Thursday, July 29, 2010

Summer Doldrums

Being smack in the middle of summer, activity has been relatively slow for most of the month. Thankfully, overall activity has been better than expected and I don't have much to complain about.

At the end of June, the Red-winged Blackbird (above) was the most frequent yard visitor and that hasn't changed much. Interestingly, there has been a large and unexpected increase in the number of Bushtits (flocks of up to 15, which appear to be roosting in the neighbor's apple tree) and Black-capped Chickadees. They appear to be traveling in a mixed flock, which I found somewhat surprising, as this typically doesn't happen until September. Downy Woodpeckers have also made a significant comeback, facilitated by the dispersion of the Starlings that were eating the suet so quickly that I had to leave the feeder empty. At least one male and one female Downy are now visiting several times per week. Anna's Hummingbirds, absent for much of the first half of the month, have also made something of a comeback.

A female Downy Woodpecker has a bite to eat on an overcast July morning.

American Goldfinches dine on nyjer. Some individuals are beginning to molt back into their basic plumage.

A male Red-winged Blackbird eyes the peanut feeder.

A few irregular species have also broken up the monotony of July. The most interesting was a Song Sparrow (below), which hung out in the yard for a morning about two weeks ago. Song Sparrows are year-round visitors in this part of the country, but tend to not visit backyards until the fall/winter. So seeing one feeding on spilled sunflower on the deck one morning was a pleasant surprise.

Other interesting visitors have included a small flock of Cedar Waxwings that moved through and hung out in the neighbor's large birch trees, a few Violet-green Swallows engaged in insect-hawking overhead, a couple of crows, and our first Rufous Hummingbird (a female) since May. We have also been hosting a Western Scrub-Jay with a lame left leg (below) for the past month or so. Despite the injury, he/she seems to be doing just fine.

While we have avoided a repeat of last summer's heat wave, temperatures have reached the mid-80s through mid-90's for much of the past few weeks and the fresh water has become a huge attraction. We currently have two bird baths set up, one with a solar-powered fountain. In the Western United States, where summers are on the dry side, water is even more important than food at this time of the year.

A Song Sparrow bathes on a hot summer morning.

A Western Scrub-Jay cools off on a hot July afternoon.

Well, that's about it for now. The summer doldrums should continue into next month, but hopefully we'll see an uptick in migrating Rufous Hummingbirds and perhaps other species. I'm using this lull (and the pay raise from my new job) to upgrade my camera equipment. Having been disgusted with our poor-quality windows for some time, I've removed the screen from the master bedroom window and will be shooting from an open window there much more often. These two moves should significantly increase my photo quality, and I'm very excited. See you in about a month.

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