On the phone last week, my sister was talking through identifying a bird at her feeder. We concluded it was a red-bellied woodpecker. I remember when I first identified them in my yard I couldn't help thinking it was a ridiculous name. I mean, do you see any red on the belly? On the other hand, I think all male woodpeckers have some red on their heads, so the search for distinguishing characteristics picks up on some pretty subtle things.
Yesterday, coming back from tapping maple trees I looked up in unconscious response to the high pitched voices overhead to find a flock of cedar wax-wings in our huge black cherry tree. I guess they're here all winter, but I don't see them very often and I can't help being delighted. A friend told me last night that she'd recently seen an albino cedar waxwing. It's like a test: can you name this bird without color clues? Candace says it takes a minute, but luckily waxwings have a distinctive silhouette.
Lots of birds that have been hanging around in twos and threes are now showing up in big groups. I don't usually have tree sparrows at the feeder but this morning, in addition to the usual gang of mourning doves, chickadees, juncos and titmice, there's a big group of tree sparrows.