Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Late Spring Activity

Yard activity has died down somewhat since mid-May, but that's to be expected. And while this is somewhat of a bummer, the weather actually resembles summer now. (Given the miserable spring we've had, I'll take that trade-off for now.) Despite the dispersion of migrants, there has still been some interesting activity.

Migrants are the most exciting news to me, so I'll discuss those first. Orange-crowned Warblers are our most common migrant summer warbler. They typically begin arriving in mid/late March and hang around through mid-April or so. We were lucky to host more of them than usual this winter. Interestingly, I observed a rather dull individual in late May. After asking around, it was assigned to belong to either an Interior West or Taiga population. At least one person identified it as a celata subspecies, but that is still a somewhat controversial assignment. Either way, it was an interesting observation, as these dull-colored Orange-crowned Warblers are unusual in Lane County.

A possible celata subspecies Orange-crowned Warbler forages for insects on a late May afternoon.

Flycatchers are some of my favorite summer birds, and I was excited to see a Hammond's Flycatcher back in early May. Thankfully, our two other semi-regular species moved through recently. A Willow Flycatcher was hawking insects in our backyard a week and a half ago. I have also heard Western Wood-Pewee calls over the past couple of weeks (though I have not had the opportunity to photograph one yet). Tree Swallows are regulars in our neighborhood's park, and can sometimes be observed darting after insects around our house early in the morning or late in the evening. So I was rather surprised to see three of them darting around our tiny 1/10 acre backyard on a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago. One of them even attempted to perch on one of our bird feeders! Also of note were the Black-headed Grosbeaks that hung around the yard until almost mid-June. They typically begin coming through in early May and are mostly gone by the end of the month. I imagine that the unusually cool weather may have pushed their breeding schedules back a couple of weeks.

A Willow Flycatcher hawks insects on a Saturday afternoon.

A female Black-headed Grosbeak stops in for sunflower seed.

The other big story has been fledglings. Most importantly, our Black-capped Chickadees fledged at the beginning of the month. Like last year, this happened very abruptly and, due partly to my work schedule and partly to my desire to give them some privacy, I was not able to capture photos this year. (Yeah, I know, I suck.) Perhaps next year.

We have very recently been hosting a fledgling Song Sparrow. Song Sparrows are year-round residents here in the valley, but usually do not breed in urban areas. Other fledglings visiting the yard include Western Scrub-Jays, House Finches, Bushtits (a flock of 15 visited yesterday), Red-winged Blackbirds and, unfortunately, Starlings. The Starlings have forced me to leave the suet feeder empty for a couple more weeks. Interestingly, a lone adult Pine Siskin visited one of the sunflower feeders last night, strongly suggesting that at least one pair is breeding locally. Siskins typically breed in the foothills and mountains, but can often be convinced to breed locally if one provides reliable sunflower or nyjer seed.

A juvenile Song Sparrow enjoys a refreshing drink on a dry late June afternoon.

An adult Scrub-Jay (right) feeds its offspring high atop our neighbor's apple tree.

This late June Pine Siskin appears to be breeding locally.

The most common yard birds right now are House Finches, Red-winged Blackbirds, Western Scrub-Jays, European Starlings, Bushtits, Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Lesser Goldfinches, and House Sparrows. Woodpeckers appear to be completely gone and I've seen only occasional Anna's Hummingbirds. We probably won't see regular hummers or woodpeckers until August.

This male American Goldfinch brightens up a summer evening.

This male Lesser Goldfinch also helps to brighten up the yard.

A Black-capped Chickadee cools off on a warm afternoon.

A Western Scrub-Jay sits atop our fence on the last evening of Spring.

The warm weather also tends to bring out critters. Our local possum has been foraging through spilled seed in the yard more frequently than usual (and sometimes during the middle of the day)...

Well, that's about it for now. I'm off to take a summer nap, just like Mr. Squirell here...