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Thursday, December 18, 2014


This will almost certainly be my last report for 2014.  This morning I finally saw a PINE SISKIN in our yard, at the bird feeder.  In 2013, we had Pine Siskins in our yard just about every day, all year long until the winter.  Last winter virtually all the Pine Siskins in Western Washington just disappeared.  All year long people were asking where the Pine Siskins were, and finally a month or so ago, they started being reported in our area again, after an absence of about a year.  Pine Siskins are subject to a disease they spread to each other at feeders (a form of salmonella, I think, although maybe I have that wrong), and the theory has been that they died off locally due to the disease.  Anyway, they are back, and today I saw just one.  They are usually in a flock, and today the single bird was in a mixed flock of chickadees, House Finches, and American Goldfinches.  Here is a picture of today's Pine Siskin.



Here it is with an American Goldfinch in the adjoining tree.


Here it is interacting with other birds.  Note the very blurry Dark-eyed Junco at the top of the picture, that the Pine Siskin just chased off.


The puffed up bird on the left was interesting.  It was an American Goldfinch, and it was all puffed up for some reason.  It seemed very lethargic, and I wonder it if was sick.  Here is a better view of it.


You can compare it to the normal looking goldfinch in the previous picture or the one in the following picture:


There was lots of bird action out there this morning, and I spent over an hour standing in the cold, taking pictures of the birds.  The light was very poor, so the pictures are pretty poor, technically, but I thought it was interesting to document so many different species coming to our yard in a one hour period.  I saw 14 different species out there this morning.  It shows that you can watch birds without even leaving home, simply by having a single feeder in your yard.  I ended up taking 255 pictures, and 21 of them made the cut for this report.


Here is a male Red-winged Blackbird.


Here is a female Red-winged Blackbird, looking much different.


A Red-breasted Nuthatch showed up several times.  It never stuck around long, and it darted in and out from the feeder, but I did manage to get this picture of it.


Dark-eyed Junco was probably the most numerous bird this morning.  Here is a male Dark-eyed Junco.


Female juncos are similar, except their hood isn't as dark as the males'.


Here is a picture of another bird with a dark hood, a male Spotted Towhee.  He only came around twice and never really posed very well for me.  The towhee is quite a bit larger than the juncos, so they are easy to spot when they show up.


Here is a picture of a couple of finches.  The yellow one on the left is an American Goldfinch, and the red one on the right is a male House Finch.


Here is another picture of a male House Finch.  I like the branches in this picture, and its nicer to have a natural setting, rather than having the ugly bird feeder in the background.


European Starlings flew in a couple of times, and I got this picture that I like.  Starlings just look black when you see them at a distance, but when the light is right and you get a close look, the iridescent colors and the patterns are quite attractive, I think.


Check out the purple sheen on the head and the bluish-green sheen on the back.


Both local species of chickadee were there today, coming and going.  They flit in, grab a seed, and take off again, so it's very hard to get a sharp picture of one of them.  My best efforts today follow.  First, here is a picture that shows both species - Chestnut-backed Chickadee is on the left, and Black-capped Chickadee is on the right.


Here is a better picture of a Black-capped Chickadee.


And here is another one, showing its back.


In contrast, here is a Chestnut-backed Chickadee, showing its back with its rich chestnut brown color.


Here is another view of a Chestnut Backed Chickadee.  Note the junco on the left, chasing it away from the feeder.  You can even see the tongue of the junco, if you look closely.


Part of the fun in watching birds at feeders is watching the interactions among them.  Some are very proprietary about the feeder and chase others away, and some "play well with others" and share the perch.


Finally, right at the end of the time I was out there, a couple of Steller's Jays came around.  The feeder is set so it tips if they land on it, because they are so heavy, but I got a few peanuts for them and they liked that.  Here is one of them on the ground under the feeder.


Here is another picture that is brightly backlit, but I like the pose.  I'm a sucker for blue-colored birds, too, of course.


So, there is a final report for the year.  The Pine Siskin brings me to a total of 448 species for the year, of which 17 were lifers.  That's a good year for me, especially considering I didn't leave the continental US this year.  I saw them all in just four states - Washington, Oregon, California, and Texas.


I guess I'll keep a year list again in 2015, and I suppose I'll write reports and send them out, as well as post the reports to my website.  I like to write, and I like to show my pictures.  See you next year (in about two weeks).  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.