Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rainy Days are Here Again

It's been said that October starts out as one season and ends up as another.  That is true here, as it is everywhere, though the transition is typically a more subtle change from sunny and dry to occasionally overcast and drizzly.  What we've experienced over the past couple of weeks is much closer to full-force winter: nearly-omnipresent overcast skies and ample rain. By the end of the month we'll have amassed close to 5", almost twice what we typically experience in October.  Not surprisingly, the local avifauna is also in full winter mode.

Many of our typical winter customers, such as the Golden-crowned Sparrow shown above, have already come through the yard.  A wave of Townsend's Warblers came through earlier in the month.  There is a population that moves through the area in October, followed by another population in November that overwinters in the area.  The former population is not always visible, so I was lucky this year.  On the same day (10/6), a late Western Tanager was observed making its way through the neighbor's silver maple.  Interestingly, a White-throated Sparrow (white-striped morph) took up residence in the area last weekend.  White-throated Sparrows are very typical winter visitors out East, but not so much out here.  There is a population that winters on the coast, but they're hit-and-miss here in the Willamette Valley.  Over the past week, Varied Thrushes have also been occasionally heard calling near sunrise.

A White-throated Sparrow makes a somewhat unexpected October visit

We've had several recent hawk visits as well.  Earlier in the week, a Red-tailed Hawk was mobbed by several local crows (and a gull) while soaring high over our yard.  Red-tailed Hawks are very common in the Valley farmlands but much less common in the city.  I imagine that the large flocks of starlings and robins have drawn them into the city limits.  A large female Cooper's Hawk has also been visiting the feeders this weekend.  This very well may be the same individual observed earlier in the year.

This "Myrtle" Yellow-rumped Warbler stops in for some suet

One of many Cedar Waxwings that have flocked around the neighborhood over the past month

Our October "regulars" have been out in full force as well.  Many of the "Myrtle" subspecies Yellow-rumped Warblers that breed in the interior West make their way to the Pacific Coast in October.  This month was typical in that regard.  At least two individuals have been visiting my wax-myrtle shrubs and suet feeders.  Our neighborhood also hosted the typical early/mid-October Cedar Waxwing flocks.  These typically included 20-40 waxwings, which were often associated with a few starlings and/or robins.  Spotted Towhees are also back.  There is at least one male and one female in the area now.

A male Spotted Towhee feeds on cracked corn

This "Slate-colored" Juco was a bit of a surprise.  I typically host one per winter, but it usually doesn't show up this early.

American Goldfinch numbers have fallen back to what is expected in winter.  However, Pine Siskins have been especially abundant this month.  There was a very large fallout a couple of weeks ago, with over 75 counted at the feeders in the middle of the month.  This fallout appeared to include most of the western portion of the state.  Numbers have dwindled since then, but I'll typically still see 10-15 at the feeders at a time.  House Finch numbers have been on the low side, and I have yet to see a Purple Finch.

American Goldfinches (top) and Pine Siskins

Siskins have been the dominant finch this month

Well, that's about it for now.  Hopefully November will bring us more Townsend's Warblres, our first White-crowned Sparrows, and possibly something interesting like an Evening Grosbeak.  We'll see how it goes...

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