat is nearby. I even found out
while living in Bellingham that my flock of winter juncos would do the same
thing to a Pygmy Owl we had hunting in our yard one fall for a couple
months and a Northern Shrike that hung around for a week or so one winter
too. They would all sit nearby in plain sight and chip like crazy.

I find comfort in many of the common birds, their changing behaviors and
sounds as the months pass, and the reliability of their presence.

I read this quote from Al Batt in the recent Bird Watcher's Digest. He was
loosely quoting Proust when he wrote, "The real voyage of discovery
consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes".

I hope this doesn't sound preachy. It's not meant to be.

George Heleker
Whidbey Island
earthman1950 at whidbey.com

> ----- Original Message -----


> From: "Jason Hernandez" <jason.hernandez74 at yahoo.com>


> To:"Tweet Ters" <tweeters at u.washington.edu>


> Cc:


> Sent:Sun, 13 Dec 2015 05:52:11 +0000 (UTC)


> Subject:[Tweeters] Junco of the winter


> I confess, I am not one of those birders who is interested in every bird.

> Some birds tend to bore me. But I know this is an error of perception on

> my part; that if I could learn to see them aright, the "boring" birds

> would have their lessons to teach, too.


> I write now of our common companion of this time of year, _Junco

> hyemalis_ (literal translation, "Junco of the winter"). Of course I know

> about the geographical subspecies, and the excitement a birder in the

> know would feel at seeing one of these subspecies in an area properly the

> domain of another. But suppose you and the juncos are being homebodies --

> i.e. you are staying in your own home area, and seeing only the junco

> subspecies typical of your own home area. What about the junco would keep

> you interested in looking at it after you have ascertained what it is?


> Jason Hernandez


> Bremerton


> jason.hernandez74 at yahoo.com

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