Just as bare ground along a plowed road attracts birds in an otherwise snow-covered landscape, a receding river or large stream can provide the same benefit to hungry avians looking for food following a winter storm.
Here is a small sample of some of the species seen during a brief stop along the Susquehanna earlier this week.
Along vegetated edges of the Susquehanna and its tributaries, the Song Sparrow is ubiquitous in its search for small seeds and other foods. As the river recedes from the effects of this month’s rains, the shoreline is left bare of more recently deposited snow cover. Song Sparrows and other birds are attracted to streamside corridors of frost-free ground to find sufficient consumables for supplying enough energy to survive the long cold nights of winter.
Thousands of American Robins have been widespread throughout the lower Susquehanna valley during the past week. Due to the mild weather during this late fall and early winter, some may still be in the process of working their way south. Currently, many robins are concentrated along the river shoreline where receding water has exposed unfrozen soils to provide these birds with opportunities for finding earthworms (Lumbricidae) and other annelids.
This Golden-crowned Kinglet was observed searching the trees and shrubs along the Susquehanna shoreline for tiny insects and spiders. Temperatures above the bare ground along the receding river can be a few degrees higher than in surrounding snow-covered areas, thus improving the chances of finding active prey among the trunks and limbs of the riparian forest.
Not far from the kinglet, a Brown Creeper is seen searching the bark of a Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) for wintering insects, as well as their eggs and larvae. Spiders in all their life stages are a favorite too.
American Pipits not only inhabit farm fields during the winter months, they are quite fond of bare ground along the Susquehanna. Seen quite easily along a strip of pebbly shoreline exposed by receding water, these birds will often escape notice when spending time on mid-river gravel and sand bars during periods of low flow.
An American Pipit on a bitterly cold afternoon along the Susquehanna.