Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall Cometh

Apologies for failing to post last month. I was busy with work-related material, on vacation for a while, and then contracted a really nasty two-week-long sinus cold that I'm just now getting over. Thankfully, not much has happened since late August, with the obvious exception of the typical fall American Goldfinch flocking. Now that the seasons are changing, things are beginning to pick up.

A sign of Autumn: American Goldfinches picking apart sunflower heads.

As usual, large flocks of American Goldfinches have dominated the yard for the past few weeks. I've spent over $100 on nyjer seed and sunflower chips since the beginning of September and counted at least 80 of these little piggies yesterday afternoon (and this was a conservative estimate). They were literally "dripping" from the trees. The flocks will begin to disperse over the next week or so, and the numbers should be back to normal by the end of the month. I really need to clean up all of the spilled seed and finch droppings soon, but I suppose that it can wait until later in the week.

Some of the 80+ American Goldfinches in the yard yesterday.

On a down note, lots of flocking birds near windows usually translates into window collisions. And unfortunately, three of these were fatal. Not surprisingly, two of the victims were goldfinches. One of them may have recovered on its own, but a small raptor swooped in and made off with it. It's amazing how quickly they find prey, nab it, and then dart off. Somewhat surprising is that the third fatality was a Red-breasted Nuthatch, as nuthatches are typically pretty good at avoiding windows.

And speaking of nuthatches, we've been treated to FOUR White-breasted Nuthatch sightings since early August. WB Nuthatches aren't especially prevalent here in the Willamette Valley (mostly due to the clearing of the large oak groves for farmland), and are even more rare here in the city. The one(s) seen recently have been visiting the bird baths and eating sunflower seed (shown above). This is in stark contrast to the individual(s) seen a few times during the winter of '06/'07, which ignored the feeders.

One of the many Red-breasted Nuthatches that visit the feeders daily.

This weekend has brought an insane number of migrants. The first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the season, as well as the first Yellow-rumped Warblers (both Myrtle and Audubon's subspecies) showed up this weekend. Amazingly, the first-of-the-season Townsend's Warbler was observed just a few minutes ago. This is very early, with our previous yard record being 11/22/07. The current cold spell (highs in the upper-50's and lows in the mid/upper 30's) is obviously playing a part in this early movement. A Steller's Jay was also seen at one of the bird baths approximately two weeks ago. The large flocks of Juncos haven't arrived yet, but the same pair that bred locally this summer is still around. I have also not seen a Pine Siskin for almost a month, but that should change soon as well. Downy Woodpeckers are still in high abundance, with Northern Flickers having declined somewhat over the past few weeks.

Well, that's about all for now. Being in an obvious transition period, I hope to have a lot more to report over the next couple of weeks. This could include a small flock of Siskins, one of the wintering species of sparrow (White-crowned, Golden-crowned, or Fox), or a couple of Purple Finches.

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