Saturday, October 2, 2010


Like the Germans consuming massive amounts of food and drink in late September/early October, our yard has become a veritable Oktoberfest over the past week. Both neotropical migrants and locals moving out of their breeding areas have inundated the yard. This is easily the most lively early Fall I've ever witnessed.

To underscore the awesomeness of the past week, the Evening Grosbeak (above) - a bird that I've hosted for a grand total of one day since the mid-1980s - has visited my yard for two consecutive days now. And they've visited at least four times today. Wow.

Adult female (left) and hatch-year Evening Grosbeaks enjoy sunflower seed.

Another one of our irregular natives has also made a big splash recently. Cedar Waxwings breed in our neighborhood and can be found in small numbers here and there in the summer. But they flock in the late summer, right around the time that our neighbor's apple tree offers ripe fruit. A flock of ~10-15 have been visiting the apple tree several time per day since Friday. In contrast, Purple Finches head deep into the forests to breed and stray into less wooded (sometimes urban) areas afterwards. I typically don't see them until mid-October (if at all in the Fall... they're more conspicuous in March/April), so I was pleasantly surprised to see a female/juvenile at our feeders last weekend. A mature male was spotted this afternoon. Another forest-breeder/yard-feeder species, the Pine Siskin, has returned as well. Two began joining our flocks of 40+ American Goldfinches a couple of weeks ago and they're still showing up daily. These may have bred locally, but it's difficult to tell. In addition, our Juncos have returned from the Cascades and surrounding foothills. We're still waiting for the other winter sparrows.

A Cedar Waxwing enjoys a ripe apple.

Purple Finches are in the house!

This Pine Siskin enjoys nyjer on an early October afternoon.

The return of Dark-eyed Juncos means that summer is dead.

Several local breeders that disappear in the summer have also returned. These include Spotted Towhees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Flickers, and Chestnut-backed Chickadees (a new species for this yard).

Neotropical migrants have mostly made their way through at this point. Because of this, I was pleasantly surprised to see a female Black-throated Gray Warbler foraging through the neighbor's apple tree last weekend. I was even more surprised to spot a male in the same tree this morning.

This female Black-throated Gray Warbler was a pleasant surprise.

This blurry Townsend's Warbler might be the last one that we see until November.

While we're still waiting on our winter sparrows, our first winter warbler made a surprise appearance. Townsend's Warblers breed in the Northern Cascades, Northern Rockies, the Yukon, and Alaska. They winter along the Pacific coast, from Washington down to Baja California. We're close enough to the coast to enjoy them in the winter, but our first arrivals typically aren't until Thanksgiving. While I've seen them locally as early as mid-October, I was a little surprised to see on high up in the neighbor's tree during the last week of September. So we'll see how this plays out. Perhaps this is the sign of an early winter, and perhaps we just got lucky this year.

A male Spotted Towhee steps out of the dense brush for a few seconds.

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

Freshly-molted Starlings look really nice, but they still eat way too much of my suet.

Our friendly Red-breasted Nuthatches have returned!

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are native to this area, but are a new species to this yard.

In addition to the high numbers of notable avifauna that we've hosted recently, we were pleasantly surprised to see a large, furry Western Gray Squirrel in the yard this morning. Our neighborhood is overwhelmingly populated by the more diminutive Fox Squirrel. Western Grays are native to the region, but tend to inhabit more rural areas. A brash individual jumped from our roof to our trellis (and back) this morning. Their enormous busy tails crack me up.

Wow, so who could ask for anything more? Well, I'm greedy and would like some more Evening Grosbeaks, some California Quail, and a couple of Red Crossbills to photograph for my next post. But even if that doesn't happen, I'm still very thankful for what I have. Until next time...

No comments: