Thursday, September 30, 2010

Portrait of a worried dad

This male Lesser Goldfinch has every reason to look worried. He and his mate have a very late nest in the plum tree by our patio, so when I heard an unusual amount of mewing and chipping out there I went outside to see what was going on. The goldfinches were eyeing a Curve-billed Thrasher making its way through the thick foliage toward the nest. Our thrashers don't miss many meals, so I didn't feel too guilty distracting it with a few harsh words ("Hey! I hear your sister is dating a starling!") and convincing it to leave. The finches stayed exactly where they were, still on high alert. Probably not a good idea to go straight back to a nest when the predator might still be watching.

Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Western RegionLesser Goldfinches are one of those those birds whose voices are so delicate that even their harshest calls lay as sweetly on the ear as a song. More sweetly than their own songs, in fact, since these consist largely of other birds' calls. One of our neighborhood males sings rapid-fire songs that consist mainly of flycatcher calls: Ash-throated, Brown-crested, Vermilion, Say's Phoebe, Cassin's Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Western Wood-Pewee. A male that lives in Miller Canyon does a great impression of the "rubber duck" call of the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher. The phrases go by so fast that the bird may be four or five species further along by the time you can say, "Hey, wasn't that a...?" --SW

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September surprise

So, yesterday morning I was out on the patio supervising the chickens' free-ranging activities and watching the show at the feeders when I notice this hummer sitting on the far feeder across from a Rufous/Allen's...

Something about it set sirens off in my head. As the Rufous/Allen's backed away, the other bird raised its head in response...

...revealing the long, curved bill of a Lucifer, the first confirmed in our yard in the nearly 15 years since we moved in and put up the first feeders.

A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America (Peterson Field Guides)The species nests here in the Mule Mountains, so hopefully we'll see more of them next season now that this lady has found our garden and feeders. With a Calliope that Tom spotted later in the afternoon, our 48-hour hummingbird tally came to a whopping 8 species: Broad-billed, Violet-crowned, Black-chinned, Anna's, Lucifer, Calliope, Broad-tailed, and Rufous (mostly "Rufous/Allen's," but most of the juvenile males are identifiable to species by their tail feather shapes). SW