ON February 18, 1890, my friend and I started out ‘bird-hunting,’ as usual, in the ‘Ramble.’ Central Park. It was during the comparatively warm spell after the blizzard of the 12th, and the preceding zero weather. On the way we saw a Starling, perched high on a building, trying to sing. On entering the Park we saw a White-throated Sparrow. I have seen this species more times than any other this month—of course, excepting the common Sparrow.
On nearing our ‘hunting-grounds,’ we heard the familiar ‘cree-e’ of a Brown Creeper, and soon discovered the little fellow hard at work, as usual. A little later we came upon the beautiful Cardinal, with his two wives. It is a fact that there are one male and two females, though probably only one is his real mate. He does not however, appear to be partial to either.
Further on we found what we were chiefly looking for—a flock of lively little Chickadees. I found that I had only a very small supply of hazelnuts with me, but I made the best of them. There was a good deal of snow on the ground, which made the Chickadees unusually tame—being hungry. They would light on our hands, inspect the pieces of crushed nut there, knock off the ones that did not suit them, and finally fly off with one—usually the largest. We soon began to recognize separate birds, and gave them names; such as ‘Buffy,’ ‘Pretty,’ etc. Then our attention was attracted by the queer noise made by the Nuthatch, and this trunk-crawling friend of ours appeared. We think that continued close inspection of tree-trunks has made him near-sighted, because when you throw him a piece of nut he generally just gazes at it, grunts a little, and then looks at you again. My cousin suggested that when he did find what you threw him, it was by the sense of hearing rather than that of sight, as he can generally find a big piece that makes a noise in falling. When he succeeds in getting ‘something good,’ he wedges it into the bark somewhere and hits it with his bill.
But, between the Nuthatch, the Chickadees, and the hungry squirrels—that would sit up with their paws on their breasts, and their heads on one side, imploring for food, it is needless to say successfully,—our small supply of nuts was soon gone. So we went home as fast as we could, procured more nuts, and in twenty minutes were again in the ‘hunting-grounds.’ But we found, to our dismay, that others had monopolized our flock of chickadees! However, what partly compensated for this, was a good close view of a Downy Woodpecker. There is a pair of these birds around here, which you are almost sure to see,—either together or singly.
But it was soon time to go home, and on the way we heard the lively song of the European Goldfinches, and soon found four of them high up in a tree. They are shy birds, and flew as we approached. They feed on pine cones, and a flock of them will take possession of a pine tree, hide themselves in the dark tufts of pine needles, and eat the seeds at their leisure. The only way you can have knowledge of their presence is by the frequent cracking of the seeds heard. For a long time we thought they were Crossbills, but one day a flock of noisy Sparrows came into the tree and drove the quiet Goldfinches out of their tufts—much to my surprise, for I did not suppose that Goldfinches, which I had been accustomed to find singing loudly, could keep so quiet. We also saw a Song Sparrow quietly picking away at some bird-seed scattered there.