Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

Yes, it's been almost two months.  And as you can imagine, I've been incredibly busy lately.  In addition, yard activity has been relatively mundane up until very recently.  Thankfully, that has changed recently and the weather has also improved tremendously.  The next 6-7 weeks will bring a significant amount of migratory movement.

Winter residents, such as the Ruby-crowned Kinglet shown above, are currently on the way out.  Both species of kinglet, Varied Thrushes, and Townsend's Warblers will be close to absent a couple of weeks from now.  Yellow-rumped Warblers will slowly trickle out afterwards.  Some of these species are not really "migratory" in the traditional sense.  They overwinter in the Willamette Valley and then breed in the Cascade foothills.  Of course, other true migrants, such as White-throated and Golden-crowned Sparrows will be moving on shortly as well.  We will likely see a few "Gambel's" subspecies White-crowned Sparrows making their way from their wintering grounds in the Southeastern U.S. to their breeding grounds in Alaska and Western Canada next month.

Our first-of-the-season Rufous Hummingbird appeared last week (3/22).  (Unfortunately, I was not able to obtain a photo.)  I've seen Rufous Hummers in the yard as early as the second week of March, though one day after the third week of March is still within their normal arrival date.  In the next week or so, I expect to see our first migrant Orange-crowned Warbler.

The most interesting recent yard sighting was two Eurasian Collared-Doves (above).  This was a new yard species, though not really one to get excited about.  Eurasian Collared-Doves are invasive species and compete with natives such as Band-tailed Pigeons for food and nesting sites.  As long as the number of visting "Euro-Pigeons" remains small, I'm not going to get too worked up about it.

Golden-crowned Sparrows have been representing in relatively high numbers over the past couple of weeks.  My guess is that they're temporarily hunkering down in an area with reliable food as they're molting into breeding plumage.  After their molt, they'll move on to their breeding grounds in Alaska and Western Canada.  Our two White-throated Sparrows are also still around, also currently in molt.

This basic plumage Golden-crowned Sparrow will look like a breeding plumage GC Sparrow in a couple of weeks.

White-throated Sparrows, once rare winter migrants in this area, represented well again this winter.

Purple Finches have been a pleasant surprise this month.  They typically leave the areas in which they overwinter between February and April, before moving onto their breeding grounds in forested areas outside of the valley.  Like many finches, they're erratic visitors.  While I typically host at least one per winter season, they're far from a slam-dunk to visit.  So I was pleasantly surprised when a half dozen showed up to my sunflower feeders a couple of weeks ago.  They've been semi-regular since, with three at the feeders this morning.

A half-dozen Purple Finches at the feeders during the second week of March

Many of the regular winter visitors are still around, including Red-breasted Nuthatch, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and Spotted Towhee.  Numbers of the latter have actually ticked up lately, suggesting that they're poised to move out of the urban areas soon.

A male Spotted Towhee feeds on spilled seed.

Well, that's about it for now.  I have a post in the works on native birdscaping and will post again soon (I promise!).

Merry Migration...

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