Though both Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Chipping Sparrows breed in our area, neither have been seen in my yard for weeks. So it was a surprise to have an individual of each of these species pay a visit in mid-October.
First, a single Rose-breasted Grosbeak passed through the yard, glancing against one of the windows and perching on the Adirondack chair to gain his bearings.
I believe this might be a juvenile bird, but correct me if I'm wrong. Our resident rose-breasteds were gone by September so I knew this guy was running a little late. Last reported sightings across the state are reported in The Kingbird, the quarterly journal of the New York State Ornithological Association. Over the past four falls, these were the last reports of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in my region (#8 - Hudson-Mohawk):
Fall 2005 Vischer Ferry Sep 30 Fall 2006 Town of Florida Sep 21 Fall 2007 Fulton Nov 11 Fall 2008 Jenny Lake, Saratoga County Sep 17
So it looks like an October 12th visit was indeed on the late side. I made sure to report him to eBird and to the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club birdline. Here he is just before he took off again on his long journey to his winter home in a tropical forest in central or northern South America.
Then just a day later on October 13th, this little Chipping Sparrow stopped by.
The Kingbird shows reports of Chipping Sparrows as late as November in the Hudson-Mohawk region, but in my yard, most chippies are gone by the end of September.
So even though it's been a slow fall at the feeders, it's been an interesting season in the yard with some new birds (Swainson's Thrush) and these two familiar, though late migrating birds.
Activity at birdfeeders in our area has been very slow for over a month so we've been talking to customers alot about the abundance of natural food sources out there for birds. Birds are amongst the wildlife that have been feasting upon this year's bounty of seeds, nuts, insects, fruits and berries.
We should've known it was coming with this summer's above average rain and mild temperatures. Early in the season, you could see clusters of cones forming at the tops of the pine trees. And now the ground is covered by them. Stand outside for any length of time and you'll hear a steady stream of cones dropping from the tree tops, being chewed off by industrious squirrels.
Pine tree tops full with cones
All this got me curious to do a little hands-on learning about the pine cone. I step over, around, and on them almost daily, but have never picked one up to really study it.
The cone of course is the fruit of a coniferous tree and its main function is to be the carrying case for the tree's precious seeds.
Rows of tough scales protect the seeds, but as the cone dries and the scales open up exposing the inside of the cone, the seeds that had been nestled away safely near the core of the cone become more accessible to the wildlife. I brought some cones inside with the scales barely open; 2 days later, the scales had peeled back, exposing the seeds.
The seeds are attached to a wing. As they fall out of the cone, the weight of the seed pulls it toward the ground, while the helicopter-like action of the wing slows its descent, providing a fun whirlygig-like descent.
When you look inside the cone, there are 2 seed heads tucked up close to the inner core of the cone and the wings rest neatly on the top of each cone scale.
The seeds near the bottom of the cone were more developed than those near the top. Within an average size Eastern Pine cone like the one I studied, there could be more than 100 seeds encased within, protected by the 50+ scales.
As the cones open, the seeds can either fall out or be picked out by wildlife. Here's a few images of a Dark-eyed Junco feeding on seeds from the Eastern Pine.
These seeds provide a feast for the birds, along with all the other natural food that is still so abundant and available. But as days pass, insects will become less available when temperatures drop and the ground freezes. Uneaten fruits and berries will shrivel and fall, and snow will eventually cover the ground making natural food less accessible. And as fall turns into winter, like during the closing hours of a buffet, natural food sources will become depleted. It is then that the familiar feeder birds that have been enjoying nature's smorgasbord will again turn to our feeders for the high energy snacks that make it just a little easier to survive the long, cold winter months.
I had my Wingscapes Birdcam set up to catch the ground-feeding action in my yard today. I broadcast some WBU Deluxe Blend again (contains white millet) under the bushes. Then I pointed the Birdcam toward the Rosa Rugosa bush they seem to love. Here are some of the images captured over 6 hours today.
After an initial flurry of chipmunk photos (DELETE!), the jays visited next.
Then a steady stream of juncos and native sparrows.
Junco and White-throated Sparrow
Junco and Fox Sparrow
Immature White-crowned Sparrow
No adult white-crowneds were observed today.
Dark-eyed Junco - darker; possibly a male?
Lots of juncos!
Camera-shy Fox Sparrow
The Birdcam captured just what I wanted - documenting the busy ground feeders in my yard all day long. A new Birdcam is coming soon with even more megapixels and a flash. Can't wait to try it!
White-crowned Sparrows have been regular fall visitors to my yard since 2004, when they were first recorded during their fall migration. Like they are today, they were flocking with some other native migratory sparrows, the fox and the white-throated.
White-throated Sparrow (white morph)
At first glance, the white-crowned's bright white striped head could be mistaken for a (white morph) White-throated Sparrow, but soon you notice the absence of the white throat patch and lack of yellow lores (the yellow patch near inside corner of eye). The shape of the White-crowned Sparrow's head is also different, flatter, less-rounded, though sometimes they raise the feathers on their head.
White-crowned Sparrow adult
I'd only seen adult white-crowneds in the yard before, so when a number of immature white-crowneds came through this fall, they threw me for a loop at first.
White-crowned Sparrow immature
Again, at a quick glance, you could think tan morph White-throated Sparrow. But again, no throat patch or yellow lores. I'm just glad there isn't a tan morph white-crowned!
White-throated Sparrow (tan morph)
White-crowned Sparrow immature
Are you still seeing migrating sparrows in your yard? If so, help them out on their journey by broadcasting a seed blend like WBU Deluxe Blend, which contains the white millet seeds they enjoy.
We took in a stray cat last week and are introducing her to the blogosphere today. Say hello to Lizzie!
Lizzie was a stray that started hanging around the yard about the 3rd week in September. We have an indoor cat and didn't want a stray in the yard terrorizing her as well as the birds.
We had been down to just one cat since the old girl Jess passed away in June 2008. It just seemed the right time to bring another cat in.
So we moved her into the breezeway one week ago, asked around if anyone had lost a cat, and kept an eye out for Lost Cat flyers. Her first vet visit was Friday, when she got all her shots and a clean bill of health - no fleas, no worms, no ear mites. She'll head back to the vet in early November to be spayed and (laser) declawed. But after her first vet visit, she enjoyed a day up at camp.
She's very friendly and seems quite comfortable on a lap. The vet estimated that she's 8 months old; she weighs in at 6 lbs. 11 oz. and will always be a petite cat. Quite a departure from our rotund Spud.
We'll have to gradually introduce Spud to Lizzie when we phase her out of quarantine next week. Spud hasn't liked the couple times that she's seen us with Lizzie, giving us the hizzing and growling routine. Spud is 15 and is pretty easy going but has enjoyed being the top cat the last 16 months. Hopefully, Spud and Lizzie will get along!
I'm being lazy today, celebrating my birthday with a lunch of Indian
cuisine, some Kahlua & club sodas, and boiling down my modest life list to the fifty-three I
enjoy(ed) most. Draw your own conclusion on the significance of 53.
Snowy Owl (Digiscoped image) Washington County Grasslands IBA - Feb 2009
Here they are in no particular order whatsoever. Any faves of yours?
"GOING TO SEE MY PICTURE ON THE COVER. GONNA BUY FIVE COPIES FOR MY MOTHER. GONNA SEE MY SMILING FACE ON THE COVER OF THE ROLLING STONE" From "Cover of the Rolling Stone" by Dr. Hook
Well, it's not "The Rolling Stone" but Lois and I DID make the cover of the Birding Business magazine, a trade publication for the birdfeeding industry.
Sharon Stiteler, writer of the Birdchick blog and News Editor for Birding Business magazine, interviewed us a couple months ago about our store and our use of the internet and social networking sites in our business. We were then featured in a 4-page article in the September issue of the magazine. Our Bird-Friendly® Birds & Beans™ shade-grown coffee was also featured.
We're so excited about it and want to share the news with everyone!!!
Read an excerpt of the article here or stop in the store to read the entire article in Birding Business magazine.
A big THANK YOU to the fantastic customers of
Wild Birds Unlimited - Saratoga Springs NY who helped us be recognized as leaders in our business!
Our eyes and ears should be open and alert to the natural wonders that surround us every day. Take time to look out our windows to see the birds that visit us and open our windows to hear them. Walk around whatever space we have to enjoy the birds in nature. Every day, work on improving our powers of observation.
Nature happens. We cannot MAKE natural things happen (or NOT happen). We can create habitats to encourage natural things to happen around us, but there are no guarantees.
Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them. If you are unwilling to accept these responsibilities, you shouldn’t feed the birds. We also have a responsibility to share these natural wonders with the next generation.