Tuesday, July 17, 2012


It's been over a full month and a half since I've last posted and there are several reasons for this.  First, it was work, then it was vacation, and then it was a lot of in-state traveling to do landscape photography.  But there was one constant and overriding factor: no birds.  There isn't much point in blogging when there's nothing to blog about.  The last really interesting migrant sighting was on June 6th and relatively few exciting species habe been observed since.  So I bring you this boring post.  An unexciting - but necessary - chronicle of the part of the summer where no freaking birds are around.

Even in the midst of the massive snoozefest of June and early July, at least one unexpected individual is bound to pop up.  This male Dark-eyed Junco (above) was first observed on June 5th and hung around the neighborhood for the rest of the month.  The vast majority of juncos breed in the higher elevations (particularly the Cascades and surrounding foothills), but a decent number do have offspring here in the Valley.  I have hosted fledgling juncos at my previous residences here in town at least twice, so perhaps we'll see little junior juncos begging for food in early August.

A Western Wood-pewee hawks insects from high above on a late spring evening.

June 8th was an interesting day.  After getting home from work, I noticed a Willow Flycatcher hawking insects from my neighbor's maple tree.  Willows are the latest-arriving species of flycatchers here in the spring, with typical first arrival dates in mid-May.  I typically don't see them until early June.  Barely two hours later, another flycatcher (above) was hawking insects much higher up in the same maple tree.  Unlike the Willow, this one didn't come down to my magnolia tree for a good look.  After taking several photos against a gray sky as dusk approached and cranking up the exposure in Lightroom to highlight field marks, I finally identified this individual as a Western Wood-pewee (thanks to Alan Contreras for confirmation of the ID).  I don't see pewees in the yard very often (maybe once a year at most) so, despite the crappy photos, it was a nice find.

Flocks of Cedar Waxwings (above) roamed the neighborhood semi-regularly between mid-May and early June.  Again, the quality of my photos were somewhere between bad and terrible, but it was nice to see waxwings again.  They'll begin flocking again in the fall.

Late spring also bring juvenile starlings to the yard.  I'm fortunate to live in a place where I only have to deal with fledglings at this time of the year, plus an occasional roaming flock in the winter.  Unlike many urban/suburban-dwellers, they're not emptying my suet feeder every day.  Nonetheless, the preponderance of starling offspring left our deck covered in bird dookie, forcing me to take down the nearby suet basket and put up my caged suet feeder at the other end of the yard.

A juvenile starling hawgs the suet basket (and likely poops on my deck afterwards).

One of at least two juvenile Western Scrub-Jays that have visited the yard this month

Other more pleasant fledglings have also visited the yard over the past month and a half.  These include Western Scrub-Jays, Crows, House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and Bushtits.

Species that have made something of a comeback in the yard recently have included House Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, Bushtits, and Chestnut-backed Chickadees.  Red-breasted Nuthatches have also been calling from the conifers in the adjacent yards.

A House Finch enjoys sunflower seed on a warm summer day.

Our feeders have been a convenient source of food for hatch-year Lesser Goldfinches and their parents.

As the summer progresses, post-breeding dispersal will increase significantly.  In addition, early migrant movement will begin in mid-August, so it's possible that I may see a Wilson's or Black-throated Gray Warbler between now and then.  I hope to have more stories and better photos to share by then.

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