Sunday, March 15, 2009

NOW the Fun Begins...

I spent a sizeable portion of this winter's blog entries bemoaning the lack of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Townsend's Warbler, and finches in general. Things have picked up significantly over the past month. And after this weekend, I'm finally at the point where I can't complain anymore.

While it's always exciting to find a species that one doesn't expect, one of the most rewarding experiences of birding is discovering a species that is supposed to be elsewhere. Sure, I'd be thrilled if a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks showed up a my sunflower feeders but the discovery wouldn't be particularly noteworthy, as Evening Grosbeaks (though not city-friendly) are year-round residents here. So I was absolutely thrilled yesterday when my wife mentioned that a bird that sort of looked like a Townsend's Warbler was at the suet feeder. I grabbed the binocs and my jaw hit the floor: Hermit Warblers (above) winter in So Cal and Mexico and don't return to this part of the country until the third week of April (the earliest recorded date in the past 15 years is April 9th). To add to the excitement, I had never actually seen a Hermit Warbler before. Thankfully, it hung around long enough for me to get several good photos. After consulting with a few local experts, the consensus explanation of this bird's presence here five weeks before its normal return date is that this individual most likely overwintered here.

And if that doesn't make for an exciting enough day, a pair of Purple Finches (above) graced our yard with their presence earlier in the morning. This was the first that I had seen since last April. They didn't stick around for long, but I was still very happy to see them again.

While looking out the window last Saturday morning, I noticed a small flash of orange/red dart towards the roof. Only one native species is that color and moves that quickly: Rufous Hummingbirds (above) were back. I walked towards the kitchen and, sure enough, a male Rufous at the nectar feeder outside the window. I have not seen a female yet, but at least one male has been visiting regularly. A small flock of Crows were also harassing what appeared to be a Red-tailed Hawk last weekend. March has been quite a month thus far!

In other news, at least four individual Northern Flickers have been visiting over the past few weeks. This includes two males and two females. Flickers have also been drumming on trees in the neighborhood (and also our roof, unfortunately) to establish territory. Downy Woodpeckers have also been numerous, with at least three individuals stopping by regularly. The male Townsend's Warbler that hung around intermitently over the past two months is showing up a little more often now. An Audubon's subspecies Yellow-rumped Warbler has now joined the two Myrtle subspecies at the suet feeders. The "regular" winter finches (American and Lesser Goldfinches, House Finches, and Pine Siskins) have been hanging out in approximately average numbers.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Mallards have been dining on our cracked corn and millet again. Interestingly, they seem to enjoy just hanging out in our driveway as well now. It's not unusual for them to just plop down and relax for a good 20-40 minutes. This is somewhat surprising with all of the neighborhood cats prowling around, but apparently they feel safe here.

Driveway Mallards - just hangin' out.

The "Finch Famine" is over. L to R: American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, and Purple Finches.

Well, that's it now. Hopefully I'll have more interesting sightings to report in a couple of weeks.


Marianne said...

Great photos! I too live in Eugene but haven't seen the Hermit warbler yet. What do you put in your suet? ;)

BJG said...

My apologies for responding to your comments several weeks late (I apparently haven't activated the e-mail alert function).

I have no idea why that Hermit Warbler decided to show up. I'd love to tell you that I've found in irresistible suet blend, but the truth is that I'm just using the standard peanut butter flavor.

Marianne said...

Thanks for the reply :) I'll try the peanut butter flavor!