Saturday, March 10, 2012


The past couple of weeks have afforded some significant changes, both in the weather and the bird count.  As is typical of mid-March, winter is still lurking but is on its last legs.  The changes, they are a' comin'...

While winter migrants such as Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Townsend's Warblers, Pine Siskins, and Varied Thrushes (above) are still present in the yard, their numbers and/or frequency of appearance have dropped significantly in the past two weeks.  Not long ago, flocks of 50+ Pine Siskins jammed the feeders, Varied Thrushes could be spotted in the yard relatively easily, and multiple Townsend's Warblers make frequent trips to the suet feeders throughout the day.  Over the past couple of weeks, the Pine Siskin flock has been diminished to approximately a dozen.  The other aforementioned species have been visiting in much smaller numbers, and less frequently than before.

Some other species have been MIA altogether.  I have not seen our two local Bewick's Wrens for almost two weeks, nor have I spotted the two overwintering White-throated Sparrows that have been regulars for the past three months.  The loss of the latter to the seasonal change is understandable, but I'm surprised that the Bewick's Wrens suddenly disappeared.  Perhaps they have chosen to nest elsewhere this year.  Downy Woodpeckers and Chestnut-backed Chickadees have also been MIA over the past couple of weeks.

Heavy snow falls on the morning of March 6th.

Just three days later, sun and temperatures in the 60s bring out the first-of-the-season Rufous Hummingbird.

The past week's weather could be best described as schizophrenic.  March greeted us with sun and temperatures in the 50s and 60s.  Temperatures dropped after the first weekend, accompanied by rain and morning snow.  And then, just a couple of days ago, the sun and 60-degree weather returned... and brought with it our first-of-the-season Rufous Hummingbird.  Rufous Hummingbirds begin arriving on the coast in mid-February, and then typically wait 2-4 weeks to traverse the Coast Range into the Willamette Valley.  Our first March Rufous sighting is highly variable (sometime in between the first and third weeks of the month), so this one was pretty much "on schedule."  I'm pretty sure that the recent warm weather was responsible for its presence.

In addition to the apparent loss of our Bewick's Wrens, more movement at the local level was evident today when the first Ruby-crowned Kinglet (above) since December was observed foraging through our trees.  RC Kinglet movement typically becomes more pronounced in late March/early April, so I was a little surprised to see this guy this morning.

Lesser (left) and American Goldfinches.  This photo gives a nice contrast between the two species.  Note the larger size of the American Goldfinch, the darker coloring of the wings, and the more bronze-like hue to its plumage.

In the midst of our current "bird dought," Northern Flicker numbers have remained high.

Despite the loss of our White-throated Sparrows, the local Song Sparrow still represents at the feeders.

While bird count has been somewhat disappointing lately, at least 15 species have been observed over each of the past two weekends.  So we're still in pretty good shape.  Moreover, March is typically a strong month for yard birds and a rebound towards the mean would be a significant improvement.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be on the lookout for more birds gearing to move into their summer breeding grounds, such as Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Purple Finches, and more Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Chipping Sparrows and female Rufous Hummingbirds should be our next summer migrants, typically arriving later this month.  Until then, good birding...