Sunday, September 21, 2008

Clouds and Rain

Three straight days of cloudy mornings following by a morning of light rain pretty much means the end of summer here in Western Oregon. And as the seasons change, so does the activity in the yard.

This summer, mornings typically consisted of a few Lesser Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees showing up an hour or so after sunrise, followed by House Finches an hour or so later. Back in July, I would sometimes go days without seeing a Red-breasted Nuthatch. But we're clearly in Fall Mode right now, with 3-4 Dark-eyed Juncos announcing their presence with their characteristic, erratic trill just before sunrise. The silence is further broken by Black-capped and Chestnut-backed (above) Chickadees. They are soon joined by Red-breasted Nuthatches and American and/or Lesser Goldfinches. Later, House Finches and flocks of 10+ Bushtits convene.

The end of the breeding season is also evident in the presence of flocking species.
Most obvious are mixed-finch flocks, such as American Goldfinch/Pine Siskin (above). "Families" of Lesser Goldfinch parents and juveniles, a common sight as of a month ago, have since dispersed and joined the AMGOs and Siskins. The number of American Godlfinches has increased dramatically over the past few weeks. I typically now see 20-30 at a time and they've spilled over onto the driveway, as there aren't enough feeders to accomodate them. As mentioned earlier, Bushtits are now rarely seen in flocks of fewer than 10. And as I was walking around the neighborhood last weekend, I happened to come across a small flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding on berries. This is a sneak preview of what's to come next month, where flocks of ~100 will be common.

Going back to the earlier point about Goldfinches, the "changing of the guard" that we saw last season has occurred again this year. Both times, American Goldfinch numbers at our feeders drop significantly in Spring, to the point where Lesser Goldfinches became the most abundant Finch. And like last year, the populations have reversed. Last Saturday, I counted 31 American Goldfinches at my feeders, and only 3 Lessers.

A Dark-eyed Junco enjoys a mix of millet, thistle, sunflower chips, and canary seed at the ground feeder.

Some of the two dozen American Goldfinches currently spilling onto the driveway.

"My wings are missing!" A juvenile male Anna's Hummingbird forages for nectar early on a Saturday morning.

However, it's not quite peak Winter feeding season just yet. Northern Flickers have been pretty much MIA for the past week and Steller's Jays and Brown Creepers have yet to make their annual Fall appearances. I lucked out last year and got a Ruby-crowned Kinglet at the end of September, but I don't foresee that happening again this year. Mid or late October is more likely.

Anyway, I hope to report a Kinglet, Steller's Jay, or Purple Finch sighting next time. Until then...

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