Four Seasons

Four Seasons
Blessed by the beauty of Creation ~ sharing what I see from my little place in His world.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Somewhat Strange Week of Birding

Birders have a language all their own.  They 'pish', do a dance for joy when they get a 'life bird', look for 'vagrants' and 'rarities' and watch for bird 'irruptions'.  This week I got to do the 'lifer' dance (first ever sighting of a new species)-- right in my kitchen... for this bird:
As soon as I looked out the window and saw it, I knew it was something different.  I looked in my field guide and thought it was a Rusty Blackbird, and then confirmed it with an email photo to another birder.  I don't want to make a mistake with a 'life' bird!
That rusty color (especially when the late afternoon sun was hitting it) and yellow eye were pretty conclusive.  Also, it was the same size as a Red-winged Blackbird who was also taking advantage of our bird food.
Here's another shot of it (lower right) with a couple of Blue Jays, a Mourning Dove, and a Grackle for size comparison.
Rusty Blackbirds migrate thru our area, and their numbers are in decline (they are one of the most rapidly declining species of birds), so I was really excited to see it.

Another bird that is in decline are Evening Grosbeaks.  We had one of those visit this week, too!  I'm not sure if it would be called an 'irruption' (defined as "a dramatic, irregular migration of large numbers of birds to areas where they aren’t typically found, possibly at a great distance from their normal ranges") because it was only one bird. Maybe it would be a 'rarity' (that term is pretty self-explanatory).
 This female Evening Grosbeak came on the 17th, showed up again on the morning of the 18th.  She was not a life bird for me, but she was very rare for our area. The last one we had here was in April 2008.  Unfortunately, she didn't hang around long enough for another birder who came, hoping to see her to put on his 'county list'.  The first day she was here was very rainy and cold...
She gets her name, 'grosbeak' from her very large beak... a good one for cracking hard things to eat.
...then the next day was sunny so maybe she moved on with the better weather.
After that came the Rusty Blackbird (it got top billing on this post, out of chronological order, because of its 'life bird' status).  But, soon after the Rusty Blackbird came another unusual sighting.... a Killdeer in late November in North-east PA.  Now, we've had Killdeer on our property list most years, but not this year.  I had given up 'getting' one.  They nest right down the road from us in a church parking lot so we do get to see them and even their babies.  (They were featured in a previous blog post -- click here if you missed them!) 

I was not at all expecting to hear and see one on Wednesday but that's what happened.
I was outside for a few minutes in the afternoon doing something when I heard a bird 'crying' over in the swamp.  I ran inside for my camera and binoculars... sure enough, a killdeer!
I felt sorry for it-- the water was frozen almost everywhere and the poor bird kept taking short kind of 'hopping' flights and landing.  It didn't seem very happy with its circumstances!  As I stood in our driveway watching, it rose again and starting flying.... directly towards me!  It flew right over my head.  I watched it fly towards the pond behind our house.  I hope it found the open spring that feeds the pond.  That would be the only wet area left.

That seemed like enough unusual birds for one week, but the next morning when I looked out at the feeders, there was a Pine Siskin with a small flock of American Goldfinches.
Pine siskins are 'irruption' birds for us, and typically when they come, we have lots of them.  So having just one seems a bit strange.  This is the second time this fall that we've had one!  If you have goldfinches, keep an eye out for them, as they tend to look similar.  In the next photo it almost looks like the siskin and the goldfinch are checking each other out!
"Oh yes, I see you have a yellow feather on your wings and a stripy breast.... very pretty!" says the goldfinch to the siskin.

Okay, the next thing isn't really that strange but it's pretty unusual for me to look out the window and see two American Crows strutting around in our lawn.  Guess they wanted to join the rest of the birds.
That was also on the 20th.  The 21st passed without any strange or rare birds.  This morning (the 22nd) I went for a walk and didn't really expect to see anything 'special' either.  When I heard two Crows and some Blue Jays 'mobbing' something down by the swamp, I figured I'd try to see if I could see what they were so upset about.  Usually, it's an owl (which would probably be hidden from my sight in a tree, or a maybe a hawk).  Well! This time it was a mature Bald Eagle.  Even though they aren't that rare anymore, it's always a great sight to see one!
A splendid end to a great week of birds!