Saturday, November 21, 2009

Back In Business

And... we're back. We are now officially moved in and have been keeping and eye on the backyard for a full week now. Due to the fact that I set up feeders at the beginning of the month, we're almost in mid-season form already. After living here for just one week, the yard list has already impressed me.

When we first looked at this house, I strongly suspected that the ample shrub cover along the backyard fence would be good sparrow habitat. And I was right. Dark-eyed Juncos were conspicuous and numerous before I even put up the feeders. The day that we moved in, I caught a brief glimpse of what appeared to be a large, plump sparrow. The next morning, we were treated to not one, but two Golden-crowned Sparrows. Golden-crowns are regular winter migrants here in the Willamette Valley, although I saw them very infrequently at our previous residence (apparently more shrub cover really helps). Three days later, I caught another brief glimpse of what appeared to be a White-crowned Sparrow, another relatively common winter migrant. But upon second look, the distinctive yellow coloring in the supraloral region and large white patch on the throat revealed it to be a White-throated Sparrow. This was quite a surprise. White-throated Sparrows are common winter visitors in the Eastern half of the country, and they do reside on the West Coast as well. However, they're less numerous out here and are more highly concentrated on the coast (we're ~50 miles inland). Birds of Lane County Oregon characterizes White-throated Sparrows as an "uncommon to rare migrant and winter resident." At the very least, I wouldn't expect to see them in my backyard. Not surprisingly, there have been other reported sightings in the state and at least one prominent local ornithologist believes that this is a "peak" year for White-throated Sparrows in Oregon.

A White-throated Sparrow feeds on scattered millet and cracked corn.

A Golden-crowned Sparrow and a Dark-eyed Junco dine on dry seed.

While I figured that we'd feed a good showing of sparrows, I wasn't sure about the other species. Going from a yard with over a dozen mature pine and oak trees to one with none, but a neighbor with a couple of large birches, an apple tree, and a spruce in the other neighbor's yard is obviously going to affect which species visit. Thankfully, many familiar species have found us. The most prevalent are American Goldfinches and House Finches, who prefer less trees anyway. Some more exotic suburban-friendly birds that are representing here include Anna's Hummingbirds and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Interestingly, we're hosting more of the latter here than at our previous residence. We're also fortunate to host both subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler. A population of the "Myrtle" (white-throated) subspecies that is prevalent in the Eastern half of the country winters on the coast in appreciable numbers, and many move inward into the valley. Our regular Western "Audubon's (yellow-throated) subspecies - which is actually less prevalent that the Myrtles in the winter for some strange reason - is also representing. They spend as much time chasing each other from the suet feeders as they do feeding.

A "Myrtle" Yellow-rumped Warbler. Note the white throat.

An "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler. Note the yellow throat.

A female Anna's Hummingbird sips sugar-water in the rain.

House Finches gobble down sunflower seed.

Other regulars from the previous residence include Red-breasted Nuthatches (one of my favorites), Black-capped Chickadees, Western Scrub-Jays, and perhaps the signature bird of the Pacific Northwest - the American Crow. Kinglets (both Ruby- and Golden-crowned) have also visited briefly within the past week. The presence of the latter what somewhat surprising, as they're typically associated with conifers. And since we're in a more open area, I wasn't shocked to see a greater showing of House Sparrows and Starlings. Thankfully, they're in relatively small numbers right now (knock on wood). We have yet to see any woodpeckers, though. I thought that we might see a Downy by now, but I'm sure that it's just a matter of time. We may or may not host Flickers here - only time will tell. However, I'm pretty sure that the days of my occasional winter glimpse of a Red-breasted Sapsucker from my window are over.

We also have a nice showing of Fox Squirrels. I've counted seven individuals, including a number of juveniles. One of them tried to jump through our kitchen window earlier in the week. Squirrels never cease to entertain me.

A juvenile Fox Squirrel ponders ways to get into the house.

I'll close with a summary of the largest number of each species seen at one time over the past week. I'm pretty happy with this list...

Anna's Hummingbird - 2
Western Scrub-Jay - 3
American Crow - 1
Black-capped Chickadee - 2
Bushtit - 6
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1
American Robin - 1
European Starling - 1
"Myrtle" Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
"Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler - 1
White-throated Sparrow - 1
Golden-crowned Sparrow - 2
Dark-eyed Junco - 12
House Finch - 6
Lesser Goldfinch - 1
American Goldfinch - 15
House Sparrow - 1

Until next time...

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