Saturday, October 31, 2009

Closing Time

In the first half of October, we were greeted with an exciting array of fall migrants (due in part to an unseasonably early cold spell that sent them fleeing from the hills). The second half of the month saw a sustained presence of many of these species (particularly kinglets), plus very visible local movement of year-round species. In short, it's been a great month.

A sure sign of fall for those of us in the northern half of the country is the first Dark-eyed Junco (above), typically arriving in October. While we've been fortunate enough to host at least one breeding pair of juncos over each of the last two summers, their numbers were always low at the time (2-3 adults, plus a couple of juveniles). We began to see their numbers uptick during the first weekend of October, and they're out in full winter force now (10-15 at a time, sometimes more). Another feeder winter feeder regular, the House Finch, is also representing in higher numbers now (usually at least three at a time). And speaking of finches, the annual American Goldfinch Invasion (left) that typically goes from early/mid-September through mid-October has carried on a little longer than usual. Their numbers typically max out at the end of September and gradually fall back to "normal" levels by the end of October. However, a record 120 at a time showed up at the feeders last Sunday afternoon, and I'm still seeing 20-30 at a time this weekend. I thought that my wallet would be spared by now, but apparently not. Other regulars spending increased time at the feeders include Western Scrub-Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, and (occasionally) Bushtits. While first spotted in the yard a good 2-3 weeks ago, both species of kinglet (Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned) have been regulars in the yard for the past 2-3 weeks. Both have been seen foraging through the large pine trees along the driveway, and the former species was foraging through our Rhododendron bushes this morning for insects. I had the opportunity to get a shot of a Golden-crowned Kinglet last weekend, but my focusing was too slow. I've been trying to get a nice photo of one for the past 2 1/2 years, but they continue to elude me.

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages for small insects in the Rhododendron bushes.

Last weekend was unique in that yard activity was abundant, but with year-round species. Small flocks of Cedar Waxwings (10+), Northern Flickers (2+), Robins (6+), and Starlings (5+) decided to congregate in our immediate neighborhood and the former three even stopped by briefly (how lucky we were to avoid the Starlings this time). This was not terribly surprising, though, as this is the time of year that many species begin to search for food sources in flocks. I was even able to get my first semi-decent Waxwing close-up photo.

A Cedar Waxwing checks out a tree in our yard.

A hatch-year Robin sticks out its chest like a tough guy.

Two species of sparrows also decided to visit recently. The first is the Golden-crowned Sparrow, which winters here in the valley and visits irregularly in the winter and early spring. I wasn't expecting one this early, but they regularly visit other feeders in town in October, so it's not surprising at all. My experience with Golden-crowned sparrows is that they're rather nomadic and they typically visit the yard from anywhere from a day to a week, but seldom for much longer. Thus, it hasn't exactly been a shocker that I haven't seen this one since last Sunday. Slightly more regular in the winter (but far from a lock to hang around) is the Song Sparrow. One made an appearance late Friday afternoon, and this individual is (surprisingly) the first I've seen here since January. Who knows how long this one will stay. Two Western Screech-owls were heard calling from the trees along our driveway and across the street earlier last week. And just this morning, a Brown Creeper was foraging through the pines along the driveway. It's been a very exciting month.

A winter plumage Golden-crowned Sparrow forages for seed along our mossy front door step.

This Song Sparrow spent several minutes surveying our and our neighbor's yards from atop the fence.

So, with all of this new activity, some of you may be wondering why it's "closing time." Well, due to a number of factors (including a lack of space, soon-to-be-exacerbated by the arrival of our first child), the wife and I decided that it was time to move into a larger place. So we will be transitioning our feeding operations (and, of course, all of our other belongings) over to a larger house a few miles away in a couple of weeks. Here are a few photos...

The well-manicured front yard. I'm going to need to invest in hedge trimmers.

View of the backyard from the back deck. I've always wanted a tool shed.

View from the far side of the backyard. The plant trestle on the deck will come in handy. As will the sliding glass door, the other side of which will be our future home office space.

We moved a few things over this afternoon, including four feeders. The abundance of wildlife activity observed in the two hours that we were there left me feeling very optimistic. Fox squirrels scurried about. Dark-eyed Juncos probed the bushes for insects. Small flocks of Cedar Waxwings and American Goldfinches flew overhead. A male Anna's Hummingbird found the nectar feeder just 10 minutes after I put it up. I think that we'll be happy here. (It'll also be nice to actually have enough place to put all of our stuff!)

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