Saturday, May 16, 2009


While I'd love to report a yard sighting of a Evening Grosbeak or a Lazuli Bunting, the first half of May has not been that kind. (Both species have been seen in the area over the past couple of weeks.) However, I do have one morning of glorious warbler activity to report.

Earlier in the week, I noticed quite a bit of activity among the red-colored leaves of my neighbor's tree. After breaking out the binoculars, I spotted a Wilson's Warbler (above) and a likely Cassin's Vireo (only saw it for a split second). After a while, I was able to spot three individual Wilson's Warblers. This was a somewhat significant finding, as I typically only see one Wilson's at a time in the yard - once or twice a year, if I'm lucky. Shortly after, I noticed that one of these foraging passerines had a gray head. Huh? After consulting my trusty National Geographic Field Guide, the eye ring and lack of gray on the throat lead me to ID it as a Nashvile Warbler (below). This was a very interesting find, as Nashvilles do not breed here on the valley floor and are unusual yard birds during the migration season. I counted two foraging through the tree that morning, one in the late afternoon, and haven't seen a Nashville or Wilson's since. This underscores the importance of daily vigilance - those who don't pay close attention often miss these wonderful migrants.

In other news, American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins have been on the rise (currently maxing at 11 and 5 at a time, respectively). While AMGO numbers are somewhat unpredictable, Siskins in mid-May could be indicative of local breeding. One Siskin is ill (and given that I haven't seen it in a while, it may have become Hawk food) and is probably incapable of moving up into the hills. If they're still here at the end of the month, they'll almost certainly have bred locally. At least one pair of Siskins decided to breed in the neighborhood last Spring, and one of their fledglings visited our feeders on May 26th. A pair of Dark-eyed Juncos is also still hanging around, and it's possible that they may be breeding here as well.

And as I type this, the first-of-the-year Black-headed Grosbeak (female or second-year male) showed up at one of my sunflower feeders. I tried getting a photo, but apparently bending my knees while standing 10 feet from the window spooked it. Geez, talk about skittish...

Predictably, Rufous Hummers have drastically decreased in number over the past few weeks. Having heard the distinctive wing trill of the male as recent as last weekend, I haven't give up hope that a pair will finally breed locally.

With Spring comes the time for gardening and a greater need for water (since it's no longer raining four or five days a week). We've planted several hummingbird-friendly flowers thus far. I planted sunflower seeds a couple of weeks ago, but the stupid squirrels dug them up. (I'm re-planting them indoors and am allowing them to sprout in a window this time.) And I've brought out the old solar-powered water fountain for the backyard. It's in a less sunny location this time (i.e., the fountain only works in the early afternoon), but the Goldfinches seem to enjoy it regardless.

While hosting a guest from out of town last weekend, we took a trip to the coast. Here are a couple of photos...

Brandt's Cormorants


A Robin pieces together a nest

A fledgling Chestnut-backed Chickadee waits to be fed

Well, that's about it for now. I'll be keeping an eye out for Western Tanagers and other late migrants, and will keep you posted. I'll also be birding the Deschutes National Forest tomorrow and will try to get a few good shots there. Until next month...

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