An Autumn To Remember

Autumn 2012 will go down in the annals of birding lore as one to remember. True to Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast, Canadian birds are being seen at feeders in record numbers. Reports across the northeastern US abound of western hummingbird species showing up in backyards. And Hurricane Sandy pushed many shore migrants and pelagic birds into the interior northeast, giving landlubbers too prone to seasickness, a chance to observe ocean travelers.

While I currently have about eight different feeding stations in my yard, it has been standing room only for those wanting to dine. As the weather has chilled, dark-eyed juncos have returned to the yard in force. There are times when as many as two dozen are picking through the grass for spilled seed. The semi-annual chance to see species that spend summers north and winters south of my yard has kept the platform feeder busy. White-throated sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, and fox sparrows have joined the song sparrows. Of course, the year around residents elbow their way to the table as well: northern cardinals, blue jays, black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, mourning doves, and downy woodpeckers.

Overlain on all this activity, are two of the Canadian irruptives. About a dozen pine siskins spotted all the action and lingered in my yard for a week enjoying the Aspen Song Finch Mix. At least three red-breasted nuthatches have also joined the melee. At one instant, I watched a white-breasted nuthatch on one side of an Aspects Big Tube, while a red-breasted nuthatch was perched on the opposite side. Where’s that camera?! Any time now, the American tree sparrows should arrive. There are regular reports of red crossbills and white-winged crossbills visiting yards throughout the region. Expectations are that we may yet see common redpolls this winter.

But it was reports of the arrival of evening grosbeaks that prompted me to put the binoculars down and head outside. These beautiful creatures are about the size of a “pudgy” cardinal, and colored in bright yellow, black, and white. It has been many years since I last had them in the yard. I promptly placed a new, clear platform-style feeder in the yard: a Droll Yankees “Dorothy’s Cardinal Feeder.” I located it out in an open area of the lawn away from trees, and filled it with Aspen Song Cardinal Mix. By using a highly visible feeder in a wide open spot, I am hoping that this acts as a giant billboard welcoming evening grosbeaks to the property!