We’re in the middle of the Great Backyard Bird Count here in the US (last day tomorrow) and here in north east Pennsylvania we have a bird that’s not supposed to be around at this time of year. In fact it rarely shows up in this part of the country at all – the Northern Bobwhite. It's a kind of quail, a small, chicken-like, ground feeding bird...
In the last ten years it’s been recorded at just four places in the whole of Pennsylvania (for Brits - Pennsylvania is the size of England); so the fact that we have one here is a bit special. It’s more common farther south but this female has been here, on and off, for quite a few weeks. judy spotted her again yesterday (and took the picture), as she (the bobwhite, that is!) pottered about under the feeders hung from the raised deck.
She’s unexpectedly tame, she approached within just a few yards of me not long ago, and seems to appreciate the extra seeds thrown down for her although there’s competition from the squirrels.
As it happens, over in Britain, a friend who runs DT Brown, one of the UK's biggest seed companies, has also been spotting some interesting birds. In his village near Newmarket in eastern England, for the second year running, he’s noticed a rare Great Grey Shrike spending the winter and in a nearby village he spotted sixteen Red Kites roosting in one tree! And they’re big… With their wingspan of 5-6ft/1.5-1.8m that must have been quite a sight.
* There’s still time to participate in America’s Great Backyard Bird Count.
UPDATE (6 April) Mrs Bob White is still with us and is still very tame. Most mornings, she's waiting for her daily appetizer of cracked corn. She clucks, quietly, when approached and seems very content - although no sign of a Mr Bob White.
A message by email suggested she might have been intentionally released but we know of nowhere anywhere near here that raises and releases quail or any other birds.