Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Signs Of Spring

Well, the seasons they are a' changin' again. The sun is still above the horizon at 5:30 pm, temperatures hit 60 degrees twice last week, and some of our feathered friends are looking a bit different.

One of the first signs of Spring is the molt of the male American Goldfinch, transitioning from its drab yellow/brown/green winter colors to its well-known bright yellow and black cap. The one pictured above, taken over President's Day weekend, was the only obvious case. Today, there are at least three males that are this far advanced in their molt. One of our two Yellow-rumped Warblers has now revealed itself to be a male (it's difficult to distinguish gender in winter plumage). The stronger gray plumage (below) can be compared to the tan/brown winter plumage.

Yellow-rumped Warblers. Top: A male in breeding plumage. Bottom: A winter plumage individual.

As Spring approaches, early movement also brings new species to the yard. We were pleasantly surprised to see a female Spotted Towhee (below) foraging for seed among the rhododendron bushes. Having lots of brush cover around the yard (and the ground feeder), I'm somewhat surprised that it took this long for one to show up! But late is better than never, and we feel fortunate to host what we do.

As discussed previously, diseased House Finches (avian pox, conjunctivitis, salmonella, you name it) have been a problem this winter. At one point, we were hosting approximately six diseased individuals. Thankfully, the disease has not appear to spread much (no other species with pox or conjunctivitis have been seen). And, as mentioned two posts ago, predators have been taking out the diseased birds. Two of the more sickly House Finches are gone and I don't believe that I've seen more than two diseased birds at the same time for a couple of weeks now. An individual suffering from the worst case of avian pox that I've ever seen was put out of its misery by a Sharp-shinned Hawk just a week and a half ago. Fortunately, this problem appears to be working itself out.

A female House Finch with a horrible case of avian pox on the eye. She was mercifully put out of her misery by an immature Sharp-shinned Hawk (below) the day after this photo was taken.


A Robin enjoys a sunny Friday afternoon (yes, I've moved the lawn since).

Despite the changing seasons, they're changing slowly and it's still February. Therefore, our winter "usual suspects" are still around, including our many Dark-eyed Juncos, our two Golden-crowned Sparrows, and our loyal White-crowned Sparrow. After nearly disappearing for over a warmer-than-usual week, our flocks of 15+ Bushtits are back. Other regulars include Scrub Jays, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and of course the ever-present Anna's Hummingbirds. Our two species of woodpecker (Northern Flicker and Downy Woodpecker) are still semi-regulars.

A White-crowned Sparrow feeds on spilled sunflower seed on the back deck.

A Golden-crowned Sparrow forages for seed.

More to come in a couple of weeks, when I should (hopefully) have a report of the first Rufous Hummingbird of the year. Laters.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Abbreviated Issue

Work has been killing me over the past few weeks, with much traveling and little sleep. But I have managed to look out the window a few times since mid-January and am happy to report an increase in American Goldfinches, Bushtits, and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. And for the first time since September, Pine Siskins (below) have graced us with their presence. Two were spotted and photographed at the sunflower feeder this morning.

Other than that, it's pretty much more of the same. I have a Super Bowl to watch in an hour and a half (Go Colts!) and will be busy with work again at the crack of dawn on Monday. So instead of being wordy, I'll just leave you with some recent photos...

A White-crowned Sparrow feeds on sunflower seed.

Western Scrub-Jays continue to visit the yard for peanuts and cracked corn.

American Goldfinch numbers are up (to 20-30 at a time) and some are even beginning to molt. (Note the dark spot on the crown of the bird on the left perch.)

Our resident Yellow-rumped Warbler continues to make the rounds.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch, traveling with a flock of Bushtits, visits the suet feeder.

One of two Black-capped Chickadees stops in for a peanut.

Here is a summary of what I've been counting for FeederWatch recently. I can't say that I'm disappointed, given that we've only been feeding here for three months.

(Click chart to enlarge)

Until next time, when I promise that I'll be a little more wordy...