Sunday, April 26, 2009

Special Spring Double Issue

It's been over a month since my last post! Sorry, I've been tremendously busy. But I've been paying attention and have continued to take photos. And that's a good thing, as there has been quite a bit of action since mid-March.

Rufous Hummers began to show up in the first week of March. First the males, and then I began to spot females by the middle of the month. I had to set up a second nectar feeder to accommodate them. By early April, the combination of migrating Rufous and local Anna's Hummers were consuming approximately 14 oz. of nectar per week! Setting up the second nectar feeder in the Rhododendron bush just outside of the livingroom window afforded several nice photo opportunities.

Mid-march through mid-April also brought at least three different Purple Finches to our feeders. They've only been recorded here in February-April and October, so we look forward to seeing them and and getting a couple of photos. Interestingly, they really seemed to take to the new-ish feeder whose perching area is only about four feet off of the ground. Purple Finches are known for prefering feeders that are high off of the ground. They appear to have left for good now, but I was pleased to see them stick around for longer than they did last Spring.

The other Spring migrant to make its presence known has been the Orange-crowned Warbler. The first-of-the-year stopped by two weeks ago and I've at least one over the past two weekends. I'm sure that they'll have moved onto their breeding grounds a couple of weeks from now, but nothing says "April" here like Orange-crowned Warblers. Black-headed Grosbeaks should be passing through within the next week or two, and there has been a recent report of a Lazuli Bunting in Eugene. This would be an extraordinary yard bird, so I'm not holding my breath... but I'm definitely keeping my eyes open.

Spring migration also means an influx of "birds on the move" to their higher-elevation breeding grounds. This was readily apparent this year, with a sudden increase of Ruby-crowned Kinglets (few seen in the winter) and Townsend's Warblers, followed by a rather abrupt drop-off. While I did spot an RC Kinglet last weekend, the Townsend's Warblers are definitely gone. Another recent quasi-migratory passer-through is the Steller's Jay. Steller's Jays tend to inhabit the coniferous hills alongside the valley and are somewhat infrequent in our lower-elevation yard. We also had a brief appearance from a White-crowned Sparrow, also on its way up into the hills.
Pine Siskins (above) peaked earlier this month (over a dozen at the feeders at once), but then leveled off to 2-4 at a time. It will be interesting to see if a pair decides to nest in the area again this year.

A male Purple Finch dines on sunflower seeds

A White-crowned Sparrow feeds on cracked corn

A female Townsend's Warbler perches in our flowering tree

A male Rufous Hummer sips tasty nectar

A female Rufous Hummer guards the other nectar feeder

Year-round yard regulars such as Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers have also been visiting the suet feeder in high numbers recently. While the Flicker numbers have tapered off somewhat, it appears that a pair of Downys has set up residence somewhere in the neighborhood. Both frequent the suet feeder, often simultaneously. Mallard numbers have dropped from 6-8 to one pair. It's likely that this pair is nesting somewhere nearby. Other "regular" passerines that have held steady during this period include American and Lesser Goldfinches, Red-breasted Nuthathces, and Black-capped Chickadees. Dark-eyed Juncos, who usually breed up in the hills, have tapered off to approximately 2-3 at a time, but are still around regularly. It'll be intereting to see if a pair sticks around again this summer.

A female male Northern Flicker pecks away at a suet cake

A pair of Downy Woodpeckers stops by a for a bite to eat.

Well, that's about it for now. I'll be on the lookout for Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lazuli, Buntings, Wilson's Warblers, and some of the other later migrants over the next few weeks. Until then...