Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Heat

Yep, it's been over a month. I've been insanely busy lately and was scheduled to be in Chicago this weekend, but that fell through at the last minute. Thankfully, this change in my schedule gave me a chance to get away from my recent 70-hour work weeks, relax, and look out my window.

A juvenile Western Tanager overlooks the driveway on a hot July morning.

The West Coast is known for its mild summers (typical highs in the low 80's out here), but that hasn't been the case lately. The last three days have topped out in the low/mid 90's, with more 90's later in the week. Even the cicadas are buzzing about! Because of this, I'm seeing a lot more yard activity than I typically do at this time of the year. The bird bath under the Rhododendron bushes has been jam-packed with Black-capped Chickadees, American and Lesser Goldfinches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, House Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, and even a young Northern Flicker (more on him shortly).

A Red-breasted Nuthatch escapes the hot afternoon sun for a cool drink.

Anna's Hummingbirds are also in significant numbers at this point, and it appears that Rufous Hummers are slowly headed south again. Not seen at all last month, male Rufous have been spotted at the nectar feeders and fuschia plant. Males preceed the females duirng migration and, although mid-July may sound somewhat early, it's actually pretty normal. (The females are typically gone by the end of September.)

A juvenile Anna's Hummingbird hangs out in the Rhododendron bush.

Summer juveniles are representing in the largest numbers to date. Juvenile Black-capped Chickadees are almost constantly "Dee-dee-deeing!" about, and waves of 10+ Bushtits are hitting the suet feeder several times per day. Lesser Goldfinch offspring have also become regulars at the feeders, as have very noisy young Crows. Juvenile House Finches visited our feeders, but in relatively small numbers. Even a juvenile Western Tanager and a juvenile Spotted Towhee made brief appearances!

While I enjoy all species, I have to admit that fledgling woodpeckers are my favorite. And this summer has not disappointed at all. Juvenile Downy Woodpeckers have been hitting the suet feeder for the past 2-3 weeks. The adults first show them the suet feeder, and they learn to eat by example. For the past week, the fledglings have been showing up to eat on their own. At least two juvenile Downies are visiting daily. Last summer, we were treated to the sight of a Northern Flicker feeding suet to a fledglings on top of my wife's car. And while I haven't seen anything quite that cool yet, I was pleasantly surprised to see a juvenile Red/Yellow-shafted "intergrade" Northern Flicker this morning. Red-shafted Flickers are (by far) the predominant subpsieces of Northern Flicker in the Western U.S. However, small populations of Yellow-shafted Flickers do live in the Northwest, and often winter in the Willamette Valley (a female visited my yard in the winter of 2007). Since these two subspecies belong to the same race, they often interbreed. Hence the "intergrade" subspecies. The particular juvenile that visited this morning had all of the markings of a typical Red-shafted Flicker, but also the large red mark on the nape (back of the head), indicative of a Yellow-shafted subspecies. Interestingly, it showed up with a mature male (most likely its father), who appeared to be almost "pure" Red-shafted, except for a very small splotch of red on the nape (that I only noticed after photographing it). Unfortunatley, I have not seen the mother, and am very curious to see what she looks like! The intergrade juvenile returned to drink water from the bird bath twice.

A fledgling "Red x Yellow intergrade" Northern Flicker. Note the red coloring on the nape and the red "mustache."

A young Downy Woodpecker. The incompletely-formed red mark on the crown/nape is the hallmark of a juvenile male.

Other species representing since the beginning of summer include Scrub-Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos (at least two of them), and Pine Siskins. The latter have made something of a comeback over the past month. A female Mallard visited a couple of days ago, but has not been seen since. Mallards have appeared to move on for the summer.

An adult male Lesser Goldfinch feeds one of its offspring sunflower chips.

A pair of Crows (adults on the left, offspring on the right) keep an eye on things.

Despite being in the height of summer, I've already begun thinking about this winter. In particular, I wanted to find a good way to accommodate the enormous flocks of goldfinches that we typically host in September. Also wanting to recommission some under-utilized feeders, I decided to invest in a squirrel-proof pole system for the back deck. It's far enough from the house that we won't have to move gingerly around the kitchen, but close enough that I'll be able to get some great closeups.

Well, that's about it for now. I may post some photos from my recent Central Oregon trips later this month. Until then...

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