The Delaware Nature Society runs a birding series every season, usually meeting twice per month on Fridays. Ironically, we visited Winterthur on a chilly but pleasant first day of spring. We saw lots of birds and we were treated to close looks of many. Everything seemed very active and it was as if the birds knew that officially, the seasons had changed.
The Winterthur Museum is in the background across a tranquil pond on the first day of Spring.
Phoebes, Robins, Titmice, Cardinals, Chickadees, and Goldfinches were singing. A Pileated Woodpecker bashed dead wood nearby with its beak, staying just out of sight. Tree Swallows buzzed by us in the chilled air. A Muskrat swam in the small stream below the museum, carrying grasses into its burrow. Two Kingfishers flew past, chattering to each other. One of the ponds ahead of us contained some ducks, but they were backlit. We walked further up the path and got them into good light, discovering that they were migratory Ring-necked Ducks. We watched for a little while and realized that three of the males were putting on a courtship display for a female. It was amusing to watch the males lay their head onto their back, then quickly thrust it forward, trying to get the female’s attention. It didn’t look like she had her mind made up.
Ring-necked Ducks were courting in a pond at Winterthur. Males lean their head back, then quickly thrust it forward trying to get the female's attention.
Near this pond, I heard a song that sounded like a garble followed up with the sound of a rusty door hinge. “schltdt…..SQUEEEEEEEK”! A Rusty Blackbird! We saw the male in breeding plumage, all black with a white eye and thin, long beak. It flew and landed at the edge of a wooded pond, and began doing what Rusty Blackbirds do best…flipping wet leaves in search of food. We watched until it finished feeding, then got some photos as it flew to a nearby tree to sing again.
The Rusty Blackbird is migrating through Delaware now on its way to remote boreal bogs in Canada to breed.
The gardens at Winterthur are a dramatic landscape from which to see birds, not to mention beautiful flowers, specimen trees, and historic buildings. The open meadows, rolling hills, mature woodlands, arboretum, and gardens make for scenery that defines the beauty of Delaware’s Piedmont. The activity of wildlife made spring come alive yesterday morning for our group. Get out and enjoy it yourself! Winter is over, spring has begun.
"Texturized" by my computer, this photo of Ring-necked Ducks takes on an artistic look in a Winterthur pond.