Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hooray, it's Spring!

Three weeks ago, we had back-to-back days of sunshine and temperatures in the 60s.  I began to wonder if I might be able to plant a couple of weeks early this year.  Mother Nature responded with a reality check of rain, followed by a surprise visit from Old Man Winter.

On the morning of March 21st, we received 6" of heavy, wet snow that brought down many trees and shrubs around town (thankfully, ours suffered minimal damage).  Most of Eugene was shut down that morning, and I used the half day off work to replenish feeders, sprinkle seed under our arborvitae trees, and to brush snow off of the foliage hummingbird feeder.

Birds like the Pine Siskin pictured above did just fine in the adverse conditions (a lot better than our neighbor's tree, at least) and, of course, the snow eventually melted.  The cold and snow gave then way to to moderate temperatures and rain.  Lots of rain.  We received just under 10" of rain in March, almost twice the average for the month.  This has put a real damper (no pun intended) on hummingbird visits to the yard.  Since spotting the male Rufous Hummer just under three weeks ago, only one other individual has been observed in the yard (a female, last weekend).  Even the regular Anna's Hummers have been visiting less frequently than usual.

A male Varied Thrush forages through leaf litter on a rainy March afternoon

American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins dine on hulled sunflower.  The former are making a comeback.

Many other species seem unfazed by the December-esque weather.  Large flocks of Pine Siskins still visit the feeders daily.  Northern Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, and both species of goldfinches (American and Lesser) are more frequent visitors now than in previous months.  American Goldfinches have visited in unusually small numbers this winter.  The snowstorm brought our previously-regular White-throated Sparrow (white-striped morph) and an immature White-crowned Sparrow out of the woodwork.  Diseased Pine Siskins, omnipresent in any large flock, brought a mature adult Sharp-shinned Hawk to the yard a couple of times back in mid-March.  While on their way out now, a half dozen Varied Thrushes were present in the yard last weekend.  And we are still entertaining double-digit numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos.  The winter weather may have delayed the latter two species from returning to their higher-elevation breeding grounds.

One of this winter's regular White-throated Sparrows forages for seed.

A "Slate-colored" Dark-eyed Junco feeds with a small flock of its "Oregon" subspecies friends.

A Spotted Towhee forages for seed.

Thankfully, this weather "setback" is only temporary.  The rhododendrons and magnolia tree are beginning to bloom and my cherry tree and little Sitka mountainash are beginning to sprout leaves.  Some of our feathered friends are also beginning to sport their breeding plumages.  Not even Old Man Winter can stop the inevitable...

This "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler has almost completely molted into its breeding plumage...

...and this male American Goldfinch isn't far behind.

This week also marks the end of FeederWatch.  A summary of my counts for the 2011-2012 season are listed below.  Given that this was the first year of feeding birds in this yard, I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with an average of 17.8 species per weekend and six weekends of 20+ species.  Heck, any winter with an Evening Grosbeak visit is a good one in my book!  This was a banner year for Pine Siskins and also a strong year for Varied Thrushes.  I was also pleasantly surprised to have regular Bewick's Wrens and Spotted Towhees for the duration of the winter season.  This was a very auspicious beginning to what I hope will become a very "birdy" yard.

Well, that's it for now.  We should be seeing more Rufous Hummers over the next couple of weeks (and perhaps a Calliope if we're really lucky).  It's possible that we'll get a visit from a Chipping Sparrow or Orange-crowned Warbler soon, and perhaps a Hammond's Flycatcher in a couple of weeks.  Spring migration always brings lots of fun surprises.

No comments: