Even with the Park Naturalist on vacation, the local wildlife know Quartz Mountain Nature Center’s watchable wildlife area is the place to be. By far the most common visitor is the Dark-eyed Junco. These are small songbirds, about the size of a sparrow. The upper body is dark gray to black and the underbody is white. The cone shaped beak is rather small but stout. Dark-eyed Juncos travel in flocks and have been swarming the watchable wildlife area in the afternoons. Most afternoons have 20 to 30 of these small birds eating the red & white millet the other birds have left in the platform feeders or have kicked to the ground.
Last year we had a partial albino Dark-eyed Junco. Where most Juncos are dark gray to almost black across the back this bird was white. They bottom of the bird was the normal off-white/buff colors. An emailed photo to an ODWC Wildlife Diversity Biologist had the answer very quickly and the partial albino Dark-eyed Junco hung out at the Nature Center feeders for quite a while. I wonder if it will be back this year.
Another common visitor to the Nature Center feeders is the White-breasted Nuthatch. These are also small, sparrow-sized, gray songbirds but with a rather long, thin beak. In addition to having a white breast, for which they are named, they also have white faces, throats and bellies. The Nuthatches use the long, thin beak to feed on insects during the warmer months. At the feeders they like black-oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet.
The White-tail deer have figured out when the bird food is refilled and they seem to be the first on the scene. They love the black-oil sunflower seeds and we have had to raise several of the hanging feeders higher, so the deer can’t bump them and make the seed fall to the ground. There are still quantities of viable acorns on the ground so we haven’t started putting deer corn out daily yet.
Should you want to drive out over the Christmas Holidays to wildlife watch, please be cautious and courteous. Not everyone wants to creep along at 1 MPH to watch eagles soaring above or pelicans paddling on the lake. Pulling over into the pull outs is much safer than stopping on Lodge Road. The many sharp curves and steep grades make visibility challenging. Please use the pull outs.
Should you want to pour out a cup of deer corn, please don’t pour it in the road or even on the shoulder of the Main Park Roads. Deer corn attracts the deer and having them feed on the road or the shoulder of the road is dangerous. The last thing anyone wants is to have a deer hit or to hit a deer. If you wish to provide a little deer corn, please do so safely by putting the corn in a campground. All the campgrounds have smaller, less trafficked roads that will limit the chances of anyone getting hit-be it deer or person.
The entire Quartz Mountain Nature Park staff wish you and yours, a safe & Happy Holiday Season!