Monday, April 19, 2010

Migration Continues...

March is often described as a month that begins as one season and ends as another. In most places in the county, that's probably true. The clock out here, however, is turned forward about two weeks, so we're into full-blown spring by mid-March. And when mid-April rolls around, well, it's pretty much summer already. The flowers are in full bloom, mates have been chosen, and the large flocks that used the visit the feeders have moved on. But this time of the year still keeps thing interesting by bringing migrants to the yard.

While natural food sources tend to replace bird seed and suet at this time of the year, sugar-water is still all the rage for hummers. These energy-inefficient little gems don't care how they get their carbs. And hummers appear to really like our new yard. We've been hosting at least five different Anna's and Rufous Hummingbirds (above) and it seems that at least one of them is here constantly. They constantly fight over the main nectar feeder (the one on the other side of the house is mostly ignored for some strange reason) and the flowers along the fence, but seem to be at least moderately tolerant of each other so far.

Sometimes, a migrant that you expect to see briefly ends up hanging around for a while. And that's certainly been the case with the Orange-crowned Warbler (above), first seen in the yard on March 26. Since that date, one has been observed every day, and up to two have been spotted foraging through the flowering trees and bushes at a time. I'm not sure how long this will continue, but it's certainly nice. I'm used to seeing OC Warblers for a couple days in early/mid-April and then not again until the following April. We've been quite lucky this spring.

A female Spotted Towhee probes for stray seed.

The bird bath becomes more popular as rainfall decreases. This migrating White-crowned Sparrow...

...and this Golden-crowned Sparrow are happy to take advantage.

We had a recent uptick of wintering sparrows (above), who were undoubtedly on their way into the hills to breed. It's somewhat sad to see them go, but they'll be back in October. Thankfully, we've also seen an increase in Spotted Towhees (above), who inhabit the Valley year-round and are very compatible with our brush-heavy landscaping. It would be nice to see more of these native species, and hopefully this is the beginning.

And I would be remiss to not mention the most important part of this season: breeding. Our House Finches and Chickadees have been singing for weeks, and are now beginning to pair up. I hung a nesting box under the awning near the little-used front door. I figured that a House Wren would probably be game, but that it may be too close to the house for Chickadees or Nuthatches. I decided to line it with wood chips anyway (which fool the latter two species into thinking that it was naturally-drilled by a woodpecker). And Chickadees have been checking it out over the past few weeks. No nesting-building yet, so we'll see what happens.

A Black-capped Chickadee probes tree buds for insects.

A male Rufous Hummingbird comes in for a landing.

Well, that's it for now. Hopefully a Black-headed Grosbeak or Wilson's Warbler report will be in the next installment. I'll leave you with my end-of-the-year FeederWatch tally. Not bad for a brand new site...