Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Changing of the Guard

Spring is in full swing now. Multiple days in a row of sun without rain, temperatures breaking into the 60s and, most importantly, migrants. The past 2 1/2 weeks have been very impressive and exciting.

A little over a week ago, I managed to spot the first migrant Orange-crowned Warbler (above) of the season. Two days later, a male and female were busy foraging through our pieris and rhododendron bushes, and at least two of them have been working the bushes for the past week. They tend to not hang around the yard indefinitely, so we're definitely enjoying (and photographing) them while we can. The second big migrants of the season, a Chipping Sparrow, visited the feeders this morning. Chipping Sparrows are low-density migrants in Western Oregon, and (in my experience) do not hang around backyard feeders for very long.

Rufous Hummingbirds have been hitting up the nectar feeders since the second week of March, but were conspicuously absent for the remainder of the month. It's possible that I may have been visited by an early outlier that eventually passed through the area. Whatever the case, Rufous visits have become much more frequent over the past week, including at least one female now in the area. And more Rufous visitors means more frequent trips to the nectar feeder, translating to more photo opps!

A male Rufous Hummingbird visits the nectar feeder on a late Thursday afternoon.

This migrant Chipping Sparrow stopped in for a brief meal this morning.

In addition to the "true" migrants, there has been a TON of local movement (year-round residents leaving the lowlands to breed in the foothills). We are currently hosting three White-crowned Sparrows and two Golden-crowned Sparrows. This is a significant uptick from the one regular White-crowned Sparrow and the occasional Golden-crowned from this winter. There has also been a significant increase in Red-winged blackbirds and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The blackbirds will stay throughout the summer, but the kinglets are on their way out. I was fortunate enough to capture a photo of a RC Kinglet attracting a mate..

A male Ruby-crowned Kinglet shows off its namesake, in an attempt to impress a lady.

And it turns out that he indeed is the Ladies' Man. Awww, yeah...

Red-winged Blackbirds have become regulars in the backyard.

One of two Golden-crowned Sparrows that have been frequenting the yard. They will likely leave for the hills after their molt is complete.

Late March also brought us a new yard bird: the Brewer's Blackbird. This wasn't a big surprise, and I'm actually surprised that they didn't show up earlier. If you live in an urban area in the Western United States, you've seen Brewer's Blackbirds before. And while we're located in more of an urban/suburban area, we're also two blocks form a park where Brewer's Blackbirds frequent. As long as they don't show up in vast numbers, blackbirds are always welcome in my backyard.

Other interesting recent visitors have included a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a pair of Chestnut-backed Chickadees, a pair of Spotted Towhees, a Mourning Dove (not regular yard visitors here), and a small flock of Cedar Waxwings. In addition, the male Purple Finch that has been a regular since early March is still hanging around. He will likely be on his way within the next couple of weeks.

A male Brewer's Blackbird snacks on sunflower chips on an early Saturday morning.

This male Purple Finch has been a regular over the past 5+ weeks.

That's it for now. More migrants are on the way over the next few weeks, and these may include Cassin's Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Western Wood-Pewees, Empid Flycatchers, and Black-headed Grosbeaks. I hope to get photos of at least two of these for the next installment.

I'll leave you with my final FeederWatch results for the 2010-2011 winter. The 36 species observed from mid-November through last weekend was a personal record.