Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winter Flocking

Kicking off the beginning of the FeederWatch season, we have been fortunate to see an increase in both diversity and total number of species. The "diversity" (I know, I hate that word, too) part began last week, when the uncommon Winter Wren and irregular Spotted Towhee made appearances. Their presence was a treat. This weekend, fewer unusual/infreqent visitors were about. Instead, we were bombarded with large flocks of the winter "regulars." These included Pine Siskins (20+, left), American Goldfinches (12+), Dark-eyed Juncos (14+), Bushtits (8+), and Chestnut-backed Chickadees (5+). And those that weren't traveling in flocks were still showing up numerous times per day: Anna's Hummingbirds, Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Western Scrub-Jays, Crows, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and House Finches. So that was a nice place to start the Winter season. This was likely due in part to the previous week's cold front that dropped overnight lows into the mid-30s and and kept highs down into the low 50s. Lower temperatures compel birds to consume more to stay warm, so the increased numbers are hardly a surprise.

What is somewhat surprising, however, is the relative lack of Kinglets and Winter Warblers. I spotted both Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers two weeks ago, but they've been MIA since. Both species are typically semi-regular at the feeders in mid-November. It's possible that the recent cold temperatures are just now slowly forcing more of these species out of the hills and into the valley. If that's the case, we'll see more of them in the upcoming weeks. And speaking of surprising, our neighborhood has been hosting a Western Screech-owl for the past few weeks. It spends a lot of time in the pines along our driveway and can often be heard calling from there between 7:30 and 9 pm. I tried to locate it last night with a flashlight and binoculars, but was unsuccessful.

A female Northern Flicker gets tired of waiting for the squirrel to get off of the suet basket.

A Western Scrub-Jay swoops in for more sunflower seed.

Tune in again next week, where we'll hopefully see our first Townsend's Warbler of the Fall. (That usually happens closer to Thanksgiving, but maybe we'll get lucky.)

Update: Just a couple hours after typing this, I spotted both a Ruby- and a Golden-crowned Kinglet working the pine trees along my driveway. Sweet!

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