Saturday, January 17, 2009

Not the Most Exciting Winter

I was hoping that things would really pick up beginning this month, but no dice. Granted, it hasn't been a "bad' winter by any stretch of the imagination. I've seen MUCH worse. But, in comparison to the past two years (and especially last year), it's been somewhat of a disappointment.

Perhaps the best thing about this month was the return of the Townsend's Warblers (above). They've been semi-regulars here for the past two weeks and I can't tell you how happy I am about that. Their bright yellow plumage and lively mannerisms are a real pick-me-up on a typical dreary, overcast, foggy Oregon winter day. I'm still disappointed about the lack of Varied Thrushes, but Townsend's really help make up for it. I'd say that they're my favorite yard birds. Thankfully, we've also been blessed with a few "loyal" Yellow-rumped Warblers (at least two Myrtle and one Audubon's subspecies). The Myrtles are here ALL of the time - literally from dawn 'til dusk. I can hear their "chipping" calls outside as I type this. I suspect that we'll see another wave of Audubon's as April approaches. Downy Woodpeckers (below) and Northern Flickers have also been in abundance recently. And Ruby-crowned Kinglets have been foraging through the pines along our driveway over the past couple of weeks. But, strangely, they've been avoiding our suet feeders. I'm not sure why.

While our "Finch Famine" is essentially over, finches in general have been sparse. I tend to not see more than three to five Goldfinches Lesser or American Goldfinches at a time. House Finches are also not showing up daily, as they usually do. The lone Pine Siskin that was at my thistle feeder the other day was the first I've seen this month. I also haven't seen the neighborhood Song Sparrow for a couple of weeks, and the Golden-crowned Sparrow from December appears to be long gone. Sigh...

Anyway, here's hoping that the rest of the winter brings us a little more excitement.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

After a relatively weak December, I was able to get away for a nice Christmas in San Diego (where I saw a Townsend's Warbler at the zoo... go figure) and give the birds a chance to make their way back to our yard. And things are beginning to look up once again.

Just before our departure, Yellow-rumped Warblers (above) were really beginning to re-establish themselves here for the winter. Since returning, I've been seeing at least two Myrtles and one Audubon's regularly. Both subspecies have also figured out my new caged suet feeder. And late this morning, my favorite wintering species finally showed up: two Townsend's Warblers were dining at my caged suet feeder. It was great to see them again, and hopefully they'll be regulars until early April

The first-of-the-winter Townsend's Warbler... finally!

And if that wasn't exciting enough, it finally appears that we're finally pulling out of our "finch famine." The numbers are still somewhat low, but 9 Lesser Goldfinches (left) and 7 American Goldfinches showed up at the thistle feeders late last week. Still no Siskins for the past few weeks, but the overall finch numbers are a lot better now than they were two weeks ago.

There has also been a noticeable increase in Bushtit numbers since the winter storm of mid-December. Not only are they appearing in relatively large flocks (I counted 25 at once this afternoon), but they're also showing up very frequently over the course of the day.

Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers have also been out in full force for the past couple of weeks. Interestingly, I realized a couple of weeks ago that I haven't seen a male Flicker in the yard for several months. I don't recall seeing one since at least last spring and my last photograph of one is from back in March. That's especially odd considering that at least one pair raised a brood somewhere nearby this past summer. I also received a nice treat of four Chestnut-backed Chickadees this morning. They've been laying low recently.

Species that are holding steady in numbers include Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Anna's Hummingbirds, Brown Creepers, Dark-eyed Juncos, and my trusty Song Sparrow. Species not seen frequently over the past couple of weeks include Varied Thrushes (are they ever going to show up regularly this season?), Pine Siskins (massive drop since November), Scrub-Jays, House Finches (few around since our return from SoCal), and Starlings (this is a good thing). The Golden-crowned Sparrow that we hosted in December has also apparently departed.

Well, we had a blast during the holidays and things are looking up again for '09. A couple of Purple Finches or (gasp!) a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks would be a super-cool way to kick off the new year. We'll see what happens...