Thursday, February 19, 2009

Northen Finches

Posted by Kirk

I've been delighted by all of the Common Redpolls showing up at the feeders at the nature center this winter. First there were three, then seven, then twenty-one, then, I stopped counting. We've also had a Sharp-shinned Hawk hanging out at the building and I think he's had his share of redpoll dinner. I haven't seen it catch any but I was treated to a chase right outside my office window. It was quite the display of acrobatics. I first realized it was hanging out when I strolled past the windows overlooking the feeders and the only bird was the hawk sitting on the line the feeders hang from. I could look right into the deep red eyes which was splendid.

Being from the boreal forest, the redpolls are less feeder dependent than the local finches. I sometime see the whole flock hanging out foraging for wild seed on the opposite side of the building from the feeders. While they aren't real into the feeders, they do love the ground under the feeders. Recently, some of them have figured out that the seeds on the ground are just the dregs and the good stuff is hanging in magic tube above them.

What I've really been waiting for are the pine siskins. "Where are the siskins?" I keep asking. I reminded our intern Jen to keep her eye on the redpoll flock because the siskens would insinuate themselves into the flock and if we weren't watching closely they would go unnoticed. She ran up to me yesterday when I was in the basement with an excited look on her face. "Siskins!" she yelled.

At least three Pine Siskins had joined their northern brethren at the feeders. Luckily, I had brought my good camera into work. I was also delighted because the sun peaked out and lit them up beautifully.

I think even the Redpolls were surprised to see the Siskins. This one here looks like it is looking up and saying, "Woah, is that a Pine Siskin? I haven't seen one of those since I left Canada!" Check out the beautiful crown on that redpoll too. It turns blood red in the sun. It is a shame that these birds show up in the most cloudy months of the year.

The birds were very active at the feeders and there was a lot of jostling around trying to get the best feeding spot. I was hoping to capture some flight shots and some feeder aggression. I scored on both accounts. The first action shot is of a male Common Redpoll coming in for a landing with wings spread. Note the Pine Siskin in the background.

Here's a Common Goldfinch in an aggressive posture while another goldfinch flies away. I can't say for certain if the one flying away was scared off by the agressive one or whether it was leaving another perch. I like this photo because you can really start to see the extent of yellow feathers returning to the goldfinches. Spring is coming soon.