Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spring Cometh...

It's been a while since my last post. The transition to my new computer was seamless, but I managed to come down with a really bad cold shortly afterwards. I think that I'm finally beginning to come out of it. And, thankfully, I have a little to talk about since the last installment.

The "Finch Famine" of 2008 is dead and gone. Double-digit American Goldfinches have been observed over the past few weeks, and 17 Pine Siskins were counted here this morning. Lesser Goldfinches (above) and House Finches (below) have also been representing in moderate numbers. There have been reports of Purple Finches around town, but so far none here.

One of the more interesting observations of the past few weeks is the fact that many American Goldfinches seem to be rather far into their molt for this time of the year. I noticed definite molting around their napes a few weeks ago. I thought that this seemed a little early, but shrugged it off. Then, I saw this guy today feeding with a flock of Pine Siskins...

and have to say that this seems REALLY early for an AMGO being well over halfway into full breeding plumage. This guy appears to be at least a month ahead of what I'd normally expect. But that's nature for you: full of surprises.

In other news, our first Sharp-shinned Hawk of the calendar year made an appearance last Saturday. Unfortunately, it didn't stick around long enough for a photo op. Later that morning, the first male Northern Flicker in almost a year (below) made an appearance. I don't know why, but we've hosted nothing but females and fledglings for almost a full year now. My last documented photo of a male was last March. While Townsend's Warblers seem to be avoiding our yard this winter, our two common winter Thrushes (Robins and Varied Thrushes) have been making appearances recently. Heck, I even saw a House Sparrow this morning, a somewhat unusual species for this neck of the woods.

A male Northern Flicker probes the pine trees for insects.

A male House Sparrow briefly stops by. Tell your friends that there's no food here!

Well, that's about it for now. Tomorrow is the beginning of March, which is pretty much the beginning of Spring migration. Activity should pick up soon...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Home of the Ducks

I haven't posted in a few weeks because, well, there hasn't been much to talk about. Thankfully, that has changed recently.

My part of the state is known as the "Home of the Ducks" and that's an apt title, given what we've seen over the past 10 months here. We're close enough to a golf course pond that hosts Mallards (and Wood Ducks) to entice them to feed on our driveway. We hosted 2-3 regular Mallards from early April through early July of last year (and a pair of Wood Ducks for about a week last April). Two weeks ago, they returned. But while we saw maximum numbers of 2-3 last year, we're hosting up to 6 now. I don't know why they left at the beginning of last summer, but it's certainly nice to have them back.

Other than the ducks, activity here has remained approximately the same as before, with a slight uptick in Goldfinches (both American and Lesser) and Woodpeckers (Downy and Northern Flickers), as well as a more frequently-observed male Townsend's Warbler. The Song Sparrow that stayed with us into early January has been MIA for some time and no "winter finches," such as Purples, Evening Grosbeaks, or Red Crossbills, have been observed. I can't complain much about the lack of the latter two, but it would sure be nice to see a couple of Purple Finches.

American and Lesser Goldfinches dine on thistle in the backyard.

A Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler feeds on suet.

I'll be switching over to a new computer later this week, and will probably not post again until later this month. We'll see what happens between now and then.