October has been relatively light on birding as busy schedules and a mediocre fall migration have not provided a lot of exciting birding opportunities. To drive this point home, the best birding moment was getting a county Snow Goose.
October’s saving grace, though, is that the yard activity picks up tremendously. With winter approaching, some of the more reclusive birds and even a couple of the northern birds are being drawn out of the woodwork. The window-birding at home has been quite entertaining lately. Everyone in this house has been caught looking at some bird or another at least once in the last week. So here’s a photo-tour of some of our frequent visitors.
We’ve had a few Blue Jays show up regularly this past month. The way these birds fly, show off their beauty, bully the others, and swallow sunflower seeds whole make this the bird to watch.
Though not as pretty as the Blue Jay, especially during the winter months, the American Goldfinch is always a fun bird to see.
I begrudgingly post this next photo of a northern visitor. The first Dark-eyed Junco showed up in late September. It is always symbolic of the cold winter months to follow. They spend a good half year with us, so their arrival is not always a welcome sight. Still, they are a constant part of the winter birding scene, and they come in fun, different flavors.
On the other hand, this friendly resident and its songs never, ever get old. In fact, I even have it on my license plate. Kudos to you, Maine and Massachusetts, for choosing it as your state bird.
Something about the colder months brings out the woodpeckers. The Downy is a common sight, but it sure is dapper.
You can’t quite fully appreciate this bird’s nape and awkward perching ability unless you view it from behind.
Though the Downy’s bigger cousin, the Hairy Woodpecker, wasn’t up for a photo shoot, the much-cooler, poorly named Red-bellied Woodpecker has been bellying up to the feeder quite regularly this fall.
This has to be one of my favorite yard-birds. It is a real stunning bird. Marin has even taken notice and is quite proud of herself for getting the name right. The only reason this bird isn’t called a Red-headed Woodpecker is that a much more deserving species has already claimed that name. Regardless, because it is so good-looking in its own right, it does deserve more than just one obligatory photo in this blog post.
One of the more exciting yard birds – exciting because of its rarity and not because of its beauty, is the Purple Finch. The females are not so purply, but given this was only their second appearance here ever, I was pretty thrilled to see these two girls from the north.
On par with the Purple Finch both for its geographical origins and its infrequency at our house is the Pine Siskin.
Prior to this fall we’d only ever had them here once before. In fact, we’ve never seen a Pine Siskin anywhere outside of our yard. This fall we’ve had 3-4 of them that have been showing up for a few days in a row now. I hope they stick around.
We are burning through lots of seed right now, but it’s worth it. They provide lots of entertainment. The best part is that these birds are the birds that will be with us for the duration of the winter season. Regular visitors that are not pictured include White-breasted Nuthatch, Eurasian-Collared Dove, Mourning Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, and our delightful pair of Northern Cardinals. The cardinals tend to feed right at dawn and dusk which doesn’t allow for good photography. They, too, are a family favorite. Not only are all these birds around for the season, but we have more northern birds to look forward to! Though the Canadian winter finch forecast is a mixed bag, we are expected to get some Common Redpolls. And if there’s enough of them, there’ll be a Hoary mixed in. We certainly won’t have the Redpoll Mania like we had two years ago, but any day now they should show up. I also am hoping that we will have a Northern Shrike in the yard for the third winter in a row.
Though the yard-birding has been pretty good, the itch to explore new turf and tally new birds is growing. This weekend Evan and I will be gone on a two-night trip to check out the birds of Lake Superior’s north shore. Double-digit life birds is a very real possibility. Stick around.