Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Unconventional Winter

If asked to summarize this winter's yard population in one word, that word would be "unconventional."  Mind you, it's been a great winter and the yard count/diversity has exceeded expectations.  It all just turned out a little differently than I expected.

Some of my predictions, such as an increase in Townsend's Warblers (above) were spot-on, given the overgrowth in the neighbor's yard.  Frequent visits by Bewick's Wrens and Spotted Towhees also seemed to be a no-brainer.

But I never imagined that I'd be hosting 40-50 Pine Siskins (left) per day in a non-irruptive winter.  Nor did I imagine that I'd have a massive dearth of American Goldfinches and House Finches accompanying the insane numbers of siskins.  Don't get me wrong, I'll gladly take the Pine Siskins over those two relatively ho-hum species.  I'm just very surprised.

I was also surprised to have so much trouble attracting woodpeckers from October through early January.  Our new home is in a semi-wooded area, with oak, black walnut, arborvitae, cherry, apple, and even a redwood in the immediate vicinity of our yard.  I hung a tail-prop suet feeder from a branch of the cherry tree next to our deck and saw nothing but warblers at it from late October through December.  The first Downy Woodpecker was observed at it in early January and Northern Flickers began to frequent it soon afterwards.  Now the latter species is there so often that I'm replacing the suet cake weekly!  It sure took them a while to get there, but better late than never.

When one thinks of winter sparrows in the Pacific Northwest, the two that come to mind are the Golden-crowned and White-crowned.  I host at least one or two of each for much of a typical winter.  However, this year, I've recorded one sighting of each just once.  In their place have been two White-throated Sparrows, which are much less common than their aforementioned relatives out here.  Again, I'm not complaining... just a little surprised.  Yesterday, a Fox Sparrow was perched in the neighbor's apple tree.  While Fox Sparrows are common winter residents, I typically don't see them here they begin to move on to their breeding grounds in April and May.  Go figure.

This White-throated Sparrow is one of the many surprises that the Winter of 2011-12 has brought us.

A more conventional Song Sparrow feeds on millet and cracked corn.

One of at least two Northern Flickers who have been frequenting my suet feeder over the past month.

Many of the area's more common visitors have also been on an uptick over the past month.  Bewick's Wren males have been singing since early January and it looks like a pair may be preparing to nest in the area.  At least two of them have been using the feeders frequently over the past few weeks.  Song Sparrows, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and American Crows are also frequenting the feeders more frequently than during the late fall/early winter.

Conversely, Lesser Goldfinch numbers have been falling steadily since early January.  Up until recently, Black-capped Chickadees had always shown up in numbers of 2-4.  But I'm only seeing one at a time now for some reason.  Western Scrub-Jays are also visting the feeders much less frequently than before.  Not sure what the deal is there.  Perhaps a neighbor is offering peanuts in a non-size-selective feeder.

A curious Bewick's Wren nibbles on hulled sunflower bits

Multiple Black-capped Chickadees used to be the norm, but no longer.

This female Anna's Hummingbird stands guard near the nectar feeder.  Soon, she'll have to fight off aggressive Rufous Hummingbirds.

And that pretty much wraps up the past few weeks.  Rufous Hummingbirds began to arrive on the coast about a week ago and they'll begin to traverse the Coast Range into the Valley soon. Our first sighting will likely be between the first and third weeks of March.  I hope to have some nice photos posted by then (and perhaps some more of Evening Grosbeaks and Purple Finches).  Until then...

No comments: