Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Birds of Autumn

We thought with the arrival of fall we just wouldn't see many interesting birds at our backyard feeder. All summer long we had such beautiful visitors: hummingbirds, black-headed grosbeaks, crossbills, even Western Tanagers came by for the fruit trees. The yard was full of flashing reds and yellows. And while it is true that many of the most colorful birds have headed south for warmer winter climes, we have been seeing some beautiful birds that often get overlooked in the company of their showy relatives. Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Chestnut-backed Chickadees (Poecile rufescens), Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis), and several variety of hard to distinguish finches and sparrows have all been stopping by.
When the Red-winged Blackbirds showed up, the Steller's Jays scattered. It was surprising to see the self-proclaimed kings and queens of the feeder be deposed. We had a small flock of ten or twelve blackbirds descend on the feeder for an entire afternoon, and then leave just as suddenly as they appeared. They have not been back since.

When the Chestnut-backed Chickadee flies from the trees to the feeder, it dips and rises in the air like it's in a state of constant joy. This bird comes to the feeder even when I am outside, adding seed to the platform. I've never gotten as close to any other bird, as I have to this. I have sensed that with encouragement and coaxing this chickadee would let me get very close, but I do not want it to be so comfortable with humans. So, I have refrained.

I think the Dark-eyed Junco has an outstandingly beautiful black head, such a fine rich color. The Juncos do a lot of their foraging on the ground under the feeder, but are willing to share the platform with the Chickadees, unlike the blackbirds or the jays.

At first I thought this was a female finch, but am now thinking song sparrow. She was so photogenic I just couldn't stop taking her picture. If you are going to enlarge any of these photos, definitely take a look at these.

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